Saturday, March 06, 2010

The Twilight Saga Saga: Chapter 4

Ah geez, lookit this nonsense. Apparently there are more than three chapters in Twilight. What, I have to go through the rest of them? Okay then.

A week or so ago I found a blog post through the magic of Google Alerts (involution alert: Google Alerts probably has a Google Alert for the phrase "Google Alert") that asked the question: Why is it a bad thing to like Twilight?  The writer had read my last post and assumed that I was criticizing Twilight fans for their audacious enjoyment of a clunky adolescent fantasy written in one-sentence paragraphs.

The truth is that I'm not interested in what's wrong with liking the Twilight novels, because the answer is obvious. The answer is: nothing.  There is nothing wrong with liking this book or anything else in the world.  There's nothing wrong with liking hot dogs or dog fighting either, but eating hot dogs won't turn you into an athlete, and participating in dog fights is a morally reprehensible (and criminal) act.  Similarly, it's cool to see Khandi Alexander pull a human head from a pot of boiling water on CSI, but there's no way I want to spend my days with human heads and tongs.

Pleasure is an impulse that comes from parts of ourselves over which we have little control.  You might view education and socialization as an attempt to access and write over those areas.  Despite society's best efforts, though, we continue to like all manner of things.  The moral issue comes not from the pleasure, but the exercise of that pleasure and the production of materials to gratify it.  Calling Twilight a moral issue is a stretch, but if you regard the production of art as part of a culture's inheritance, then Stephenie Meyer is stealing from us.

So nothing is wrong with liking Twilight. Nor is there anything particularly wrong with reading Twilight, although there are better ways to spend your time.  But there's plenty wrong with writing Twilight.  And that's what this series is about.


Chapter 3 was called "Phenomenon," and it was all about Bella's insistence on verifying the truth of what she witnessed.  This one is called "Invitations," so maybe it's about Bella's hatred of being a part of something larger than herself - a school, a community, a family, what have you.  Maybe the purpose of the multiple invitations in this chapter is to further define Bella's boundaries - which is another way of defining the gaps in her boundaries.  An invitation is a promise, after all, and a promise is a deferral with an indefinitely building erotic charge.

The last line of Chapter 3 is "That was the first night I dreamed of Edward Cullen," so chapter 4 obediently begins with a description of the dream.  In it, Edward is a source of light but impossible to make out or apprehend.  He is forever distant from her, despite Bella's efforts to to catch up with him.  Bella appears to be dreaming about the sun, which may be one of the first indications that Meyer's vampires are the conceptual opposite of the traditional vampire - instead of being creatures of the underworld, they appear to belong to some heavenly schema.  Let's keep that thought it mind and see if it doesn't come to fruition around Chapter 13.

Then, in an example of remarkably inept pacing, a month passes in a single line.  Wait, no, it jumps back in the line after that to the week after the dream.  Whatever.  Bella is being plagued by people wishing her well and treating her decently, including the guy who nearly ran her over and is now "obsessed with making amends".  I can only conclude that Bella prefers to be treated like a jerk, maybe by some inaccessible pretty boy who comes to her rescue at one moment and completely ignores her the next.  I'm just guessing.  Let's keep that thought in mind and see if it doesn't come to fruition throughout the rest of the book.

Bella is also being plagued by love.  Even though Edward continues to ignore her, all the other males at the school are lining up to ask her out.  It's possible to accept Twilight as adolescent fantasy, but this stretches the boundaries a bit.  Bella is sullen, sharp, rude, inattentive and vaguely insolent towards every single thing in the novel, with the exception of her truck.  Lining up to ask Bella Swan to the spring dance sounds about as fun as a Friday afternoon at the Post Office, if the guy ahead of you in line is crazy and naked and trying to take a dump in your pocket.  And even that scenario presents a better possibility of at least getting laid.

We also discover that Bella may not much enjoy the presence of other human beings and find their goodwill disgusting, but she's perfectly happy to manipulate them in order to get them off her back:
It was Jessica [on the phone], and she was jubilant.  Mike had caught her after school to accept her invitation.... She had to go, she wanted to call Angela and Lauren to tell them.  I suggested - with casual innocence - that maybe Angela, the shy girl who had Biology with me, could ask Eric.  And Lauren, a standoffish girl who had always ignored me at the lunch table could ask Tyler; I'd heard he was still available. Jess though that this was a great idea.
Let no one be surprised in Chapter 5, when Jessica bounces around Bella like a frisky puppy to announce how happy everyone is now that their love lives are running like a finely tuned engine.

Of course, Bella isn't going to the spring dance. Why would an antisocial loner who hates you go to a dance?  Instead she gins up an excuse about going to Seattle.  But what she doesn't count on is a last-minute about face from Edward, who suddenly offers to drive her to the city, even as he lays on repeated warnings about staying away from him.  And does she accept the invitation, despite his warning?
"It would be more... prudent for you not to be my friend," he explained. "But I'm tired of trying to stay away from you, Bella".

His eyes were gloriously intense as he uttered that last sentence, his voice smoldering.  I couldn't remember how to breathe.

"Will you go with me to Seattle?" he asked, still intense.

I couldn't speak yet, so I just nodded.
Boy howdy, does she ever.


Bella Sucks score: 26 (average per page 1.5)
Learn To Write score: 37 (average per page 2.47)


Adam P. Knave said...

"Friday afternoon at the Post Office, if the guy ahead of you in line is crazy and naked and trying to take a dump in your pocket. "

And that is where I snorted. Well done, sir. As always this series of reviews is something I look forward to and am rewarded for the wait.

sweetsalty kate said...

This prompted me to look up an image of Stephanie Meyer so I could scowl at it.

Or perhaps, "scowl grumpily". Or "scowl like sombody who was really unimpressed."

palinode said...

For the full Meyer treatment, you might want to try "scowlingly I gazed at her picture, never not looking at her face without horror".

flutter said...

no no, for the full Meyer treatment it must be "I gazed at her photo, murmuring grumpily about how many times one person can use the word murmur"

Jett Superior said...

Your Twilight analysis is a glory to behold.

Jezzella said...

Thank-you for explaining that my love for Twilight is out of my control, and yes I know I could be doing something different, but as you pointed out, that might involve heads, and tongs.

I do believe this is your best chapter review yet.

By the way, I have completely gotten my mother and sister hooked. Sullen works!

Kellee said...

I both loved Twilight, and loved this review. Go figure. :) I can't explain it any better than anyone else does.

Brika said...

If this keeps up, you need to make it into a book.

ozma said...

I was the one who yanked your chain a little about this and now I reverse myself perversely and say that there is something wrong with liking Twilight. And hotdogs, if they are horrible food.

It's not really a moral criticism of people. But it is a problem with the culture. Because it shovels garbage at us and we get a taste for it. So, for some people, trash is all that's available to them. Trashy food, trashy entertainment. Because educating people might be dangerous and please don't make me explain that because it would take too long and also the explanation is probably all flimsy and such.

In sum, Twilight and hotdogs are likable to some people who would be better nourished on better food and better books. And they don't know about those because everything is all crap and mass production. But other people aren't in that situation because they just like Twilight for some reason and also like better things. And some people would never like better things. They just like Twilight because there's not accounting for taste.

Finally, then it is bad to like Twilight for some subset of Twilight likers and for this you can blame society.

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