The Imaginary Heroine

searching for the plot

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.

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New Moon Ending Gripes March 20, 2010

Filed under: Books,Movies — imaginaryheroine @ 12:53 pm
Tags: , , , ,

[Spoilers for New Moon the movie]

Is anyone else bummed out that Edward got the last line in New Moon?

I think they were going for something like this:

Edward/RPatz: Marry me, Bella.
Bella/KStew: *tiniest gasp imaginable*
*Blackness*
Audience: ZOMG!!!AAAAHHHH!!*lustsplode*

Which is what happened in the theater my mom and I went to. There weren’t too many people there, as we saw it over a week after the release and early in the afternoon of a rainy Sunday. There was a giggly group of middle aged women sitting behind us and a few teens in the seats below who seemed to really enjoy it.

I wish when they panned to Bella that she hadn’t just gasped. Why doesn’t she get to say anything? It should have gone like this:

Edward/RPatz: Marry me, Bella.
Bella/KStew: You have got to be kidding me.

or

Edward/RPatz: Marry me, Bella.
Bella/KStew: Oh shit.

or

Edward/RPatz: Marry me, Bella.
Bella/KStew: Seriously?

Just…something. Something from Bella!

I feel like this would have been more fitting in a lot of ways.

For one, Bella is not into his proposal at all. I guess we’ll see that in the Eclipse movie, but I wish Bella had gotten the chance to let it be known in this movie. Here’s how it went down in New Moon the book:

His eyes were cautious – he spoke slowly. “Marry me first.”

I stared at him, waiting…. “Okay. What’s the punch line?”

He sighed. “You’re wounding my ego, Bella. I just proposed to you, and you think it’s a joke.”

“Edward, please be serious.”

“I am one hundred percent serious.” He gazed at me with no hint of humor in his face.

“Oh, c’mon,” I said, an edge of hysteria in my voice.

– New Moon p540

See what I mean? Bella’s having none of this nonsense.

Also, this story is supposed to be Bella’s story. It’s kind of hard to translate first person book narratives on screen, but I think both installments of the Twilight Saga on the silver screen have done a pretty good job. Bella has narrated the intro to both Twilight and New Moon. With a few notable exceptions, most of the action takes place within Bella’s frame of reference. I would say the films are fairly true to a Bella first person narrative. So, why didn’t we get her reaction?

I’ll probably be coming up with more New Moon discussion as time goes on, but this was my biggest beef with the film. There were some other big and small flaws here and there, but I was actually pretty happy with it over all.

 

A New Dawn part 1: “A Very Dangerous Boy” by Susan Vaught March 1, 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 her essay, Vaught addresses one of the most common complaints about Twilight:

Edward Cullen may be super hot, but he’s a totally scary sociopath and it’s irresponsible to be glamorizing him as a romantic ideal for impressionable teens.

Vaught categorizes Edward’s behavior throughout the Saga as indicative of a deeply disturbed individual. However, she concludes that these sociopathic tendencies are mitigated by Edward’s remorse for how his behavior has affected others and how hard he tries to make amends, even if his efforts are sometimes misguided.

This essay made me think of this list of traits that classify Edward as a textbook abusive boyfriend. Unlike a lot of Twilight readers, I don’t think I ever fancied myself in love with Edward. I didn’t like how condescending and manipulative he could be. However, I felt that despite being kind of a jerk, Edward was redeemed by his love for Bella. Then I feel guilty, because that’s generally the excuse that most abusers give for their behavior (I can’t help it! I love you so much!).

Is Edward actually changed and improved by his love for Bella? I would argue that once Bella becomes a vampire in Breaking Dawn, he is forced to behave better by the leveled playing field. Bella has unlocked her total power of agency at this point. So he could try to be controlling and prevent her from doing as she likes, but there’s fat chance of him getting his way if she is unwilling. To quote the great Amelia Peabody, “Marriage should be a balanced stalemate between equal adversaries” and having created his equal, Edward has elected to rid himself of his unfair control over Bella. That seems to be pretty concrete evidence that Edward has been improved by his love for Bella.

There are other issues that are definitely missing here, but I feel like it’s unfair to scrap Edward entirely. Whether Edward is a sociopath or an abusive boyfriend can be argued either way. The same goes for whether using Edward as a romantic model for teens will result in abusive relationships with sociopaths.

I wouldn’t say that the books champion unhealthy relationships as an end goal, but instead assert a familiar trope of a lost soul redeemed by its soulmate. Does this mean we rationalize behaviors in Edward that we would see as red flags in real life? Absolutely. Heck, it may actually serve as a jumping off point for moms and daughters to talk about what behaviors are okay for potential suitors and which ones are not.

I feel like it’s okay to both allow ourselves to swoon over Edward being jealous of Bella and Jacob and, in the next breath, criticize Edward for breaking Bella’s truck in an attempt to prevent her from seeing whomever she damn well pleases.