August 12, 2012

Twilight: The Abuser's Handbook

Twilight, pp. 74-84.

I know what you've been missing: Edward's controlling mind games and Bella's humiliation of romantic rivals. Well, your prayers are answered by the little spread of pages we have for this week. We've got plenty of both coming at us!

Back in biology class, E and B play peekaboo with each other, some more Bella's heart in palpitations that the creepy stalker is looking at her "for the first time in a half-dozen weeks" (half-dozen?).

I couldn't allow him to have this level of influence over me. It was pathetic. More than pathetic, it was unhealthy.

Occasional flashes of seeming self-awareness creep through in this section of the book. This is the sort of thing that I used to think indicated the author was intentionally portraying an emotionally disturbed young girl being tormented by an expert manipulator. Out of the context of the novel as a whole, you too, my little droogies, might think the same thing upon reading such lines. By the time we get much farther, though, it will become clear this is not the case. We are meant to be (mildly) frustrated that Bella doesn't see that only a man who truly loves you controls you. Rather than "unhealthy" or "pathetic", it's supposed to be romantic.

It's not.

Now as noted, Edward hasn't so much as looked at Bella for "a half-dozen weeks" (half-dozen?). Of course, after giving her the silent treatment for a while (Abuser's Handbook p. 121), he realises she's too passive to initiate contact herself (Handbook p. 124) and so he has to do even that for her (p. 127, sub-paragraph c). He does this by addressing her by name, which author Stephenie [sic] Meyer follows with two paragraphs of Bella mooning over how handsome he is. She then manages to say:

"What? Are you speaking to me again?" I finally asked, an unintentional note of petulance in my voice.

His lips twitched, fighting a smile. "No, not really [!]," he admitted.

I closed my eyes and inhaled slowly through my nose, aware that I was gritting my teeth. He waited.

"Then what do you want, Edward?" I asked, keeping my eyes closed; it was easier to talk to him coherently that way.

"I'm sorry." He sounded sincere. "I'm being very rude, I know. But it's better this way, really."

I opened my eyes. His face was very serious. "I don't know what you mean," I said, my voice guarded.

"It's better if we're not friends," he explained. "Trust me."

My eyes narrowed. I'd heard that before.

"It's better if we're not friends", even though I'm talking to you again for no reason other than to tell you we won't be talking. Which we haven't been talking for a half-dozen weeks (half-dozen?). But now that we're talking, I want you to know that we won't be talking. Again. You know, after this.

Mixed message much?

I also can't figure out any way to picture Bella carrying on half of this exchange with her eyes closed the entire time that isn't hilarious. Especially when she could simply look toward the front of the room where the teacher is.

She then ludicrously accuses him of regretting his decision to Superman the van away from her, at which point it's his turn to be petulant with a "You don't know anything" that, well, I guess a real seventeen-year-old might come up with. Bella drops her books (endearing clumsiness, her humanising flaw!*), and Edward uses his vampiric speed to stack them and hand them to her before she even decides to bend down to pick them up. This use of vampire powers to complete mundane tasks will be a recurring motif of this book, and it just gets more infuriating every time. I'm continuously amazed by how wrong Meyer gets everything in this book. She's somehow able both to make vampirism more appealing (by removing all the drawbacks associated with it, like drinking human blood, dying in sunlight, and oh yeah, eternal damnation of your immortal soul) and simultaneously less appealing (by making it prosaic and banal). Instead of living in castles, hiding in shadows, swooping down on unsuspecting humans to feed on, and seducing people with their mysterious powers, Twilight vampires go to high school, show up to work, commute by car, and use their powers to stack books, play baseball, and watch young girls sleep in their rooms.

After mutual icy retorts, we're thankfully spared further interaction between our main characters for a little while. Sadly, this is only for poor Eric to ask Bella to the Not Sadie Hawkins Day dance. She of course rejects him, causing him to "slouch" off, no doubt to contemplate suicide. Either that or just to accept one of the invitations from the nicer and likely cuter girls who've already asked him. For added hatred, Edward, somehow there, laughs at the poor kid, knowing that his vampiric powers (I guess?) have already made Bella his. The book is maddeningly vague on whether or not the vampires have the power of hypnotism. Considering they're described as perfectly beautiful and lacking any putrid stench of the grave or icy touch of a body with no hot blood running through it, it seems they would hardly need such a power. Bella has described herself as "unable" not to look at him, but this comes across more as inept "romance" than vampiric power. [Future Carl Eusebius: Plus, Bella will turn out to be immune to all vampiric powers.] Still, I don't know why else Edward would be amused that she turned down the invitation of one guy that she never showed any interest in to a dance she's never expressed any desire to go to. Whatever his reason, though, it doesn't seem anything other than mean-spirited and petty. Which describes, I suppose, the only reasons Edward ever does anything in this story.

Edward uses his Volvo (really?) to block Bella into the car park. She briefly considers ramming his car with her 100% red-blooded American truck--raising the tantalising possibility of making the Volvo "the foreign car it had destroyed" back on page 8--but decides not to. Then Tyler Crowley (the fellow whose van Edward Superman-pushed away from Bella, you'll remember) chooses this moment to leave his vehicle (running) behind hers to approach her truck in the middle of the car park lane I even need to say it?

"Will you ask me to the spring dance?"

Quickly shut down, Tyler promises that "We still have prom" and returns to his vehicle. (Bella has now been asked to this dance by every male in the book so far except Edward, her father, and the biology teacher!) Edward is looking at Bella in his rearview mirror (but vampires don't--oh, forget it!) and "shaking with laughter". Okay, I give up, my droogies. What's so funny about a girl rejecting guys? Why is this so hilarious? A century-old vampire is amused by a couple of guys failing to take a particular girl to a particular high school dance? I know I keep banging on about this high school thing, but really, it boggles the mind. How can you live for a century and then go back to high school even for a month, much less however long Edward Cullen has been doing it? How can you take any interest in anything that happens or anyone you encounter? Maybe I was wrong about Meyer's softening of vampirism. Attend high school for the rest of eternity? These vampires truly are damned.

I can't think of any way "century-old vampire going to high school" can work that doesn't make Edward the villain. Imagine: All his vampiric powers plus one hundred years of experience manipulating people, running amok amongst a bunch of teen-agers with raging hormones, a measure of freedom, and no brains. But Twilight isn't interested in any kind of real danger, because it's born of adolescent fear of maturity: responsibility, committed love, and (ewwwww!) sex.

So its vampire is neutered, its heroine is passive, and its narrative is toothless.

The chapter ends with E and B meeting in the school car park again that next morning. E declares he wants to be B's friend, even though it's "more prudent" for Bella not to agree to this. (Spoiler: She does agree to it.)

"You really should stay away from me," he warned.

I bet Ted Bundy used that line. Of course, in his case, unlike Edward's, it's actually true.

* Flaws not guaranteed to be genuine. Void where prohibited.

1 comment:

  1. You should blog a reading of 50 Shades, and change your blog to Hasimir Blogs Twilight Fanfiction.