September 18, 2010

Twilight: Alpha Female

Twilight, pp. 71-73.

Mike, at least, was pleased by the obvious coolness between me and my lab partner.

Of course he is, the poor sap. And if you think Bella is going to give him a polite but firm 'Still not interested, sorry', well, you haven't read the rest of this blog. Or much of Twilight. Either way, you're better off.

Now we get to The Dance. It's apparently a Sadie Hawkins Day sort of thing, though here it's called by the unappealing moniker 'girls' choice spring dance'. I suppose Meyer didn't want to associate her fauxtagonist with anything so progressive as Sadie Hawkins.

I know what you're thinking--did he fire six shots, or only five? No, no, I'm sorry, that's not it. You're thinking this dance is setting up Bella's asking Edward to go to it. But that would involve Bella, you know, taking an action, and we'll have none of that. So even though the dance is girls' choice, we still get a scene of Mike taking initiative while Bella adheres to her policy of not doing a damn thing. But first, poor Jessica, recognising Bella's superiority, has to subtly ask Bella to let her have Mike.

Jessica...called me the first Tuesday of March to ask my permission to invite Mike to the girls' choice spring dance in two weeks.

So, do women do this, too? I've never really understood why men do it, and I've certainly never done it. Why do you need to ask someone else if you can ask another person out? What has that person got to do with it? Either the person you're asking will say yes, or she won't. Surely it's her choice, isn't it? Even stranger, here we have two high school girls do it. Stranger still since there's no reason to do so. What indication has Bella ever given that she's interested in Mike? He is interested in her. So it's not even a case of asking someone if you can date a person she wants to date. It's a case of asking someone if you can date a person who wants to date her. That makes the whole scenario give off an alpha female vibe. Bella is (somehow) highest in the pecking order, so no social moves can be made without first consulting her and getting her approval.

And why does Jessica want to ask Mike out anyway? From what we've seen, he doesn't give her the time of day. He's only interested in Bella, even if he has to go through Eric (ha!) to get to her. Indeed, Mike blows Jessica off because he's waiting for Bella to ask him to the dance!

'So,' Mike said, looking at the floor. 'Jessica asked me to the spring dance.'

'That's great.' I made my voice bright and enthusiastic. 'You'll have a lot of fun with Jessica.'

'Well...' He floundered as he examined my smile, clearly not happy about my response. 'I told her I had to think about it.'

'Why would you do that?' I let disapproval colour my tone, though I was relieved he hadn't given her an absolute no.

His face was bright red as he looked down again. Pity shook my resolve.

'I was wondering if...well, if you might be planning to ask me.'

In the name of God, why? Why would you wonder that?

This scene was also cut from the film, since, again, the screenwriter probably realised how little sense it makes. How is it that Mike, portrayed up to now as a popular kid with some social skills, squirms and blushes and stares at the floor like the nerd in a bad sex comedy asking out the sorority bombshell he's sweet on? And does he not get that Bella's not really interested and never has been? If this were the unpopular, social outcast kid with no experience, his obliviousness might pass, but Mike isn't the sort of stock character who would misread Bella's plain disinterest so badly. Unless, of course, he's The Jerk in the bad sex comedy, who can't seem to fathom that there exist girls who don't find him attractive, but Mike doesn't come off as The Jerk, and The Jerk is smarmy and cocksure, not nervous and shy.

It's nice that Bella felt some pity for him, though. If she had a really big heart, she'd go ahead and ask him to the dance so he'll feel better.


Also, note the 'clearly not happy about my response'.* Someone needs to sit Stephenie Meyer down and clearly explain to her clearly that 'young' don't mean 'dumb', clearly. That you're writing for a young adult readership is not an excuse to treat your readers like they're idiots. I think the average twelve-year-old reader has long since understood that Mike likes Bella, and that reader will understand that Mike would be unhappy when she says she doesn't want to go to a dance with him. But no, Meyer has to spell everything out in bright red letters. Mike might as well say all of his lines in Incredible Hulk-speak. (That's the speech of Dumb Hulk, of course.) 'Mike want Bella. Bella go dance with Mike? Bella say no? MIKE WANT BELLA. Bella say no 'gain. Mike sad.'

Bella gives Mike her permission to go to the dance with Jessica as well. Mike asks if she has already asked someone, momentarily eyeballing Edward when he does so. This lets us know that Mike does know Bella's not interested in him, so I'm officially clueless as to why he expected her to ask him.

'So you shouldn't make Jess wait any longer--it's rude.'

This is one of the most revolting aspects of the novel. This entire subplot exists solely to flatter Bella, the author's (and presumably meant to be the reader's) alter-ego. Mike is never a credible rival for Bella's affections. Rather, he is a tool to establish Bella's superiority over Jessica, the only other girl in the story, in the eyes of, well, everyone, including Jessica herself. She can only have someone Bella has rejected, and Bella will have the decaying corpse that rejected Jessica (as established when Meyer misused the expression 'sour grapes' on page 22). For those who were appalled at how bad the Twilight film was, it improves upon the novel again here by exorcising most of this subplot.

Ah, now I know what some of you poor souls who know something about Twilight are saying. 'But Carl Eusebius', you say, 'Mike may not be Edward's rival, but Jacob is, and he isn't here yet.' Now, I have not read the later books, but I have seen the later movies, and Oh My Brothers**, Bella never seriously considers Jacob, either. In fact, as a major character, Jacob gets treated even worse by Bellameyer. (More on that later, if I make it that far.)

'Yeah, you're right,' he mumbled, and turned, dejected, to walk back to his seat.

Poor guy. Now he's stuck going to the dance with the cute, popular, likable girl who's smart, friendly and asked him out. No wonder he's so dejected.
*I want you to know, my little droogies, that I found it difficult to resist making a fish joke here, but I managed.
**One of my readers commented on this phrase. It's a quote from the novel and film Clockwork Orange, so I've hesitated to add 'and Sisters', since then it wouldn't be a quotation. To balance this, I've tried to use feminine pronouns whenever I'm not specifically referring to males, reversing the traditional practice.

September 7, 2010

Twilight: Non-Action

Twilight, pp. 68-70

Lots of bad on these two-and-one-half pages.

In my dream it was very dark....

Ha! Don't worry, we're not going to bother with Bella's dream of Edward. The description of it is so flat and lifeless I wonder why Meyer included it at all. I'll only note that the following

After that, he was in my dreams nearly every night...

is pretty creepy, maybe pathological. Instead, we'll look at the ludicrous aftermath of Edward's Superman save. The driver of the van involved in the incident, one Tyler Crowley*, continues to apologise over the course of the next month, and Bella picks up on the signals from this unsurprising new suitor.

Tyler Crowley was impossible, following me around, obsessed with making amends to me somehow....He followed me between classes and sat at our now-crowded lunch table. Mike and Eric were even less friendly toward him than they were to each other, which made me worry that I'd gained another unwelcome fan.

I think this is way past 'making amends', and that last part lets us know that Bella think so, too. This is where, if she had any concern for her so-called friends or even just for other human beings, she would tell Tyler (and, really, the other two boys as well) that she's not interested and that he can either be her friend or be nothing. But of course, as we've seen, Bella likes being the object of boys' desire, even though she has no intention of ever reciprocating. She doesn't want to be bothered by their attention, so she does 'tr[y] to convince [Tyler that] what I wanted more than anything else was for him to forget all about it', but she stops short of telling him to leave her alone entirely because, well, then she wouldn't be flattered by his attention.

This is another area in which the Twilight film manages to make the teeniest of improvements over the book. With Meyer having final approval over what goes into the film and the danger of Twihards howling over any deviation from the source, improving on the novel must have been a Herculean task. (I don't feel bad for the screenwriter, though, since she was handsomely paid for her effort and apparently considered it sufficient reward to return for the sequel.)

In the film, there is no indication that Eric--Hollywoodised into an Asian**--has any interest in Bella. Nor does Tyler, who in my recollection does not appear after apologising in the hospital. (He does appear very early to sexually harass her, but the scene makes it appear he's more into Mike than Bella.) I'm sure the filmmakers explained to Meyer that these flirtations had to be cut for time, but I like to think they were as put-off by the Bella character as I am and tried to trim at least some of these obnoxious moments.

Meyer then proceeds yet again to beat the reader over the head with the 'he moved so fast' business. Here we have confirmation that, not only did bystanders not see what happened, they buy Bella's lies about happened, even though what she says flatly contradicts what at least some of them must have seen. She claims he pulled her out of the way, and none of the dozens of eyewitnesses refutes this. They simply Stepford-chorus that they didn't see Edward at all until it was over.

'You didn't see him push the van away?' she asked incredulously.

Actually, no, she didn't ask that. But I bet with the unnecessary adverb there, you were fooled, if only for a second.

Instead, she wonders 'why no one else had seen him standing so far away'. Her conclusion?

With chagrin, I realised the probable cause--no-one else was as aware of Edward as I always was. No-one else watched him the way I did. How pitiful.

I've read this paragraph a few times, in context, and I can't tell whether Meyer means Bella is pitiful for paying too much attention to Edward or everyone else is pitiful for not paying enough. Context leans towards the former, but the wording strongly implies the latter, and Bella has certainly shown contempt for all the non-Edward people around her (and even Edward gets some contempt on occasion). So I'm going with Bella thinking it's pitiful that everyone doesn't constantly keep track of Edward's location.

That's our Bella.

And so the 'girls have cooties' grade-school boy-girl interaction continues, as Edward resumes sitting next to Bella in biology class

as far away from me as the table would allow, [and] he seemed totally unaware of my presence. Only now and then, when his fists would suddenly ball up--skin stretched even whiter over the bones--did I wonder if he wasn't quite as oblivious as he appeared.

The bloodless corpse turns paler with exertion. Edward comes off more like a creepy guy LARPing a vampire than a genuine creature of the night. I'm also very put off by the 'wasn't' in that last clause. I suppose it's still correct, but man, it goes over as smoothly as a Che Guevera t-shirt at an American Legion meeting.

He wished he hadn't pulled me from the path of Tyler's van--there was no other conclusion I could come to.

I suppose that's true, when you think only of yourself as Bella does. There's 'no other conclusion'; it must have something to do with you.

I wanted very much to talk to him, and the day after the accident I tried. The last time I'd seen him, outside the ER, we'd both been so furious. I still was angry that he wouldn't trust me with the truth, even though I was keeping my part of the bargain flawlessly. But he had in fact saved my life, no matter how he'd done it. And, overnight, the heat of my anger faded into awed gratitude.

Hmm...I'm thinking he might not trust you with the truth because he has no reason to do so. Maybe I'm no longer hip or with-it like the hepcats in high school these days, but I don't reveal intimate details to people with whom I've had precisely one conversation, no matter how angry they might get about it.

He was already seated when I got to Biology, looking straight ahead. I sat down, expecting him to turn toward me. He showed no sign that he realised I was there.

'Hello, Edward,' I said pleasantly, to show him I was going to behave myself.

He turned his head a fraction toward me without meeting my gaze, nodding once, and then looked the other way.

And that was the last contact I'd had with him.

No, you didn't miss anything, and I promise I cut nothing from this page so far. Bella really considers saying 'Hello, Edward' to be trying to talk to him. For someone she dreams about and obsesses over (her words!), that's a pretty limp effort, but apparently it took all the energy she could muster to take any initiative at all. Spent from this exertion, she

...gave no more notice that he existed than he showed toward me. I was miserable.

Here's a thought for how to deal with your misery at not being able to talk to Edward: Talk to Edward. It's worth a shot, I think.

But no, our fauxtagonist has to remain inert while things happen to her. Remember, ladies, there's no need to do stuff when there are males around. They'll do all the stuff. You just sit and look pretty and be all emotional.

Despite my outright lies, the tenor of my e-mails alerted Renee [her mother!] to my depression, and she called a few times, worried.

Five pages ago, Bella doesn't like to lie. Now 'outright lies' are the order of the day. '[T]here'd better be a good reason why I'm doing it,' she told us then.

Well, she can't very well let her mother know she's sad that a boy she won't talk to won't talk to her, can she? I mean, if this got out, where would the trail of bodies end?

*If Meyer showed any awareness at all of the genre she's working in, I'd wonder if this were a 'clever' reference to Aleister Crowley.
**Why, yes, Eric the Asian does end up romantically involved with the only ethnic-looking girl evident in the film. What are the odds of that?