December 2, 2012

Twilight: Near Miss

Twilight, pp. 157-164.

When we left Bella, she was too busy moping to pay attention to where she was going. As it happens, she stumbles over to the seedy side of Port Angeles. And baby, you will never find the more wretched hive of scum and villainy. I mean, just check out one of the four dastardly villains that accost Bella in an alley:

Two of them had paused, and the other two were slowing. The closest, a heavy-set, dark-haired man in his early twenties, seemed to be the one who had spoken. He was wearing a flannel shirt over a dirty t-shirt, cut-off jeans, and sandals.

A fat guy in sandals--my God, the horror! Run, Bella! A guy like that, who knows what he'll do? He might offer to sell you marijuana!

Flannel over a t-shirt, cut-off jeans, and sandals were what all the guys in their early twenties were wearing in 1992 2005. Meyer sure has her finger on the pulse of popular culture!

I'd also like to point out that this reprobate, who will be around for all of eight pages, has been given more of a physical description than Jessica, who didn't even get clothes. Hell, we get about as much as for him as we got for Edward. This must be part of Meyer's "don't show, don't tell" writing strategy. The vaguer your characters are, the more they can be whoever the reader wants them to be, and the better to be your wish fulfillment, my dear.

The rapscallions chase Bella around the back alleys of this Port Angeles Skid Row--well, they don't chase her so much as "casually stroll after her as she kind of meanders around". These passages are some of the worst writing yet, such as when Meyer makes it a point that Bella, who is being stalked in the night by four strange men in the bad part of town, feels a chill that "had nothing to do with the weather". (Thanks!) When the hoods finally get her cornered, Bella is choked with fear and just barely musters the energy to demand they stay away from her. One of the four, apparently thinking he's Huggy Bear, responds, "Don't be like that, sugar." This devastating riposte sends the other three into hysterics, and Bella prepares herself for combat, resolving that she isn't going to go down without a fight. Get ready, my little droogies. Bella Swan is about to do something!

Suddenly, just when we most expect it, Edward appears to the rescue!

Headlights suddenly flew around the corner, the car almost hitting the stocky one, forcing him to jump back toward the sidewalk. I dove into the road--this car was going to stop, or have to hit me. But the silver car unexpectedly fishtailed around, skidding to a stop with the passenger door open just a few feet in front of me.

"Get in," a furious voice commanded.

It was amazing how instantaneously the choking fear vanished, amazing how suddenly the feeling of security washed over me--even before I was off the street--as soon as I heard his voice. I jumped into the seat, slamming the door shut behind me.

All right, Bella's going to--oh, wait...but she was just about to...So you're gonna--oh, right. Okay. Right.

Now that a man is here, of course, everything's perfectly all right. One would think Bella would be a little in shock, a little bewildered, a little upset and emotional given she's just narrowly avoided being assaulted or worse. But nope, she's fine. So fine, in fact, that she asks Edward if he's okay! He'll eventually ask her if she's okay, but only after telling her to put on her seat belt, telling her that he's not okay, driving around for a while, and finally stopping the car in the middle of nowhere. Why? Because he's mad, and so of course his anger at these four men for threatening his privileged access to Bella's body (not that he's interesting in actually make use of this access, only in maintaining its integrity against the challenge of other men) trumps any question of her psychological well-being.

But I felt utterly safe, and, for the moment, unconcerned about where we were going. I stared at his face in profound relief, relief that went beyond my sudden deliverance. I studied his flawless features in the limited light, waiting for my breath to return to normal, until it occurred to me that his expression was murderously angry.

"Are you okay?" I asked, surprised at how hoarse my voice sounded.

"No," he said curtly, and his tone was livid.

It's time for your old pal Carl Eusebius to check in with you neurotypicals again: Is this normal behavior? Imagine: You were this close to being physically beaten by four toughs--possibly raped, as Bella earlier feared "they might be something worse than thieves". Would you even give a thought to the fact that you get to see the guy you haven't seen in four days? Would that form even a small part of the flood of relief you felt in the immediate aftermath of escaping that situation? Who's crazy here, Meyer or me? Because one of us definitely is.

And I do de-clare, I believe it's here on page 163 that the word "said" for dialogue first appears. Hallelujah, hallelujah!

"Distract me, please," he ordered.

"I'm sorry, what?"

He exhaled sharply.

"Just prattle about something unimportant until I calm down."

Has anyone been keeping track of how often Edward gives Bella "commands" and "orders"? Because it's fucking often. And it's nice that Bella, upon hearing the word "prattle", doesn't immediately think of Jessica as I half-expected her to do. Bella does talk about something unimportant--so unimportant that I've skipped it up until now and I'm going to skip it again--until we get this.

"What's wrong?" My voice came out in a whisper.

"Sometimes I have a problem with my temper, Bella."

Hold on, just give me a sec, here...I know I've...ah, here it is, The Abuser's Handbook page 34. Allow me to give the full quotation: "Sometimes I have a problem with my temper, and at those times, you might find yourself accidentally falling down the stairs."

But no, Edward's not an abuser! (Well, he is, but his is emotional abuse.) He just means that he desperately wants to kill the hoods. Wait, why does he want to do that? All he saw was four people standing around Bella. This is a crime that warrants death? As I've noted, Edward can read thoughts, so presumably he saw in their minds that the scum were going to do something terrible. But Bella doesn't yet know he can do this. Since she isn't particularly affected by what should be at the very least an experience to shake you up a little, isn't she curious how he knew to come screaming around the corner at that exact moment? Because that's what happened. It isn't like he was just passing by, happened to see what was going on, deduced it was something terrible almost instantly, and put pedal to metal. He comes around the corner already driving like a maniac and heading right for them, so actually he didn't even see what was happening. Bella, of course, doesn't ask about this, just like she didn't ask how he can stop a speeding van with his bare hands. (No, I'm not going to let that one go.)

Once again, the Twilight film improves on this scene by having Edward almost immediately say that he saw the lowlifes' thoughts and so in a sense saw what they were planning to do. This also drops movie-Bella another clue that Edward isn't what he seems (because movie-Bella, as I've noted, has to piece together Edward's vampire nature on her own). Here, though, he doesn't say that, so we're left with Edward in a murderous rage over events he didn't witness, and Bella doesn't think to ask. She clearly isn't traumatized by her experience, and so why doesn't she ask why he's there, how he knew she was in danger, how he knew what was happening, and how he knew so certainly that he's in a murderous rage about it?

She doesn't ask because, of course, she knows. Because Stephenie [sic] Meyer knows. No one in this novel behaves like a real person, or even a believable character in a trashy vampire romance novel.* They never behave in any way other than to move the plot (such as it is) forward. In fact, Bella won't ask why he was there for another eight pages. During that time, they meet up with Jessica and Angela, blow them off (what, you expected them to spend a single moment with other people?), go to a restaurant, and talk about nothing for several minutes, and then Bella wonders how Edward was suddenly right there right when she needed him, because that's when Meyer is ready to tell us. And Bella never asks why he's as angry as he is, why he's having the emotional reaction she should be having.

I'm beginning to wonder if Bella could pass a Voight-Kampff test.

* I'm rather surprised that necrophilia is not only as popular as it is today, but as socially acceptable as it is, if only in the realm of fantasy.

1 comment:

  1. Well, I sort of agree that vampire/human romances need to think more carefully about the, shall we say, "details" of such romances. However, I don't think necrophilia is really the right word. When your partner can walk around, talk to you, and otherwise engage you much as a living person would (though there are going to be problems, of course), it's not really the sort of thing necrophilia was designed to describe (however creepy it still is).