September 2, 2012

Twilight: Couch Potato

Twilight, pp. 91-98.

Bella has obeyed Edward's summons. They sit together in the school cafeteria, not saying much. Oh, they talk constantly, but they don't say much of anything. Edward first asks if Bella is hungry. I thought it was rather cute that he even remembered what it's like to desire food. (Watch Shadow of the Vampire to see a real vampire's understanding of human food. Or a plausible interaction of a real vampire with the modern world. Or a decent film. Or a reminder of why people consider Willem Dafoe a good actor.) Edward then demands to know how Bella thinks he got his superpowers. She suggests a radioactive spider (har, har), and he says that's wrong and that he doesn't fear Kryptonite, either (ho, ho).

So Edward knows the origin of Spider-Man and Superman's great weakness. Being that he is a century old, how, precisely, did he come by this information? Since Edward never speaks a word to anyone, I picture him spending 17 hours a day watching television to stay up on pop culture. Though given that he never talks to anyone, I'm not sure why he needs to know these things, especially since he can just read people's minds to understand references.* Meyer here gives us more evidence--as if we needed any more--that she hasn't given even the briefest thought to what it might be like to be one hundred years old.

Once again, Meyer has put her characters into a potentially interesting situation, which she then immediately cocks up because she doesn't see her characters as characters but as stand-ins for herself and her adolescent sexual fantasy figure. I noted last time that there's nothing about Bella that should be attractive to Edward. But there could be, if only Meyer would write for her characters rather than herself. Edward shouldn't know anything about contemporary culture. That would mean Bella knows a lot that he doesn't know, stuff that allows her to function in the world far easier than he, and since his powers don't work on her, he can't use his mind-reading trick to fake it for her. That would make him vulnerable in front of her. She's got something he doesn't have, doesn't understand, and wants to know more about. But no, Meyer's crippling need to have it both ways manifests itself. Edward somehow just knows what any other high school senior would know, and any chance for dramatic tension is gone, as is any shred of hope that Meyer might give Edward a reason to desire Bella other than "she's me and I want vampire hunk!".

Any writer worthy of the label should be able to do something interesting and romantic with the "I can read everybody's mind but yours" trope. Think about it: Edward can't read Bella's mind, and so he's forced to figure out what she's thinking in the same way that we lowly humans do. Here's your believable reason for Edward to be attracted to Bella: She, as a socially adept high school girl (which she is, remember, even though she's also an introverted wallflower who shuts down everyone who tries to befriend her), can effortlessly read people without Edward's mind-reading powers. He, on the other hand, is helpless without them, having long ago lost the human ability to read people through body language, posture, tone of voice, and non-verbal cues. Edward would be impressed by this mundane skill that everyone else takes for granted because he's a vampire and has been such for 100 years and isn't human and isn't just like everyone else. But no, the fatal flaw of this novel is that Edward is just like everyone else. Despite his being 100 years old and a vampire, everything about his interaction with Bella plays exactly as it would if he were a typical high school student. So Edward can read Bella just as if his mind-reading power worked on her, he's not impressed by her ability to read people without powers, and I continue to wonder what people see in this series.

And now, my little droogies, it's time for more of Edward warning Bella away because he's bad. Man, I just can't get enough of that. Bella finally accepts that he's dangerous but not that he's bad. Suddenly, he proves her wrong by telling her...wait for it...he's not going to class! Whoa, I take back everything I said about Edward not being dangerous. This badness is too much for Bella, who hurries off to biology, where the teacher is telling students to stab themselves with scalpels and drip the blood onto cards so they can learn their blood types. Who went to a high school that allowed this? I can't imagine my old high school ever handing us knives and telling us to cut ourselves open with them. A few thousand pounds of lawyer would've been hurling lawsuit at the district before the blood hit the card. The teacher even grabs Mike by the hand and without warning pricks his finger! With a scalpel! I'm pretty sure that constitutes assault with a deadly weapon. What kind of high school is this?

Bella immediately feels faint at the sight of this teeny drop of blood (you, because she's a girl). Mike half-carries her toward the school nurse's office--despite his bleeding being the cause of the problem--and suddenly Edward is there. How? Why? Who knows. Well, I know, because I've read the book already. Later we find out that Edward's mind-reading powers are apparently not affected by distance. He can read the mind of any person at any time anywhere, and because he can't read Bella's mind, he constantly monitors the thoughts of people around her. If you're getting a creepy stalker vibe from Edward here, that's because he's a creepy stalker. That, I presume, is how he knew she was faint, and he personally showed up to repel Mike's challenge to his access to Bella make sure she's okay. He picks her up like he's going to carry her over the threshold, over her repeated protests (men know best), and carries her to the office. Well, at least this vampire is finally doing something a little bit monstrous, carrying a protesting girl who can't escape his super-strong grasp. Yeah, it's weak, but I'm reaching for anything, here.

Edward takes Bella into the office, continually laughing about her fainting spell, and lies to the nurse so he can stay with her while the nurse leaves. Then they have a long, boring conversation that we'll get to next week.

Yes, I know they just had a long, boring conversation two pages ago. But see, then they were in the cafeteria, but now they're in the nurse's office. Totally different.


*Maybe that's what Edward does all day: reading people's minds for trivia he might be called upon to know at some point. One hundred years is a lot of cultural change to keep up with.


  1. Oh, I thought maybe he didn't read the mind, but smelled the tiny drops of blood. But, first, he'd have to go suck all the fingers of the children that wanted to find out their blood type. Maybe it's old age creeping up is why he can't read her mind. He is 100 after all. Things slow down say around 90!

  2. We did the whole blood sample thing in my college biology class. But yea, not high school.

  3. We did blood type in HS, but not with scalpels! We used a sterile lancet of the kind used by diabetics or the Red Cross - easy to get a drop of blood, but hard to get much more.

    Of course we were also a science heavy high school that, upon comparing notes in college, seems to have done a lot more advanced lab work than most.

  4. I'm more calling out the doing-it-with-a-knife part than what level of education it is. My high school didn't even teach evolutionary theory, so it's hardly a paragon of scientific education.

  5. Yeah. Handing scalpels to a bunch of high school students for them to use on themselves is just asking for trouble.

    We used scalpels, but only for dissections, and the aforementioned lancets for the blood typing.

    Of course at various times, the kids in my HS managed to make high explosives (nitro one time, ammonium iodide another), get splashed with hot nitric acid, and flood the sub-basement three feet deep - so there are definitely hazards to handing a bunch of bright kids scientific tools and knowledge. But at least we knew evolutionary theory, even as we were trying to win Darwin awards.