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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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.

 

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.

 

Eclipse Trailer! Wheeeee! March 11, 2010

[SPOILERS! References a scene in the climax of the Eclipse book (but I’ve hidden it in background color text – you’ll have to highlight it to see the spoiler) and includes Eclipse movie trailer.]

I’m too excited to do any real analysis just now. So let me just leave you with this:

  • Edward still looks in dire need of a laxative or a fiber aid…
  • What is on Victoria’s head? I was willing to give Bryce Dallas Howard a try, but I already miss Rachelle Lefevre.
  • Ditto re: Bella’s wig to a lesser extent. Why, oh, why did you cut your hair, Kstew? Is it easier to find a convincing 80’s fashion mullet wig or an attractive long, flowing locks wig? I’m guessing the former.
  • “She found us!”… I seriously hope this refers to the whole Edward/Victoria duel scene [highlight select if you want to see the spoiler]. It better not refer to Victoria finding Bella & Co. in the same darn place they were for the other two books. Seriously??? How hard is it to find you if you never went anywhere?
  • The meadow looks ridiculous. I wish they had done something more organic looking.
 

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.