'86 Rabbit

A FANGirl's Forkstress of Solitude

Feminist Male College Graduate: Chapter 9

Benjamin Wheeler has now blogged about Chapter 9: Theory. I’ve given up hope of seeing a Unicorn in the making. I don’t think it’s going well. Go check it out and then come back for the discussion.

So, my spider-senses tell me that this is the chapter in which I’m supposed to feel the warm-fuzzies and excitement over the fact that Bella and Edward have finally shut up and have actually announced, more or less, that they want each other.

Yes, warm-fuzzies and excitement would pretty much cover it. If you’re not feeling it, I question why you are continuing to read. I get that you’re probably curious about why everyone has jumped on the Twilight bandwagon. I see from the tweets on your blog that you view it as a bandwagon. I look at it as more of word of mouth. Let me explain how I found Twilight. I was on a business trip last summer and one of the guys from my office, I noticed, was pulling out a book every chance he got. At the airport, on the shuttle busses, during our downtime, everywhere possible. I finally had to break my rule about interrupting other people’s public reading to ask him what was so good in there that he couldn’t join us out here. He told me it was a story about young love and vampires. It was a four day business trip that was packed with activities. He brought both Twilight and New Moon, and finished them both. Immediately following that trip I travelled to my family reunion. My cousin, knowing my tastes tend toward the geeky, said, “You’ve read Twilight, right?” Her tone suggested she assumed I had. She was so excited she had read it before me and that she got to be the one to introduce it to me. She told me a similar bit about young love and vampires. I asked her if New Moon was one of the books because that was the title I remembered my co-worker reading. She told me it was. I decided I would read it immediately upon my return home, which I did.

So you see, word of mouth got me to read the books. People who knew me suggested them to me as material I would enjoy. It was not in any way jumping on the bandwagon. When my co-workers started seeing me reading these books obsessively they were curious. I told them a little about it, and they decided they might like it. They picked it up. From there their friends started reading. Of all  the people I know who have read Twilight you are the only one who picked it up with any bandwagon in mind. You’re the only one I know of who is reading it because everyone else is. No judgement here. I just find that fascinating.

We learn how Edward’s mind-reading thing works, and also that, for some reason, it doesn’t work on Bella. It’d be interesting to know if his sense also works on other vampires. If not, maybe Bella is some sort of half-vampire thing like Blade. Might actually make the book more interesting if she was laconic, wore shades, and carried around a big sword.

Blade? Bite your tongue! Would that even be worthy of literary criticism?

But in this chapter, she self-censors herself about her sexuality and her flirtation-niticy (made up a word, Shakespeare did it, I can too). She says that she is, “editing all my scheming out of the story” when she’s telling Edward about her talk with Jacob (183).

Well of course she censors herself. Would you easily admit to your would-be girlfriend that you flirted with another girl to get info on her?

So we know that Bella was deliberately “scheming,” that is, using her femininity in a calculated way to get information of the fifteen year-old Jacob (which couldn’t have been too hard–I remember fifteen as one protracted, frustrated hard-on). I don’t understand how she switches between these two modes, the wanna-be-vixen, and this almost shameful girl. Both to me seem to be equally unhealthy expressions of sexuality, especially since this is the first description of Bella’s sexuality that we get in the whole book.

Are you suggesting that it is unhealthy for a woman to use the power she inherently has? We should all play to our strengths, no? Life, especially in your formative years, is about finding your strengths. Here Bella begins to learn one of her strengths is her feminine wiles. I’ll never understand why it is OK for men to find weaknesses in other men and exploit them, but it is not OK for women to find weaknesses in men and exploit them.

Bella switching from flirty (vixen is a bit strong for what was done here) to non-flirty is pretty normal. One does not behave the same way at work as they do at home or in a bar with buddies. We are all taught to behave in a manner appropriate for the situation from a very early age. On the average day a little sibling rivalry is normal, but bicker on the wrong day and you’re met with, “C’mon, guys it’s Christmas!” In this scene Bella is exploring a new behavior, a new tool, at an appropriate moment. She is in no way choosing this as a behavior she will never turn off. If she feels shameful it’s because she realizes that she has given Jacob false hope. This too is pretty normal. We learn over the years how to treat people, and how not to treat people. Maybe this is a lesson learned for Bella. She’s growing as a person, as a teen should.

Edward basically admits that he’s a vampire, and he says “I don’t want to be a monster” (187). He and the Cullen’s drink animal blood, which he rather humorous likens to “living on tofu and soy milk,” and “we call ourselves vegetarians, our little inside joke” (188). This analogy, while pretty funny, also sits a little off-balance with me. Just the implication that, for vegetarians, tofu and soy milk are not what their bodies really need, and they are eating that stuff to not be a monster (eating animals). I may be talking that analogy a little far, but it sets up an interesting hierarchy of importance between humans and vampires. Vampires obviously then see themselves as ascendant beings, something of higher intrinsic importance and value than the humans.

I don’t see where you are getting that vampires see themselves as ascendant beings of higher importance than humans. You’ve already stated that the Cullens consider themselves monsters. They don’t drink what would be natural for them to drink because they value human life too much. If they thought themselves ascendent they wouldn’t be sacrificing this way. It is possible that non-Cullen vampires consider themselves ascendent, but if that is the case why do you suppose vampires aren’t out in the open?

If that’s the case, then how long has he been in high school? I’m guessing the faculty, as vacant as they seem to be, would still find it weird that this dude is perpetually seventeen, always taking the same classes. Do they drift from high school to high school?

On Bella’s first day of school Jessica tells Bella that the Cullens transferred to Forks from a school in Alaska about two years ago. Jacob tells Bella that his great grandfather (or is it great-great grandfather?) negotiated the treaty between the Quileutes and the Cullens back in the day and after a while the Cullens left. When Bella says something about Edward and family being descendents of those Cullens, Jacob says that maybe they are the same ones and have just returned. From this I took it that the Cullens migrate to avoid notice.

Bella doesn’t know Edward at all, except for the fact that he’s mysterious, pretty, and obsessed with her. I worry about the brand of love that this novel puts forward–it seems very superficial and insubstantial. Bella is seventeen, and maybe this is my cynical long-term relationship, twenty-two year old self talking, but I don’t buy for a minute that Bella is “in love” with Edward. Obsessed, infatuated, and wanna get in his designer trousers? Sure. But love? No. Sorry. You’re seventeen, you’ve never been in a relationship before, and just because the hottest guy in school saved you from an out-of-control van and a gang of rapists and bought you mushroom ravioli does not mean that you’re in love with him.

As an avid reader you should know that sometimes, especially with fantasy, it is necessary to suspend your disbelief for the enjoyment of the story. Remember, Bella doesn’t quite understand what it going on either. She’s pretty convinced this is not rational, but it’s happening and she’s going with it because it feels right. Just chalk it up to “it’s magic”. Besides, my aunt and uncle were struck by the love bug at the very same age. They renewed their vows for their 50th wedding anniversary last year, and are still very much in love. Age doesn’t have a whole lot to do with it. When you fall in love, you fall in love. That you didn’t find The One at 17 doesn’t mean others can’t.

Rabbit’s End of Chapter Awards

Best Use of Contradictory Arguments in a Single Post:

…her flirtation-niticy (made up a word, Shakespeare did it, I can too).

Okay, throwing the whole Romeo-and-Juliet-star-crossed-lovers bullshit out the window for now, I’m left asking, based on what?

To be or not to be like Shakespeare, that is the question. Apparently Benjamin can make up words like the Bard, but SMeyer can’t write about star-crossed lovers.

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May 11, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

13 Comments »

  1. No, no, SMeyer can certainly write about star-crossed lovers. That’s fine. But until she crafts a plot as compelling as Shakespeare, I don’t have to believe in it. My problem with this chapter is not that I necessary think that the book is bad, but rather that, from my perspective as a reader, I’m not suspending my disbelief to engage with this love story. That’s because I don’t buy it. I don’t believe that love works that way, at least not real lasting love. I know that this is a story, but it’s a story that’s not resonating with me for that reason.

    If a story is good and draws a reader in, the reader should never consciously understand that they are suspending their disbelief–this should rather be a natural part of engagement with the story. I don’t think this book is intrinsically good or bad, but, for me, it’s not working. Each chapter is foregrounding for me that I’m a considerable distance from the mental space from which Meyer was hoping that people would read her book.

    Oh, and for future reference, it’s probably not a good idea to attribute a reply on twitter as being my actual thoughts on a matter if you didn’t see the post to which I was replying. I was in fact responding to a friend who was calling Twilight a bandwagon, and I was telling him that that was a reductive way of thinking. He asked me why I was spending so much time on these books if only stupid people read them, and I responded that I know plenty of smart, capable people (I would count yourself among these, 86) who read these books, and I was trying to understand the allure.

    So, I’m sorry if your project of turning me into a Unicorn has failed. I don’t even know what the f a unicorn is, but I’m going to keep reading. If still want get people to rally around you blog in response to the anti-unicorn of whatever it is you think I’m becoming, you certainly can. But I’m going to keep thinking about this books in a critical way because I want to.

    Comment by benjaminwheeler | May 11, 2009 | Reply

  2. So, I’ve read these posts from the start and enjoyed them at that, but I can’t not comment on the lack of evidence any more.

    My issue is that, yes, you seem not just capable, but willing to disagree with everything Ben has written (even the non-criticisms…?), however, in none of your posts have you provided textual evidence of your claims. Instead you’ve chosen to interweave personal experience into your claims, and that is simply insufficient for an argument. For every personal experience you use “against” (I use that loosely because you’ve brought up personal experience that was not necessarily arguing a point), I’ve been able to come up with an instance of opposite experience. You’ve argued that Twilight popularity is not because of the bandwagon effect–true, your experience is not of that, but I can tell you many people I know did experience it. You made a comment previously that men and women communicate differently; you didn’t know one you’d have to explain dress shopping to vs. a man. Well, now you have, me. A male friend of mine when I discussed this comment with him laughed because he’s spent most of his life shopping with his friends. (He also has mad love for shoes, and quite loves the Twilight series.) How about “people” communicate differently, or do you simply choose to essentialize gender experience. So you had self defense in college, where does Meyer explain Bella’s training? (It’s there,sorta.) As for your aunt and uncle, that’s great, but for every person who fell in love young, you have someone who didn’t. Can you speak to the nature of their love, what they felt, exactly when they felt it, EVERYTHING they knew about each other? We can for Bella and Edward,literally everything, and to me that makes your aunt and uncle inappropriate analogs. If anything, this propensity to impose personal experience onto these characters speaks to what Meyer has been able to do–create a character that INVITES placing yourself into her. (I was going to call her hollow, but I think those arguments are unfounded; she is not completely empty of personality). So please consider if you’re going to comment on a critical reading of a text, you should be responding in kind, rather than with subjective experience, which is easily refutable. This is especially true of gender experience; that is not only insufficient and essentializing, but offensive. (Note: I’m sure that sounded much more like an attack than intended. Sorry if it did!)

    Secondly, why am I being asked to suspend disbelief on something real? I have let it go that there is sound in Space in Star Wars. I enjoy fantasy just as much as any other, if not more than other genres. However, love is the central driving force to this narrative, and if, as a reader, I don’t feel that it is not present, it falls flat. Why do I have to chalk it up to “magic”? …because that’s what it’ll take to enjoy the story? If it’s real, it should be there, but as Ben has pointed out, our characters know almost nothing about each others interests (Poor Edward can’t read her mind :D). You are correct, age doesn’t have much to do with it, but knowing each other beyond infatuation does.

    Side note: Romeo and Juliet, also not in love.

    Comment by katrinafloyd | May 11, 2009 | Reply

  3. Excellent post, yet again. You said everything that was in my head.

    I’ve said this before and I’m going to say it again. If you read anything, any book in the world, not to find out why people like it but to find what’s wrong with it, you’re going to find a lot to talk about.

    Comment by Whitley | May 11, 2009 | Reply

    • But, don’t you see my point? What I’m finding is the reasons people seem to like these books ARE the things that I think are wrong with the books. I didn’t go into this book predisposed to dislike it–my active dislike for it came out of a critical reading of the book itself. And I also don’t buy the “if you look for it, you’ll find it argument” because that signals to me that some people willfully disregarding the problematic elements in this novel,choosing instead to ignore them. I’m only looking for it now because I noticed it earlier in the text. Now that I’m sensitive to it, I can see how it permeates the novel.

      Comment by benjaminwheeler | May 11, 2009 | Reply

      • You may not buy that argument, but that’s what I see happening here. It’s your business, how you read the book, of course. Everyone brings their own filters to whatever they read, whether they intend to read critically or not. Case in point, my mother doesn’t really “get” vampires. She doesn’t get it, so she doesn’t understand why Bella would be at all attracted to this cold, stone-like creature. She thinks anyone who likes vampires much have a problem with necrophilia. So, Twilight was hard for her because of this.

        I believe a similar thing is happening with you. You’ve chosen to read critically as your first read-through, so you are not fully experiencing the book. Also, you said from the beginning that you were going to be looking at this with feminist perspective because you heard it was anti-feminist. Again, your choice. It’s my choice to present an opposing view point when I feel it’s necessary.

        Comment by '86 Rabbit | May 11, 2009

  4. Hi everyone,

    By suspending disbelief I don’t just mean that you have to say, “Oh well, I’ll just accept it and move on.” I’m also saying that sometimes you have to accept that you will not have your answers now; you may have to wait for them. If that means that you don’t get your answers until book 3 or 4, so be it.

    This is part of the reason I inject so much of myself into the books, and my arguments. Well, the books invite you to inject yourself into them. That’s something I like about it, personally. But more than that I inject myself because if one is arguing that the book is unrealistic I have a handy way of arguing how that could actually happen–my own personal experience–without spoiling storyline. I could explain why Edward and Bella are the way they are, but I would be spoiling future chapters or books. Or it could be that like Romeo and Juliet people will be arguing whether or not this is love forever.

    @Katrina – your idea of feminism and mine vastly differ. I can see nothing sadder than a genderless society. I revel in the differences between men and women, who each have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. To me the balance between the two is beautiful and to be celebrated, not normed. Yes I do understand the concept of generalization. I also understand the concept of outliers. Stereotypes happen for a reason. Like legend there is some kernel of truth to them. They are not hard and fast rules, merely general rules of thumb. I do not pigeon-hole and say there is not a woman on the planet who I would have to explain shopping with the girls to. I say that I can’t personally think of any, and that any men I can think of off hand would probably raise an eyebrow to extraneous shopping trips. While I thank you for your interests and your comments, I won’t be approving any similar comments from you in the future. This is my blog. I’ll say what I like. This is partly why I chose my blog as the venue and not Benjamin’s. A word of advice: if what you are writing sounds like an attack to you, imagine what it will sound like to the recipient, then reconsider and revise.

    @Benjamin – I have enjoyed our time together, but I fear it might be coming to a close. As stated previously, a Unicorn is the Twilight community’s way of referring to the rare male Twilight fan–a mythical beast, so to speak. It was not my intent to turn you into one, but I had rather hoped to see you become one on your own. The main purpose for my following this thread on your blog was in hopes of seeing Twilight take hold of you. This is clearly not happening. I had been fine expressing an opposing viewpoint. I saw no reason for either of us to take anything personally. You have your view, I have mine. Recent events have made me reconsider. I don’t want to spoil the future for you, so do not intend to include textual evidence when you have not gotten to that evidence yet (note: I have provided evidence when it seemed you had missed it, such as the instances I provided the timelines for when Bella and the Cullens started school in Forks). As I am apparently not allowed to site personal experience as examples of how what you’re saying is impossible actually is possible, that leaves me with precious little to say in regard to your blog. I will continue reading and if I feel moved to write, I will.

    Oh more thing on the subject of Edward and Bella’s love. It has been stated that they hardly know each other. Remember, that the story occasionally jumps forward by days or weeks. You are not privy to all the conversations they have. They are spending every possible waking hour together, and most of Bella’s non-waking hours as well. You get to know each other pretty quickly with that much quality time.

    Comment by '86 Rabbit | May 11, 2009 | Reply

  5. 86 I completely agree with you for using your personal experiences with these books. First of all its plain being considerate for not using textual references. Alot of what he is speculating on gets solved in books 2,3 or 4. If you would use textual references you would ruin the way the books were supposed to be enjoyed, you are not supposed to have all the answers right away. You have to site personal experiences as examples beacause the reading of Twilight is a very personal thing. People all over the world have conneceted with it on very personal levels. It doesn’t look like you were trying to make a Unicorn, like you already stated you were waiting to see if one was born. I wish you would continue the expirement but I can see why you wouldn’t want to. I think its sad that two people can’t have an intellectual debate without other people having to attack one of the participants.

    Comment by VampireVixen | May 11, 2009 | Reply

  6. Hi VampireVixen! Welcome to my blog, and thanks for commenting. I agree it is sad that people can’t debate without attacking, but I understand where Katrina is coming from. She is defending the one she loves. I would have said, “her boyfriend,” but she has lead me to believe this possessive labeling is not for them.

    Comment by '86 Rabbit | May 11, 2009 | Reply

  7. You can choose to approve this or not, but I think you’ve missed my point, as I may have missed yours, so I feel the need to explain. This certainly is your blog, and you can say what you like, but my comment was about why it your discourse wasn’t working for me, as a reader in a public venue–unless I’m mistaken and Twilight fans are allowed only? You seemed to miss my praises about use of personal experience when not arguing a point, or the point about Bella’s self-defense. My argument is, more or less without all of the examples I gave, that if it’s there, show me. I’m not asking anything of you that I wouldn’t ask of anyone else in a text. Positive or negative, you can’t make an argument for it if it isn’t in the text. I wasn’t saying that I necessarily disagreed with your points or that you can’t cite experience, simply that I would’ve liked to see quotations, page numbers, the like, because I cannot relate to your experience, only the text. If you are worrying about spoiling things for Ben, who knows the whole story, maybe consider a wrap-up post where you feel more free to comment; that would be interesting. I hope that more adequately explained my feelings without feeling offensive–Were I to have the ability, I would delete the other post and let this stand for it. Text simply does not convey what speaking can.

    Please do not attribute feminism to me, that is Ben’s label, not my own. I do not speak of a genderless society. I speak as a gender fluid person. I revel in the differences of people, rather than what group they fall into. I do not characterize by race, religion, gender, or anything like that. Stereotypes exist, yes, but do you not find the idea of the “greedy Jew” or the “less intelligent African American vs. the more intelligent Asian” (still taught in education courses) offensive and many times unfounded? If anything, I’m asking for the experiences of people not to be normed, and to celebrate differences of all kinds. My love of video games and science, as well as my love of crafts and romantic comedies are products of me, not my gender. I am more passionate on topics of gender because it IS a topic so close and important to me.

    As for future posts- Please don’t stop writing posts because of my comments. If you want to continue writing as you have been, you should–it is your blog. I will refrain from comment from here on out. I was the one asking for textual evidence, not Ben. Do not let my personal preferences keep you from what you started. As I stated before, I’ve quite enjoyed reading along with you both, and if what I have said has impeded that, I’m willing to stop.

    Comment by katrinafloyd | May 11, 2009 | Reply

  8. Mmm, I wouldn’t say I’m defending him; maybe that my reaction to the book is closer to his, and so it is far more interesting for me to discuss these things with someone with a differing opinion, like you, 86. Our spider discussion, for instance. I’ve read the book, and I already have my own beliefs set. Plus, I can always argue with him in person.

    And you remembered 🙂 Yes, I prefer partner.

    Comment by katrinafloyd | May 11, 2009 | Reply

  9. Oh I absolutely find those racial stereotypes repugnant. Here’s how I break it down. If the stereotype is meant to disparage or keep someone down I’m completely against it. If it is just a comment on life, there is no harm in it. Men and women tend to view shopping malls very differently, for example. Looking at it in terms of the hunter gatherer society from which we grew, men want to stalk it, kill it, and bring it home. Women want to go out into the field and look for the juciest berries. There is safety in numbers, so a group of girlfriends to share the experience is best.

    That is a rule of thumb. It’s not written in stone. And there is no harm to anyone by thinking this way. That people look at me, see a woman, and assume I might like to shop, hurts me in no way. I am free to tell them to stay in the car, keep it cool, I know exactly what I’m looking for and I’ll be right out. Personally I can go either way on the shopping issue. It’s a mood thing for me.

    Now if you look at me, see a woman, and assume I can’t do math, you would be right, but it’s simply not polite to make that assumption. You can’t assume someone’s intelligence or knowledge by looking at them. You can assume some things from looking at people though. For example if you saw my friend Crystal and I standing together and asked a stranger to pick out the gamer of the two of us, they are going to point to me without hesitation. I’ll be wearing a t-shirt, possibly a Star Wars one, and my chucks. Perfectly dyed, coifed and made-up Crystal will be wearing stilettos and a Coach purse, and will probably have a little sparkle to her somewhere. She is not a likely candidate for gamer girl, especially in relation to me.

    Rambling again. Where was I? Right, the racial slurs. They’re bad, Mmmmkaay?

    Thanks for coming back and commenting Katrina. I appreciate you clearing that up. I’ll continue to write and keep this perspective in mind. I wasn’t having fun with it for a couple of chapters. I think I’ll have to come up with a new format or something. I still probably won’t quote pages numbers, simply because if I’m not looking for an exact quote I’m probably not going to be bothered to go get the book. I’m good, but I’m not that good. I don’t know all the text on all the pages in all the books off the top of my head. I do my best to set the scene I’m referring to though. Anyone who has read the books should be able to follow along. I’m not going to go out of my way for citation on a blog, essentially. I’m not turning it in for a grade. 🙂

    Comment by '86 Rabbit | May 11, 2009 | Reply

  10. can i just say i love love love the analysis between you and benjamin wheeler? i see his side, i see your side. and then i think about my side and the lines are blurred.

    Comment by Lan | May 12, 2009 | Reply

  11. Awesome! I’d love to hear your side…well, read it anyway.

    Comment by '86 Rabbit | May 13, 2009 | Reply


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