The Imaginary Heroine

searching for the plot

My Life in Fiction March 29, 2010

“We see the future, we see something waiting for us even when we don’t feel it inside sometimes.”
– Psychosister23, “The Great Debate” by Rachel Caine from A New Dawn edited by Ellen Hopkins.

I know what you’re thinking. Aren’t you…over this whole A New Dawn book review thing yet?! Well, yes, I am. This isn’t really a book review. Just something I was reminded of when I read this bit from Rachel Caine’s essay. It was part of her discussion about Twilight’s positive lessons for young women. Namely, that in encourages them to think about what their adult life could and should be like. Even though they feel like misfits, they can become the heroine in their own story.

This definitely struck a chord with me. I read. A lot. I also watch a lot of movies and TV. I love stories. They give me hope that there is meaning in a really confusing, chaotic world.

This is the origin of this blog. My life has started to feel kind of pointless. I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know how I’m going to get there. I go to work, I come home, I do dishes, I go to bed – what happened to the great life story I was supposed to be the star of? I’m not sure. Maybe that happens later. Maybe this is the great adventure I’m supposed to be having. I’m just too close to see it. Maybe my “post-adolescent idealistic phase” is crashing and burning. In any case, I need a project. I need to feel like there is a point to life, the universe, and everything.

It’s a whole lot easier for me to do that when I’m reading and writing and trying to tease out pearls of meaning from between the lines.

I want to make myself clear. I don’t expect to become a heroine in a fantastical quest against evil. I am fully cognizant of the fact that life is not like a novel or movie. This doesn’t keep me from using narratives to explain the mysteries of life. In fact, the reason we read books and watch TV shows and see movies is because well all do this to some extent. This may be why people my age often go through this kind of disillusionment phase (you know it kills me to admit I’m going through a phase, but I think it’s a pretty well documented fact if it’s being discussed by fifteen year-olds in Clueless).

We’re bombarded with all kinds of stories and meanings in the media we consume. To take a particularly dramatic example, in Brave Heart Young Murron gives Young William Wallace a thistle at his father’s funeral. Years later, when William proposes to Murron, he reveals that he saved the same thistle for years. Seeing the thistle, Murron knows that his affection is sincere and long-standing. She consents to marry him.

In real life, this kind of thing doesn’t happen. Stuff today is pretty disposable. Clothes are mass manufactured for no one in particular and meant to be discarded after a season. Ipods are made to survive about two years, since by that time the next generation will be available. We spend $3.50 on a cardboard cup filled with coffee, neither of which will last beyond an hour or so.

Because the tangible world is so disturbingly fluid – our setting and the objects around us so impermanent – it’s easy to start believing that we live disposable lives in a disposable culture. This may be why we are so charmed with the thistle in Brave Heart, tuppence in Mary Poppins, and Harry Potter’s scar. They’re artifacts that prove the existence of meaning.

How do we know William loves Murron? He kept her thistle. We can see his love right in his hand. The thistle, tuppence, and scar are metaphors for an abstract meaning. The thistle device is used by writers to draw the audience’s attention to central points of meaning in the narrative. They’re shortcuts on the desktop of the mind.

I think maybe the tangibility of these objects sometimes gets in the way  of their significance. The object is not the point – the meaning is the point. But instead of focusing on the meaning of the metaphor, we lock onto the physical presence of the object and become obsessed with finding tangible symbols in our own lives. Why not? That’s how several forms of media have taught us to process meaning.

What I’m endeavoring to teach myself is that even without these tangible artifacts I can still find abstract meaning in my life.

 

A New Dawn part 13: “The Great Debate” by Rachel Caine March 28, 2010

[Part of a series discussing the essays in A New Dawn edited by Ellen Hopkins. These posts may contain spoilers about all four Twilight novels and Midnight Sun.]

In “The Great Debate,” Rachel Caine imagines a fictional debate between two Twilight fan girls and two adult academics. The topic?

Resolved: Vampire-themed fiction represents thinly veiled sexuality and violence. Therefore, vampire fiction is not suitable for young adults, and in particular Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, which has brought vampire-themed young adult fiction to the forefront is not appropriate for young adult readers.

When Caine gets over trying to be hilarious and actually talks about how the books are actually beneficial because they deal with difficult subject matter like sexuality, violence, etc she makes really good points. I’m sure a lot of people will think this is a riot, but some of the humor just didn’t do it for me. At one point the moderator says the debate is going to follow the rules for Lincoln-Douglas debate and a teen debater replies “I don’t know who Lincoln Douglas, but I’ll be he’s a hater.”… Cue laugh track?

Youth and knowledge of pop culture does not automatically make someone uneducated. Isn’t that, in fact, the point of this piece? That all the teenage girls the “experts” worry are going to go have babies with quasi-abusive seventeen year old boyfriends because “Bella did it” are actually savvy enough to understand that the book is a) fiction and b) full of consequences for all of these actions? I was also pretty irritated by the teen girls interrupting everyone and even each other with things like “TIME’S UP, BITCH. Also, you suck.” Because we all know teen girls are obnoxious and rude at all times. I’m sure adults ever misunderstand, interrupt, or cover ignorance on an issue with rudeness… I would say that the main crime here was not Caine’s use of teen girl stereotypes for laughs, but that it just wasn’t that funny.

Anyway, the point of the essay is that the Twilight books do cover sexuality and violence, but they do it in such a way that makes it very appropriate for young adult readers. Girls have a pretty difficult time finding a safe space to safely explore their developing sexual preferences – why not do it in the context of books and movies? Twilight actually seems to glamorize abstinence for teens, not the reverse. Plus, what girl is going to want to have a baby that murders her from the inside out? As Caine points out, Bella’s tale is actually full of consequences for romance, sex, and pregnancy. It’s a cautionary tale, not a how-to manual.

Caine also discusses how empowering the Twilight Saga has been not just for young women but for adults as well. We identify with Bella because she’s lonely and a bit of a misfit. She has trouble making connections with people and doesn’t feel like she’s good at anything in particular. Caine’s Twilight teens give us a pretty good list of uplifting messages. Things like don’t hate yourself, because even though you might not think so, you’re awesome. Don’t rush love, because it’s worth being patient and letting it all fall into place naturally. Caine also argues that Bella is a hero in her own right, even if she isn’t a supernatural being. She’s brave, strong, and helps others even when she’s afraid. So…how are these bad things for teen girls to read about?

In fact, they aren’t bad lessons for girls and grown ups, for that matter. Which is probably one of the reasons the Twilight Saga is so popular from tweens to Twimoms. It’s a story of a misfit finding her power and rightful place in the world. I would say that this is backed up by the fact as a human Bella kind of sucks at life, but she turns out to be a really good vampire with super blood lust control, super powers, and a super family. Gaining her rightful place in the world puts everyone around her in balance and results in the deliriously happy ending we get in Breaking Dawn.

[This was in Harper’s Bazaar, but I thought KStew looked pretty vampy. Maybe Bella’s look in Breaking Dawn will take some cues from the shoot?]

 

A New Dawn part 12: “To Bite, or Not to Bite; That Is the Question” by Janette Rallison March 26, 2010

[Part of a series discussing the essays in A New Dawn edited by Ellen Hopkins. These posts may contain spoilers about all four Twilight novels and Midnight Sun.]

Most of what I read about the Twilight refers to destiny or fate. According to Janette Rallison, the books are instead all about free will. This jives with a few statements I’ve read from SMeyer. On her website, Meyer discusses the importance of the apple image on the first novel’s cover. Apples have been featured in myriad stories through the ages, but always with a similar meaning: Choice. She also discussed the importance of Free Will in Mormon doctrine in an interview with Lev Grossman from Time:

“[A]lthough Mormons avoid caffeine on principle, [Meyer] drinks the occasional cherry Diet Pepsi. “It’s about keeping yourself free of addictions,” she explains, sitting on a huge couch in her living room. “We have free will, which is a huge gift from God. If you tie that up with something like, I don’t know, cocaine, then you don’t really have a lot of freedom anymore.”

Rallison shows us that Meyer overtly communicates this idea to the readers when Carlise tells Bella that all anyone can do is decide what to do with what they were given in life. Even Alice’s future sight is dependent on the decisions of others. Rallison points out that this is Meyer telling us again that “no one’s fate is set in stone in the Twilight series. The future is made and undone with every choice a character makes.”

I’m going to stop with the free will vs. destiny stuff right here. It’s a good essay. Go buy or take the book out of the library and read it.

I’ve been derailed (Again!) by someone totally missing the manipulative element behind Edward letting Bella see Jacob. Rallison attributes this to Edward’s saint-like understanding. I’m still pretty sure that the whole point was to make himself appear saint-like and make Bella feel that she had to get rid of Jacob in order to be good enough for perfect, angelic Edward.

He's doing it again!

Then she turns around and says that Jacob is not above manipulation when honesty and logic don’t work. Yes. He did try to manipulate Bella. I will yet again point out the fact that when he did, he totally stank at it. People hated Jacob for that stunt. He’s not a skillful manipulator, for the simple reason that he’s usually an honest guy who doesn’t try to manipulate others. Allow me to point out (AGAIN!) that Jacob only tried it, because he realized that was how Edward was winning! He was manipulating Bella’s pathological need to throw herself under the bus before hurting anyone else.

Even thought Bella says Edward isn’t playing any game, Jacob knows better:

“He isn’t manipulating me”

“You bet he is. He’s playing every bit as hard as I am, only he know what he’s doing and I don’t. Don’t blame me because he’s a better manipulator than I am – I haven’t been around long enough to learn all his tricks.”

“He isn’t manipulating me!”

“Yes, he is! When are you going to wake up and realize that he’s not as perfect as you think he is?”
Eclipse p594

Maybe it would be different if this was an exploration of open relationships or something. I’m sure there’s a pile of fan fiction about various Bella, Edward, Jacob arrangements. But that’s not what the Twilight Canon is about. Edward, Bella, and Jacob are all up front about wanting to be in a monogamous coupling. Both Edward and Jacob are trying to get the other out of the picture by any means necessary. Neither is above manipulation to achieve their ends. So why is Edward getting called honest and understanding while Jacob gets tutted at for doing the exact same thing?

Ugh. I’m going to pull out a legendary Kansas quote and and simply say: “That’s right…Dollar signs.”

All of this discussion of who is manipulating whom is not about who is right for whom or which guy Bella should have chosen. Of course Edward loves Bella and vice versa. Of course Edward was the right choice for Bella. She may have loved Jacob too, but she always knew she loved Edward best, last, and forever. I just wish people weren’t quite so hard on Jacob. Sometimes I wonder if people don’t hate him so very much because he brought out the nasty side of Edward. It’s hard to see your knight in shining armor get tarnished.

 

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Other March 25, 2010

A couple of days ago, I was perusing my usual morning sites when I came across a post on Jezebel.com written in response to this piece in the Wall Street Journal. The topic? Friendship breakups.

While the WSJ article discusses the painful fallout of a friendship gone bad, it still assumes that you’re going to need to jettison some friends at some point in your life and gives hints as to how to get it done. I agree with Anna N. from Jezebel in thinking that these steps may be necessary for a friend who is stealing your money for heroin or is some kind of a toxic bully,  but the best option for a friendship in a dry spell is probably time and space. Instead of permanently casting off friendships, we should dial them down and wait for circumstances to change. In a few weeks, months, even years, you and your friend may be right back on the same page and you’ll be so very happy you didn’t have that dramatic split. Even if you die without ever getting back together, it’ll save unnecessary time, drama, and tears on both ends.

However this section gave me pause:

“Some friendships can actually be bad for us — if a friend is manipulative, untrustworthy, or intentionally hurtful, self-preservation pretty much demands a split. But what of the pal who’s simply annoying, who has objectionable political views (one of Bernstein’s examples), or with whom we just don’t have as much in common as we used to? This friend might be occasionally fun but often grating, or might make us angry and happy in equal measure. What to do?” – Anna N., “The Friendship Breakup: When to Hold ‘Em and When to Fold ‘Em,” Jezebel [emphasis added]

The political examples Bernstein gives are “Rob Wilson, 53, a writer in Atlanta, saw a 12-year friendship abruptly end after he mentioned he was voting for George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election” on the dump-ee end and for the dump-ers she has the suggestion “Become a Facebook pest. I have a gay friend who has had much success getting rid of bigoted high school friends by making his status updates as flamboyant and politically charged as possible.”

The dump-er example makes sense in one way and not at all in another. If acquaintances have shown themselves to be bigots or hateful towards you, then cut ties ASAP. But the cyber pest suggestion seems childish, passive aggressive, and counter-productive. If you really want to get rid of someone just do it. Hide them from your feed. Or block them. It’s instantly effective, since you don’t have to wait for them to act. You wont see them and they wont see you. The end.

Trying to annoy the crap out of someone in hopes that they cut you off on their own is not attractive, effective, or constructive. You will NOT get the satisfaction of seeing them break down sobbing and saying you were right all along, like a bully in some afternoon teen special. They’re more likely to make additional inane and hurtful comments or just ignore you, giving you no real satisfaction. Don’t let someone you dislike turn you into a nasty person and ruin any more moments of your life.

The dump-ee example, a man voting for a candidate his friend disliked and its equation with “objectionable political views” as grounds for breakups (Bernstein) or distancing (Anna N.) upsets me on a visceral level for a number of reasons.

Neither my friends, 7abibi, my family, or any of my acquaintances ascribe to the same political views as I do. The few times I have sought out people who do, I haven’t been successful in uncovering anyone I really connected with. If everyone kept to their own kind, I would have no one at all.

My own experience with politics and relationships has been ugly. It started out ugly in high school, in the amazingly charged climate after 9/11, and has stayed ugly, right through college to the present ever-escalating  political nightmare. It was a hard lesson, but I learned that I would seldom, if ever, have the luxury of being in a situation where anyone agreed with me or backed me up in a political discussion…or argument.

I came to expect being the one at the bottom of a dog pile of derision. Sometimes the dog pile was full of people I didn’t know. Other times it was composed of people I loved, trusted, and respected. No matter who it is, it hurts. Every time. I’m still trying to figure out how to let it go and move on. Because this dog pile wont be the last or the worst or the most important. Sometimes I play dead and say nothing. Either because I just can’t take it that day or this fight doesn’t matter or this dog pile might prove fatal for a friendship, job, or my personal well-being.

You’re thinking “fatal? Dramatic much?” Allow me to point you to this section of the comments on Jezebel. Where a few people chimed in that politics is definitely grounds for dismissal. Says one commenter, “I’m not friends with people who don’t share my general political views. I just don’t do it. Does this make me judgey and intolerant? Perhaps. Does it make my life better? Yes.” Another says “I don’t have any friends who aren’t on the same page as me either. It’s a total deal breaker.” Another woman says she does maintain friendly acquaintances who disagree with her, but follows it up by saying that she’s currently distancing herself from someone too different.

You’ll see me in there doing a terrible job of making a point, because I broke my cardinal rule of commenting: don’t comment while you’re emotional. I also broke my cardinal rule of speaking up: don’t speak up when there is no benefit. I lashed out for no reason. I feel bullied, hated, misunderstood, and alone. And it’s my own damn fault. I made myself feel bad through the medium of someone with no reason to give a shit about me and who also claims intolerance in the name of a cause as a virtue.

I need to just drop it.

But I can’t.

I can’t not be emotional on this issue. Let me boil down these comments:

I do not like people who are not like me.

Ugly, isn’t it, sitting out there all bald like that? At least one of the commenters owned it for what it was: intolerance. I would consider Jezebel and its commenters to be a generally progressive lot. But this is definitely NOT a progressive idea. At all. This is regressive and hateful.

Since when is it acceptable to say and act in accordance with this sort of philosophy? It is unacceptable to say I don’t like black people or gays or Muslims or people from Arkansas. Why is it okay to say the same about someone whose political beliefs aren’t in lock step with yours?

A wise friend* explained the thinking to me thusly:

“It’s allowed when it’s an ideological issue. People view political beliefs as changeable. It’s not like race, or to some degree religion, where you’re born one thing and you stay one thing. Your politics can change and so if you disagree with someone, it’s YOU disagreeing with them, not some other that you can’t get away from. (I mean you in a global sense, btw)”

I tried to think my way around this by saying that politics has taken the place of religion as personal identification for a large segment of American society. People don’t like to see it that way, because they think religion is not based in fact and political points of view are. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say a lot of our politics are taken on faith, especially in the US’s two-party system. We decide to ascribe to a whole bulletin of party issues that aren’t always related.

For instance, if someone identifies as a Christian first, they may be against the death penalty, abortion, and war, but are they a Republican or a Democrat? I think a lot of religious people struggle with the dilemma of reconciling political and religious doctrine. Some Christians consider themselves Republicans based on single issues like abortion or gay marriage. Others consider themselves Democrats based on single issues like…abortion or gay marriage. I was going to put war or social welfare, but I’m not going to pretend that either party has a lock on the Christian vote for any one issue.

Once they decide on a party, they are automatically presumed by people on the ground and pollsters in DC to agree with a host of other party issues. They themselves may even assume that because a party is right on one issue, it’s right on other issues. Some people aren’t assuming. Maybe they’re brilliant human beings that live to a ripe old age of 101 and read day in and day out about political philosophy. Or a dedicated warriors in pursuit of radical changes of their country’s political and social environment, like one of the Jezebel commenters mentioned above.

I still don’t believe that it’s the best idea to categorically ban relationships with people different from ourselves.

Why? Because once we are within an echo chamber, it is far easier to see that the other side, being wrong on one issue, is wrong on every issue. Not only are they wrong on every issue, they want to be wrong. They’re trying to trick us into being wrong too. They’re actually mean, hateful, evil people. They’re not like me. They are the other. I could never like them.

I do not like people who are not like me.

There it is. Again.

This is the perfect example of how intolerance is born of fear and ignorance. We did it in the past with race, religion, gender, and sexuality. Hell, we still do it with race, religion, gender, sexuality, and tons of other stuff. We human beings are really good at hating each other for any and every reason. Usually not a good one.

I’m going to go out from my limb to a twig and say deciding to eschew contact with all people who are not like you does not make your life better.

In fact, it makes everyone’s life worse. Do I have to go back and make citations of historical and present day events for people to see that hate and intolerance are demonstrably bad not only for individuals, but society as a whole?

So what is the answer? I don’t know. I don’t know that there is an answer.

If you don’t want to or can’t be friends with someone, then don’t. It’s better for both of you than building up resentment and misunderstanding.

You don’t have to be best friends with someone who thinks abortion is murder, if you think abortion is a right and integral to women’s empowerment. Maybe it’s not possible. I don’t know.

But I beg you to consider what you are doing if you dismiss out of hand people who are not like you. Here is why:

1) We may already like people we think we hate.
The social atmosphere right now is so poisoned by intolerance, people who see the world differently from the dominant group (whether it’s the dominant group in the country, in the room, or in the circle of friends) are too terrified to speak up. Think of that person who always says something non-committal when politics come up. It may be she has no opinion. It may also be she doesn’t agree with the dominant group and knows or fears that it could lead to isolation and resentment if she were to reveal herself.

I “came out” to a college friend and roommate about my political views after a long time of working on a bond of trust and mutual affection. I shit you not, her first response was “Oh. I thought you were normal like the rest of us.” To her credit, she continues to treat me like a normal person who is capable of being her friend. Because I freaking AM. I’ve also had this go the other way and had former friends attack me viciously and never speak to me again. Usually I’m too afraid. So I just protest I have no interest in politics. Or I say nothing at all and hope it goes unnoticed.

Some people realize the folly of cutting off friends for differences that aren’t as divisive as they once realized. Some people feel betrayed. Instead of letting the knowledge that they like someone they thought they would hate explode their past logic, they revert. So it goes.

2) We don’t hate these people, we hate fear and uncertainty.
By refusing friendship and discourse with someone different, we are missing the chance to challenge our own point of view. Meaning we are limiting our own knowledge and personal growth. We are making ourselves a bad advocate for our own causes. We open ourselves up to all kinds of manipulation by people who may have other ends in mind.

As anyone with a background in social sciences will tell you, “the other” is not reflective of an actual reality. It is a creation in both collective and individual minds used to define ourselves by comparison to another group. When we hate the other we are actually hating our own creation. Our own fear. We are actually hating a small piece of ourselves.

When we refuse to consort with the other, people who are not like ourselves, we refuse to face the fact that everyone doesn’t think like us. Scarier still, if we talk to these people and become their friends, we might start to realize that these beliefs are valid (do not mistake this as true/perfect/universal – just valid). Which leads to uncomfortable thoughts like I might not be right and there are alternatives.

We hate the idea of uncertainty. Of maybe being wrong. Or at least not knowing if we’re right. Not 100%. Not all the way right. It’s a really uncomfortable feeling. Being unsure and trying to justify decisions to ourselves and others based on assumptions that could possibly be wrong.

But guess what? That is a good and important feeling. It is the feeling of stretching, growing, seeking out knowledge.

Who was that moron who said “the unexamined life is not worth living” and thought the wisest man knows he knows nothing? Oh right. Socrates. He’s really old, male, white, and dead, but considering people are still listening to him after something like 2500 years, I think he might be on to something.

I’m starting to think that accepting this uncertainty while still making decisions and taking actions that hopefully lead to a good life is what learning to be a grown up is all about.

Having a friend to help you is invaluable in this task.

3) We are missing the chance at a relationship that could give us comfort and love when we need it most.
If you are thinking, what is this person talking about? I don’t hate them. They hate me!

Congratulations. That is going to solve exactly nothing. You are condemning those you hate to ignorance, meanness, and fear whilst simultaneously giving yourself the same. If we all continue to hate and push away people we believe are not like us, it’s going to be a nasty unpleasant life for everyone forever. Yippee.

It is a cold, hard, lonely world out there. Who are we nattering little nincompoops to be pissing away love and friendship?

*Thank you to my dearest Elbie Toes for listening to me cry and complain about this for two days (or is it 11 years?) straight. We may not agree on much of anything politically, but I love you all the same.

 

The Imaginary Heroine’s Fictional Boyfriends

As promised, here’s a list of my fictional boyfriends.

Harry Potter, the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling
I know a bunch of people are going to skeeved out when they read this. Let me just say, I started reading Harry Potter in junior high, when we were about the same age in book time. As the gaps between books widened, I aged faster than Mr. Potter did. All of this is moot though, because Harry’s birthday is July 30, 1980. So, he’s seven years and about a month older than me anyway. So there.

I didn’t really feel romantically attached to Harry until the much-maligned fifth book came out (I was still two months shy of sixteen when it came out in 2003, so I was still in non-creepy territory. Thbt!). A lot of people have complained that they couldn’t stand Harry in book five. He was a whiney pain-in-the-butt, always on about how unfair life was and losing his marbles to the Dark Lord.

Here’s the thing…that was just how I felt too. High school pretty much sucked for me. Like Harry, I spent a lot of time at odds with not only a large number of my closest friends, but also several teachers and my high school. Throw in some metallic maroon combat boots and the inevitable teenage cry of “no one understands meeeee!” and you’ve got the wretched disaster that was sixteen year-old me.

When Harry was shouting down Professor Umbridge in class and forming secret resistance societies, my bolshy (and, yes, whiney, pain-in-the-butt) sixteen year-old self just swooned. When he wasn’t defeating evil, Harry was just trying to get by and do right by people. He also had a mischief streak a mile wide without being an obnoxious “bad boy.” Something that really appealed to this goody-two-shoes. Harry also has great taste in women, as evidenced by his proximity to smart gals like Hermione and Ginny. Add in dark hair and some glasses…I’m sold.

Just like Harry, I ended up dropping out before my senior year and heading off into the world. Sure he went to look for Horcruxes and I went to college, but we can’t all be “the Chosen One.” I will always think of Harry Potter as my partner in crime, my brother in arms, and my only high school boyfriend.

Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, portrayed by David Boreanaz
This one gives me pause now. I used to think Angel was, like, the be all end all of hotness. I definitely blame him for giving me a type: dark eyes, dark hair, straight brow, tan skin, buff shoulders…. Which is basically 7abibi all over, now that I think of it…

Now I realize that it’s pretty creepy for a 240 year-old guy to be sleeping with a seventeen year-old. Even if the 17 year-old in question is a vampire slayer. Plus, all these vampire romances sound good in theory, but the lack of body heat just…ew. Ew. I have a feeling a physical relationship with a vampire would be kind of icky, actually. Who knows what kind of nasty diseases a vampire might have lurking all over their body – they’re basically invincible!

That aside, Angel won my heart and stomped all over it again and again in college. And I loved him for it. It gave me an escape from a crazy class load, 3/4 time job, and roommate angst. Buffy and Angel on DVD definitely helped me survive some grueling semesters.

Yes, he spent some time saving Buffy, but he didn’t mind when Buffy saved him. And she did. Quite a lot, actually. That is what made Angel awesome. He loved a girl who could kick his ass. He even loved her after she killed him, for goodness sake. That is one man who knows the value of a good woman.

I ended up following Angel to his spin-off show and liking him the better for being a bit darker and a bit funnier than he was in BtVS. I have to give the writers and Boreanaz credit, because the Angel/Angelus duality helped me hash out a lot of feelings about good and evil inside myself and finding a moral compass after you realize you aren’t and never will be all good all the time.

Seeley Booth, Bones, portrayed by David Boreanaz
I followed David Boreanez on to his next project, a TV show called Bones. I had never been into a crime drama before, but I was willing to give it chance if it meant I could see his pretty face again. I was prepared to be bored or grossed out, but guess what? Bones kicks all kinds of ass.

Yet again, we see David Boreanaz sharing face time with a kick-ass woman and doing it well. Sometimes he plays the blue-collar, Catholic straight man to her intellectual, atheist jibes. Other times he plays the wise guy and urges her to listen to her heart to find the answers she’s searching for. The show achieves a delicate balance by giving the female lead traits often considered masculine and giving traditionally feminine traits to the male lead. The inversion leads to both humor and illumination as they work together to solve the crime du jour.

I would argue that Boreanaz must be a vampire in real life, because I swear he’s gotten better looking with age. He’s able to carry off both the manly man shell of FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth while staying true to an inner core of intuition, love, and harmony. He’s the thinking woman’s heart-throb.

Ramses Emerson, The Amelia Peabody books by Elizabeth Peters
I’ve talked about him before on this blog. Walter Peabody Emerson, a.k.a. the Brother of Demons, a.k.a. Ramses is totally hot.

Ramses is the scholar of the bunch, with several degrees and near perfect fluency in myriad languages, dead and alive. Don’t let that fool you though, because he’s also a master of disguise with a wicked sense of humor and enough mischief to match Fred and George Weasley. Plus he “doesn’t fight like a gentleman” whether he’s faced with drunken British Officers or Turkish spies or his dastardly cousin Percy. He’s not afraid of personal injury if he thinks it’s in the service of good, as evidence by his damaging pacifist cover for an extremely active career as a secret agent. He’s also an unabashedly adoring husband and loving dad. Swoon.

Ramses is another guy who is attracted to smart and determined women. How can he not be with a mom like Amelia Peabody? It’s an aphrodisiac, I swear. Show me a man who loves smart women and I’ll show you a milliondy-twelve women of worth willing to love him back.

Honorable Mention:
Mr. Knightly, Emma by Jane Austen
I sort of surprise myself on this one, since my favorite Austen is definitely Sense and Sensibility. But Edward Ferrars just can’t stand up to Mr. Knightly (or really anyone, come to think of it). Mr. Knightly was always trying to boss Emma around, but still loved her and sought her opinion even when she stood up to him or refused to take his advice. Sure his constant nagging could be interpreted as paternalistic and icky, but I choose to read it otherwise. Emma was written as such a stubborn and self-assured character that she needed a powerful counterpart. Someone who was willing to tell her when she was full of crap or being a bitch to Miss Bates. Someone who urged her to be better, because she could and should. That’s why I would say Mr. Knightly has the edge over everyone’s favorite haughty-to-hottie hero, Mr. Darcy.

I find most of Austen’s heros fairly tame. The guys with real spark end up being huge jerks, like Wickham and Willoughby. What is Austen saying here? Is she pulling a Gottleib and telling us to settle for Mr. Dependable-but-dull? Is she telling us that a happy marriage means turning your back on fun, exciting partners? Although Austen gives her heroines a traditional happy ending, the fact that she herself never married and her quotes on the subject of marriage, spinsterhood, and female worth are indicative of a deep skepticism of marriage and men.

Fred/George Weasley, the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling
They’re a ton of fun, that’s for sure, and plenty brave. They also seem to be appreciative of powerful women. Fred took the Angelina Johnson to the Yule Ball for cripes sake! Don’t remember her? She was a quidditch chaser who was good enough to make captain and a witch talented enough to try for TriWizard Champion. I hear she married George after the Second Wizarding War! My admiration for the twins is somewhat limited by their secondary (tertiary?) character status. There’s not much to go on here since the Harry Potter series is mostly limited to Harry’s POV. What did they get up to when Harry wasn’t looking? I’m betting they were “up to no good,” of course.

Eric Northman, the Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris and True Blood, portrayed by Alexander Skarsgård

This is a fairly recent one for me. I just started reading the Sookie Stackhouse books this year. If I talk about why, I’ll be giving up a crapload of spoilers about the book series and possibly the TV show, so I’ll just zip it. He’s definitely got the high mischief factor going on. I can’t like Eric all the way since he’s definitely a selfish jerk. On the other hand, he’ll tell you so up front. Points for honesty? Being a former viking, he definitely goes against my normal physical type. I’ll stay tuned on this one. The jury is still out.

Who are your fictional boyfriends? Have they changed over time? Want to fight to the death over Angel? I’m dying to know!

 

A New Dawn part 11: “Edward, Heathcliff, and Our Other Secret Boyfriends” by Robin Brande March 24, 2010

M[Part of a series discussing the essays in A New Dawn edited by Ellen Hopkins. These posts may contain spoilers about all four Twilight novels and Midnight Sun.]

Just the title of this one made me smile. Growing up a shy, bookish girl, I can definitely say that I got a lot of my romantic preferences from books. Brande compares Edward Cullen to some of the leading men in the novels that influenced the Twilight Saga and argues that he wipes the floor with them.

I’ve already spoken my piece on Heathcliff (or as Brande calls him “Scary Psycho Man”). Brande, Edward, and I are both completely confused by Bella and the other Heathcliff lovers out there. To torture his beloved’s husband, Heathcliff marries his sister and proceeds to strangle her dog and treat her so abominably she has to run away. After she’s dead, he goes out of his way to torment their son (they had sex?! EW!) to an early death. Just…No. Not attractive at all.

To me, it seems unlikely that Edward is supposed to be Heathcliff. Instead he is supposed to be Edgar, while Jacob is Heathcliff. Heathcliff didn’t get the girl. Edgar did. Heathcliff turned into a wolf and ran away for months and months…oh wait, Jacob did that. Heathcliff disappeared for years to regions unknown. Then he goes insane when Cathy is destroyed by her torn affections and dies. See what I mean? What if Edward hadn’t gotten the girl? I think the fact that he can behave himself may have something to do with that fact.

Brande finds Romeo a bit more acceptable, but not exactly up to Edward’s level. Mainly because Romeo ends up snuffing it so early. Sure he married Juliet, but their romance ended up being a wham, bam, thank you ma’am, didn’t it? Bella admits she “kind of had a thing for Romeo” in New Moon. What is with this girl? She clearly has terrible taste in men.

Pride and Prejudice‘s Mr. Darcy gives Edward a run for his money. It’s no surprise since, Meyer says that Twilight was loosely based on the Austen masterpiece. Brande herself has a thing for Mr. Darcy, calling him “Mr. Perfect” and admitting in her bio at the end that she “threw herself into a three-day binge of Carcy-infused chick flicks.” Bella never mentions P&P as one of her favorites, but she does mention reading some Austen novels in Twilight. I’m sure Mr. Darcy is probably pretty high up on her list too.

Though I agree with Brande’s assessment that Darcy is markedly better than either Heathcliff or Romeo, I’m still stymied by the fact that both he and Edward are arrogant @$$hats sometimes. She admits that they need “a good smack upside the head,” but argues that they eventually mend their ways once they give into true love. They just need a couple chances to get it right.

Brande thinks that Edward beats out all three of these classic heros. They were the “secret boyfriends” to thousands of women throughout the years. Clearly they were Mrs. Meyer’s secret boyfriends too and she appears to have taken the good qualities of all her favorite leading men and knitted together over the series to create the UBER Fictional Boyfriend that is Edward Cullen. Brande and millions of ladies thank her.

I can find little fault with the main argument of the essay. Clearly, Edward’s attractive qualities have roots in the romantic leads that have captured the hearts and minds of women for centuries. I don’t find these heros as attractive as many other women seem to, but to each her own. Maybe I’ll do a follow up post on my secret boyfriends of ficiton…

What really caught my attention is that Brande repeatedly calls Edward honest. Huh? I agree that he’s pretty up front with the declarations of love. In Brande’s words, “Romeo had his pretty soliloquies, and Darcy can say a lot once he gets going, but no one gives you the blow-by-blow, this-is-why-I-love-you the way Edward does.” However, he’s not so up front about other things.

Anyone who’s read Midnight Sun knows that Edward’s got a manipulative streak. Sure the whole Angela/Ben matchmaking thing is cute on the face of it, but it’s obvious controlling behavior as well. Earlier in the essay, Brande cites Edward’s refusal to make Bella choose between him and Jacob as a sign of his rationality (Jacob can protect her and make her happy), but from where I sit it looks like really skillful manipulation. By not forcing Bella’s hand, he makes himself look angelic and makes Bella feel like crap for having feelings for Jacob.

Jacob calls Edward out before the new born battle in Eclipse. When Jacob realizes what a skillful player Edward is, he tries to follow suit. He’s not winning by being honest, time to change strategies. Being both honest and inexperienced, the manipulation is so shoddy, we see it immediately. The whole “suicide by vamp” play for affection and smooches really ticked me off – like it did a lot of readers. However I kind of appreciated that his attempts at manipulation had an ugly clang, especially in comparison to Smooth Criminal Cullen. Edward is so good, he’s even manipulated the readers into being on his side!

It also royally pissed me off at the end of New Moon when Bella can’t believe that Edward still loves her and Edward turns it back, acting hurt because she had so little faith in his love. “You believed me so easily!” he accuses. Ugh. Excuse me! Can anyone say gaslighting? Ah, yes. The classic technique of romantic and platonic emotional abusers the world over. Enough about your feelings, how do you think I felt when you reacted negatively to me being mean to you?!

Honest? Up front? Not our Edward Cullen.

 

Failbooking Twilight Style March 23, 2010

Filed under: Books,Movies — imaginaryheroine @ 6:00 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

[Buffy says “Now this is not going to be pretty. We’re talking violence, strong language, adult content.”]

I came across this a while back and thought I should add it to the growing pile of Twi-snark.


see more funny facebook stuff!

What does happen when Bella has the painters and decorators in?

EDIT: I guess SMeyer had to think up an answer to the menstruation question.

“Several girls wanted to know if Edward would have a more difficult time being around Bella when she’s having her period.  Answer: Yes, a little bit, but he would never say anything about it–much too much of a gentleman.  And Bella would be way to embarrassed to ask.  (It’s not the same as a cut, though.  It’s sort of “dead” blood, if you get my meaning).” – Stephenie Meyer, Personal Correspondance #2, Twilight Lexicon