'86 Rabbit

A FANGirl's Forkstress of Solitude

Feminist Male College Graduate: Chapter 1

Mr. Benjamin Wheeler writes:

Immediately, Bella’s main female influence is a dependant woman with no apparent financial or personal agency. Without the masculine influence of Phil, she would not be able to support herself, either with money or with food. The most basic elements of her survival is dependent on a man’s benevolence, a man who will also thankfully be there to call when her mother inevitably gets lost. Serious red flag, noble readers, serious.

I suppose writing is a sort of double-edge sword. If you write realistic, or at least honest, characters, you get accused of possessing the same flaws as your characters. If you don’t, you get accused of being a no-talent hack with a penchant for writing stereo-types. You can’t please everyone. I’d prefer to err on the side of honesty, as I believe Stephenie Meyer has done. After all, as I’ve said before, if all characters are paragons of virtue, we’d have some pretty boring books. There would be no drama. Furthermore, this would be the literary version of self-esteem robbing magazine covers; everywhere we looked we would see perfection.

In Chapter 1 of Twilight Bella describes her mother as loving, erratic, and hare-brained. She is admitting right off that Renee is flawed. Renee is a pretty dependent sort, without even realizing that she is, I think. That doesn’t mean that the books or the author are anti-feminist, as Benjamin described in his original post announcing he was reading Twilight. It merely means that we have an honest, flawed character. This gives Bella some back history. We now know that Bella grew up sort of caring for her mother. Indeed, she was moving to Forks, a place she hates, to further care for her mother by letting her have her newlywed time. Despite having a dependent role-model, Bella is already, at the tender age of 17, showing remarkable strength.

Then there’s Bella’s truck. It’s her first possession upon arriving in this foreign place, and luckily it’s a vehicle that she immediately loves. I’m thinking that this truck will come to play some sort of role in the story later, but for now it functions to give Bella a certain amount of independence (she does not have to bum rides from her police officer father), and it has a certain quality of strength to it, in contrast to her own slight, soft form. It’s a personal haven of sorts, a place in which she can be safe. It’s “one of those solid iron affairs that never gets damaged” (8). In a new place, with her people, Bella, with her fragile body image and self esteem, needs something strong and immutable, and it seems that her truck is filling that role here. Ten bucks says it get wrecked later.

I like what you say here, but I don’t think you’re right exactly. I think the cars in Twilight are descriptive of their drivers. Bella is strong and solid, and can get into accidents while standing completely still. It also moves at a much slower pace than the vampires’ cars, much like she moves at a much slower pace than the vampires. In contrast, Edward is fast, elegant, and tries to be inconspicuous. He’s chosen a car that matches these traits, much like Rosalie has chosen a sleek and sexy BMW, and Emmett has chosen a rough and tumble Jeep. Oh, and you owe me $10.

…The move to make Bella a fairly plain girl is of course a manuever by Meyer to achieve the maximum amount of relatability for her heroine. But the interesting tension here this is that, for all of the work Meyer does to render Bella as a sort of every-girl, a girl of average physical attractiveness, with all of the emotional encumberances that apparently follow along with that, Bella is very concerned with and judgemental of how other people look…

In this paragraph, Benjamin seems to be implying that making Bella plain is a device meant to make readers relate to Bella. Maybe, but that’s not a bad thing. If your characters aren’t relatable, you are going to have trouble drawing the reader in. Unless that’s the point of your story, you have a problem. I think the important thing here is that we are getting Bella’s perspective. She believes she is plain. That doesn’t me others believe she is plain. When viewed from that perspective Bella’s plainness is less a device, and more a realistic description of what goes on in the average teen girl’s mind. As far as not wanting to be labeled a freak, yet labeling others, well that’s part of being human, especially a teen human. She is just meeting these people; it’s her first day of school. She only has labels to go on until she actually gets to know people, and since it is her first day, of course she doesn’t want to be labeled a freak. The introduction of the Cullens goes much the same way. She doesn’t know them, so she only has physical appearance to go on, and really, they are perfect. There is no way around that.

Still, the gothic group are “outsiders,” and Bella feels “a surge of pity” for them (22), which means that she emphatizes, which means, on some level, she recognizes herself likewise as an outsider.

Feeling like an outsider is a fairly normal thing for her to be feeling as a teenager, especially on her first day of school in a small town where everyone has been waiting for her to arrive. She’s in the spotlight, and when she becomes aware that the Cullens were the last batch of new kids at school, she finds herself relating to them.

At this point, I know just enough about this book to know that, surprise, Edward and Bella get together.

Well, I hope so. The book cover is pretty open about it being a love story between Bella and Edward. It’s not a mystery for us, just Bella. 🙂

A few points…Rosalie was the Sports Illustrated girl, not Alice, and the “less fugly” boy whose name your forgot is Mike Newton. If you’re going to tag your posts Twilight, do you homework. There are some pretty rabid fans out there who can do some pretty ugly flaming. 🙂

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April 30, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , ,

6 Comments »

  1. Awesome! I’m really glad someone else is checking me on these ideas. Like I said, I’m only a chapter deep into the novel, and you bring up some really interesting complications to the stuff I’ve come up with.

    I’ll admit that Bella seems to be a typical, relatively insecure high school girl, and I also agree with you that “if all characters are paragons of virtue, we’d have some pretty boring books.” I was instead commenting on how I, as an older male, have trouble relating to that character. And my interest was in why Meyer chose to represent this character this particular way, because I don’t believe that her only options were this brand of psychological realism or the stereotypes that you warn of. He had a choice, and she chose this. I’m not saying it was a bad choice, I’m just trying to make sense of it.

    Bella is a typical high school girl, with all of a typical high school girl’s apparent problems, but rather than explain it away as just the way girls that age are, it seems to me that Meyer deliberately chose to make her character this way to give readers a certain in-road to the book. The way we read this high school setting is filtered through Bella’s consciousness, and my interest is to see how readily I’m able to engage with the book when the story is filtered through a character to whom I can’t really relate.

    Comment by benjaminwheeler | April 30, 2009 | Reply

  2. Doh! You weren’t supposed to read this until you were done. Now I really don’t want to spoil things for you. I may have to reconsider this little experiment.

    Legend has it that Stephenie Meyer had a dream one night about a girl and a vampire. She loved this dream so started writing notes when she woke up to remember it. She just kept writing and in a few months she had a book. So, I think the answer to the question of why she wrote Bella the way she did is that that’s the character that presented itself to her. I don’t know whether you are a creative writer or not, but I’m trying my hand at my own book. It’s amazing how characters will just go off on their own sometimes.

    I’m not sure what parts of Bella were choices and what parts were just what occurred to her to write but we can discuss those things later when there is more about Bella to talk about. You just have a basic image of her, a label if you will, this early in the book.

    Comment by '86 Rabbit | April 30, 2009 | Reply

  3. I didn’t think you really spoiled anything for me, so no worries there. If you’re going to have invite conversation about what I’ve written, I’d prefer to be a part of it.

    And, my bad on getting character names wrong. With Meyer’s muddled character descriptions, I sort of get the names crossed. And if you think what I’ve written on the book is flame worthy, then, in the words of Johnny Storm, Flame On.

    Also, what’s a Unicorn? I mean, besides the mythological creature. Is this sort of sort of Twilight fan lingo that I need to be aware of before I continue my reading?

    Comment by benjaminwheeler | April 30, 2009 | Reply

  4. I wrote a blog entry on my other blog a few months ago referring to a guy I saw reading New Moon, sitting next to me on a flight. I also happened to be reading New Moon. He wouldn’t talk to me, and it piqued my interest. Usually when people on planes would be reading the same thing there would be at least a short conversation about it, but no. I spent the flight thinking about it, and decided I would write an entry entitled ‘I Saw A Unicorn!’ In it I would describe how I saw this mythical beast on a plane: the male Twilight fan. Of course there is that whole one-horned thing, too, but this is a family show. As far as I know it’s the first mention of Unicorns, in this context, on the interwebs. LettersToTwilight picked up the use of it. Their site is hugely popular, so other people are picking it up, too.

    Comment by '86 Rabbit | April 30, 2009 | Reply

  5. Great post! I wasn’t aware you were doing this, so thanks for letting me know!

    Oh, and you know I agree with pretty much everything you have to say about this. I consider myself a feminist, it’s one of the things I’m most passionate about, yet I still love Twilight. I think, of you go into a book looking for anti feminism, it’s going to be there, regardless of if that’s what the author intended when she was writing.

    But, I haven’t yet read the series actively looking for that, so this will be interesting.

    Comment by Whitley | May 8, 2009 | Reply

  6. I’ll admit there were moments in the Twilight books when I wondered if it was responsible to be writing this way, such as all the times Bella describes being “towed” around by Edward, because it seems so passive. But then I thought this is pretty realistic. Teen girls, and many adult women, do get towed around. If they don’t mind, I don’t mind. It’s their business. I deemed it not particularly anti-feminist and stopped worrying about it.

    Thanks for stopping by, Whit, and thanks for all the wonderful comments!

    Comment by '86 Rabbit | May 10, 2009 | Reply


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