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.


  1. I had to think back on the time when I was that age and laugh for we wouldn't say to another friend anything about a boy unless we were good friends which Bella doesn't know anything about. Also, a popular guy would NEVER set himself up to be turned down. In that part I would have had to laugh out loud. Maybe in elementary school that would have played. Also Edward being different as he is, most popular people would assume he would have no interest in attending the girls choice dance. Oh yes, that phrase flows of the tongue so much better than the traditional Sadie Hawkins Dance. Once again an enjoyable read.

  2. America Stinks at HockeySeptember 21, 2010 at 10:30 PM

    Haha wow, forget whether or not she has a clue about vampires or young people, I'm starting to wonder if Meyer has ever actually met another human being before! There's certainly nothing in her writing to indicate that she has.

  3. My friend asked me a couple times before she asked her boyfriend out if it was alright for her to do so. Of course, now I know that he had a crush on me and she was trying her best to let me know about it in her own way and make sure I honestly didn't like him in that way so her heart wouldn't be broken. So the scenes with Jessica make sense to me.

    1. Can you make it make sense to me? Because it doesn't.