Monday, January 31, 2011

BLOGGING BREAKING DAWN, pt. 13: Rosalie V. Wade

When we last left our, uh, Jacob, he was rolling up to the Cullen house ready to fuck up some shit. But Carlisle opens the door and already the kid is diffused. Carlisle tells Jacob it's not the best time, and could they do this later? Carlisle presumably knows, thanks to Edward, exactly what Jacob is coming here to do. So he's saying, "Can you come back and kill all of us later?" which is kind of funny, and a useful thematic sign post. I mean, as much as Breaking Dawn has already gone off the rails, it's about to go even more off the rails, which I sense is just a prelude to something even off-the-railsier, like this metaphorical train we're on jumped the tracks and plowed through a busy city street Inception-style, and now it's about to plunge into the ocean and then launch into outer space. There's no graceful way to transition into something like that, and this is one of the rare occasions where it seems like S. Meyer even tried to a little bit.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Consider The Lobster Ravioli

Way back when, I criticized Natalie Wilson and her Twilight class/blog for being a bunch of bland, standard-issue academic/PC complaints based on a surface reading of the text. Which it is. And the way you can tell his: her book is coming out in March. Oh, I kid Natalie Wilson, I kid!

But that doesn't mean her bland, standard-issue, academic/PC essays aren't worth a look from time to time. Today I read "The Colonial Gaze Of Stephenie Meyer and the Resulting Representation of Indigenous Peoples as Monstrous" (whoa). It's a nice base-layer for a lot of the things we have sort of already been discussing. Most academic writing is either too basic or too esoteric; this blog is the latter and her blog is the former (and of course I apply the term "academic" to this blog with a liberal dash of salt. Once my brother made some cookies but he misread the recipe and added 1/4 cup of salt instead of 1/4 teaspoon. Take this blog with a few of those and a White Russian).

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

BLOGGING BREAKING DAWN, pt. 12: Stare Decisis

Last time, Jacob took over as narrator. Here, it gets interesting. Unfortunately, just as S. Meyer makes a real innovation, we hit several uncomfortable moments in a row. If you missed it, we had kind of a great discussion about the possible impact of S. Meyer's Mormonism and even her attitudes regarding feminism on these sort of moments, which are becoming more and more numerous. These are issues I want to keep exploring. Keep up the good work, everybody.

Chapter 8: Waiting For The Damn Fight To Start Already

Jacob leaves Quil when they hear Sam howl from the woods. Jacob wolf-ifies (the term they use is "phasing," which I have been resisting because it is stupid) and then remarks at how easy it is for him now. That prompts him to recall Bella's wedding, when apparently the stress of realizing that Edward was planning on fucking Bella temporarily disabled the ease of that ability. It confuses and frustrates him even now. I totally get that. You accidentally think about someone you find unattractive having sex, and suddenly you can't, uh, phase. It's a drag! Jacob doubts himself further-- even if he'd been able to get himself straight, would he have gone through with it and put it in? His claw into Edward's face or whatever, I mean.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

BLOGGING BREAKING DAWN, pt. 11: Jacob The Obscure

Well, okay, so here's book 2, which is predictably narrated by Jacob. We got a hint of this at the end of Eclipse, and call me crazy, but I'm willing to give him a try. Appropriately, I think the wedding was the beginning of the end of my love affair with Bella-as-narrator. In the comments last time, Xocolatl mentioned Bella's double betrayal of our trust: she didn't want to be married until she just did, she didn't want to have a baby until she just did. On both occasions, she just "sees the light" or some bullshit, there isn't even a reasonable explanation. The "little nudger" was just the last straw. (The little nudger, by the way. Dear has the best joke Re: Little Nudger so far.)

In high school I loved the novel The River Why, which is a meditation on various Western philosophies including but not limited to fly fishing. The narrator goes off and lives in the wilderness and tries to reconcile the different worldviews of his parents as well as the worldviews of various people he meets. He ends up encountering a skinny-dipping manic pixie dream girl in the river behind his cabin, and we're off to the races. (Every young man's dream is to run into a naked MPDG on the side of a river one day, though preferably not a dead one, Bridge To Terebithia-style.) It is, among other things, an environmentalist novel that was originally published by the Sierra Club. Unfortunately, it takes a weird Right turn toward the end, when the narrator finds god more literally than Bella has (so far). It's jarring and unexpected, and every time I mentally revisit the book it drops a little more in my estimation because of that turn. It wraps up with a Vietnam-bashing coda though, so maybe it's a wash.

I like to tell myself that what bothers me about The River Why and Bella's recent transformation is that it feels disingenuous in a narrative sense and not that it offends my personal sensibilities. I can't be sure about that, of course. But the point is, for whatever reason, I welcome a break from Bella.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I hate me some Jacob too. But whatever, it can't get worse. Plus I'm assuming we'll come back to Bella sooner or later (though it would be kind of audacious if we didn't, if that was the last glimpse of her "subconscious mind" we got and we only experienced her in the third person from now on. Especially if she becomes a vampire-- it would keep the minds and inner-lives of vampires unknowable. But I doubt that will happen).


Another epigraph! On page 142! You crazy for this one, Steph.

And yet, to say the truth,
reason and love keep little company together nowadays.

Well, we all knew Shakespeare was going to show up here sooner or later. What's amusing to me is I have frequently invoked A Midsummer Night's Dream as a counterpoint to Twilight in general and Eclipse specifically, given that Midsummer also involves love triangles and love spells which are not unlike imprinting. Of course, where Midsummer is simultaneously making clever points about love and superstition, Twilight never makes any clever points about anything. Why continue to invite the unflattering comparison?

Especially since this is about as bland a sentiment as one could find in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Throw a dart at the folio and you're liable to find a more insightful passage. It also doesn't tell us anything new about Jacob or what he'll be getting into; "irrational love" is practically his middle name. This epigraph does nothing for me.


What's weird here is that there's sort of another epigraph: "Life sucks, and then you die" in the middle of the page in italics. Why so many epigraphs, Jacob? Is it to indicate that Jacob isn't as good at book-writin' as Bella? Whatever, the point is we are mostly spared a flash-forward to nothing. (What was that first preface supposed to be, by the way? A flash-forward to that dream where Bella became fiercely-pro life? Can you really flash-forward to a dream, outside of Inception?) "Yeah, I should be so lucky," Jacob says, and that's the whole preface. RIMSHOT.

"Did someone say 'rimjob'?"-Alice Cullen


Chapter 8: Waiting For The Damn Fight To Start Already

We're changing up just the right amount here; Avon Barksdale would approve. We've got this longer, weirder chapter title, we've got Jacob essentially blowing off the preface, and we didn't switch fonts or do anything stupid like that. So far so okay.

We start at Jacob's house, he's arguing with Paul over a bag of Doritos. Paul is in his house because, we learn pretty quickly, Jacob's sister Rachel has recently returned from college and Paul has imprinted on her. OH SNAP. The wolves are always bringing the interpersonal drama. So now every time Jacob switches to wolf form he's bombarded with images of one of his friends banging his sister in all kinds of high-powered, lupine ways (one assumes, anyway). Whereas there are basically no drawbacks to being a vampire (no matter what anyone says), the drawbacks of wolf-dom are almost too numerous to name. You get to keep your soul, so the fuck what? At these prices, you can have my soul!

They argue about nothing for about three seconds before Paul crushes the Doritos on purpose and Jacob pretends to give up and then punches Paul in the face and breaks his nose. Paul calls him an idiot and Jacob takes the bag of Doritos away. I'm feeling a little... deflated here. The sex in the last few chapters was underwhelming but now we're just watching two assholes bicker over Doritos? (Also: the wolfpack seems like the group of guys you see at a bar who are all shouting at the top of their voices and aggressively slapping each other on the back and shit, freaking everybody out and ruining the whole vibe.)

"Watching" is the operative word here, because we're not really in Jacob's head (yet). Okay, sure, Bella had a 800-or-so-page head start on Jacob in terms of establishing her voice, and it's not as though Jacob's narration sounds like Bella; it doesn't. There are notably shorter sentences (though only in bursts, like every fifth paragraph S. Meyer remembers she's writing in the voice of a new character) and significant influx of "stupid guy" dialect. (Jacob talks about "when Rachel'd come home" and talks about being made "real sympathetic" to the troubles of his fellow wolves. Later he says "bada bing, bada boom"!) The problem is that despite S. Meyer's cosmetic efforts, we're still seeing Jacob more or less in the third person. It doesn't sound like Bella, it sounds like no one.

I stood there for a second, and then I stalked off to my room, muttering about alien abductions.

Why aren't we hearing specifically what Jacob is muttering? Isn't he our narrator? Is he not even listening to himself? So these first few pages were apparently supposed to show us how miserable Jacob is, but all of this problems seem incredibly petty. When he wonders if "a bullet through [his] temple" would actually kill him or just leave "a really big mess" to clean up, it feels crass and unearned. Your friend is dating your sister and you didn't get the girl you like. That's it! On the other hand, you're functionally immortal and can heal from wounds almost instantly. Try to see the nice forest instead of those two shitty trees, dude.

(Now I'm thinking of that horrible Wolverine movie, where if you can heal instantly and you catch a bullet in the head it just erases your memory. Maybe Jacob should actually give it a shot, PUN SO INTENDED.)

Jacob spends a while in his room imagining all the different ways he and the rest of Forks will be informed of Bella's "death," since he assumes she won't be returning to Forks ever again. He's bothered by the fact that he won't even know if Bella is successfully vamped or not. "Maybe he'd smashed her like a bag of chips in his drive to get some," he says, which is a callback to Paul crushing the Doritos bag from like 200 words ago. Uh-oh, is that bag of Doritos going to be like, the central motif of this section?

Discuss the symbolic significance of Jacob's Doritos bag.

Sorry, I just want to remember that for when I publish my Twilight Reader's Guide. (CALL ME, PUBLISHERS!) Jacob cycles through violent fantasies--is he jerking off or something?-- the Cullen house burning down, the Cullens subbing in charred bodies for their own and making a clean getaway. He weirdly connects it with his mother's death; she died in a car crash, which is another scenario he imagines. He assumes the funeral will be closed-casket. "My mom's coffin had been nailed shut..." he says. Is S. Meyer just trying to get us to empathize right now or is it going to turn out that Jacob's mom is a vampire? I'm not sure if that would be good or not.

Anyway, Jacob moves from fantasizing about Bella's death to fantasizing about hunting down and killing the Cullens, making use of his extra long life to really do a job of it. "If you had forever, you could check out every single piece of straw in the haystack, one by one, to see if it was the needle." Interesting metaphor, except the Cullens will be moving around. So any number of of pieces of straw you once checked could become the needle at any time. Maybe this is just more of S. Meyer establishing Jacob is stupid? Also: this is really creepy! Note to S. Meyer: hearing an obsessive psychopath plot murders is not amusing!

"We could go tonight," Jacob says. "We could kill every one of them that we could find." SHUT UP JACOB. I will not have you hurting Alice. Or Jasper. The rest of them are fair game, actually. But Sam Uley has apparently forbid that until they know for sure that Bella has been bitten. Then it's "game on." So okay, I guess we know what's next.

Apparently wolves have super-sensitive hearing, so there's kind of a nice break here where Jacob describes everything he can hear in the mile or so radius from his house (This is when a sense of him as a narrator starts to develop). He talks about the last bend in the road where you can finally see the beach-- "The La Push cops liked to hang out right around there. Tourists never noticed the reduced speed limit sign on the other side of the road." The speed limit sign is on the OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD? What kind of crazy signage laws do they have on the Reservation?

When he hears Paul laughing in the other room, he heads down to the beach, annoyed. If you're like me, you are sitting here going, Hey, S. Meyer hasn't done anything outrageous in like, a dozen pages. Well, wait no more, because who should Jacob run into but Quil and his imprint victim Claire, who is THREE FUCKING YEARS OLD. What follows is, unbelievably, a scene that is supposed to play as cute. Jacob talks to Quil while Claire prattles on in an adowabow baby voice. We just learned a few sentences ago that there are, in fact, police officers on the Reservation. So that answers one question, but raises another: WHY THE FUCK AREN'T THEY DOING THEIR JOBS?

Quil and Claire are playing by the water-- Quil's holding her upside down by the ankle. He lets her down and she runs to the approaching Jacob. Good instinct, Claire! Keep running! "Where's your mama?" Jacob asks. Good question, Jake!

"Gone, gone, gone," Claire sang, "Cwaire pway wid Qwil aaawl day. Cwaire nebber gowin home."

Ugh. So her mom's a deadbeat, which explains a lot. Secondly, how WIDICKUWUS is that child-speak up there? It goes on, and on, and on, and on. So does the disconcerting "speaking in the third-person" thing (this chapter has layers upon layers of third-person problems). The reasons for calling child protective services just get more and more NUMAWUS. Jacob watches Quil dote on Claire, calling him an "abused nanny." He says it's "puke-inducing." RIGHT ON. But he's talking about the "peace and certainty" radiating from Quil. OH.

And I couldn't even make fun of him for it-- I envied him too much.

REALLY!? I mean, WEELY!? Jacob and Quil have a conversation, and Quil's attention is divided because Claire is asking him for a rock on the ground. To bash him in the head and kill him. Good instinct again, Claire! Jacob asks Quil why he doesn't date some girls in the meantime, Quil asks Jacob why he doesn't date girls. They express more or less the same sentiment that they don't see other girls anymore, they don't "see their faces." But don't you guys at least see their tits and their asses and stuff?

We're supposed to take a minute and sigh with these two heartsick dudes, I guess. Is that what we're supposed to do? If you were reading this book and barely paying attention, like, if you had something in your eye and you were blinking a lot, I feel like you would read it the way S. Meyer intended. Otherwise it's pretty hard not to see it as evil, basically. Because Quil is not a cute abused nanny, he's a near adult male who is waiting for a toddler to get old enough that he can stick his dick in her without going to jail. And Jacob is gradually channeling his sexual frustration into murderous rage.

And then to top it all off, there's a nice homophobic back and forth. When Quil says he doesn't see girls anymore, Jacob alludes to Quil's earlier confession that he wore a tiara at Claire's third birthday party (an image so dark and wrought with psychosexual despair I don't even want to think about it) and says Claire might have a different kind of competition to worry about.

Quil laughed and made kissing noises at me. "You available this Friday, Jacob?"

No homo! Hahahahahaha I hate these people.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

BLOGGING BREAKING DAWN, pt. 10: Mama, I'm Swollen

First of all: y'all KILLED IT in the comments last time. I laughed AND I learned. But we kind of got away from the events of the chapter, what with our discussion of S. Meyer's FAQ section on her website and whether or not it made her an asshole (I'm paraphrasing). So as we finish up chapter seven and book one of Breaking Dawn, I'll give you a straighter forward question. Bella getting pregnant: good or bad? I have made my distaste with this turn of events rather clear, and am about to continue to do so. But what do you think?

So at the end of chapter seven, Bella comes to the conclusion that having her baby is a no brainer. Edward has other ideas. The language is pretty heavily coded--this is some white supremacist literature-level subliminal shit. We start talking abortion for real here, and that is all well and good; choosing to have a baby or not is a tough decision, and the moral implications thereof ought to be explored in YA fiction. Too bad S. Meyer makes Bella's decision easier for her every step of the way. I'll be pointing out these deck-stacking moments as we go along.

Previous entries can now be found in the sidebar. Does it help to have a directory post too? Does it matter either way? I'm not entirely sure how people go about reading this blog.

Chapter 7 (cont'd): Unexpected

Edward's sitting on the floor of the bathroom, "frozen" with shock. That Bella continues to use adjectives like "icy" to describe his demeanor makes this all a little confusing. Is he actually encrusted with ice? In earlier Twilight books, I wouldn't have felt the need to ask. And yet now, I do. All bets are off, science-wise. Literally anything could happen. Bella considers other possibilities for her sudden baby bump: a strange disease that mimics the symptoms of pregnancy? Could be!

Then she has an odd and lengthy flashback to her night researching vampires online. Maybe I should have paid more attention to that scene instead of obsessing over the phrase "my favorite search engine"--this is the second time Bella has flashed back to it! Bella again goes over her pet theory that vampire myths were used back in the day to explain away infant mortality and infidelity--men could tell their wives that the beautiful women they were caught with were succubi, that (it is implied) the sex was involuntary. "Of course," Bella says, "with what I knew about Tanya and her sisters, I suspected that some of those excuses had been nothing but fact." Whoa now, Bella. I get that being single for hundreds of years would kind of be a drag, but we're calling Tanya a rapist now? Also: there should be a "people in glass houses" kind of saying for this situation. Like, "married pregnant ladies shouldn't pick on spinsters."

Bella starts thinking about Rosalie and Esme. If vampires could have children, "Rosalie would have found a way by now." Bella is on a roll betraying her gender today, huh? But our narrator is a human, and Edward is a male vampire. It seems like that distinction shouldn't matter, but Bella offers a convoluted explanation (more or less on her first try! A thing like that). Vampires are totally unchanging, and women need to be changing all the time to have a baby. "The constant change of a monthly cycle for one thing, and then the bigger changes needed to accomodate a growing child." Men, on the other hand, "pretty much stayed the same from puberty to death." Huh. Is that good enough for you all? Bella surmises that vampire males have always been able to father children, but no human female has ever made it as far as she has. This baby is like no other!

The baby they are going to have is the first of its kind, a miracle baby on the order of the immaculate conception, or at least Sarah finally having Isaac after that whole Ishmael thing.

And then the baby kicks. WHAT. Edward's phone starts ringing and they both stand there in shocked silence while it rings and rings. Bella starts crying silent tears she barely notices and doesn't understand. Taken alone, this little moment is a great, cinematic one. I can hear the phone ringing, you know? (Though S. Meyer blows it a few lines down by actually writing "Ring! Ring! Ring!" Ugh.) Bill Condon will really impress me if, in the film version of this scene, Edward has some kind of wacky ringtone. Like the chorus of "California Gurls" playing on loop. It would be so much darker, for me at least. "I was having a moment," Bella says. "Probably the biggest of my life." Well, at the very least this is one of the better moments of this book. That's ignoring every connotation around it, of course.

Alice is calling, of course, but Bella has to dig Edward's phone out of his pocket because he's still motionless. (What a little bitch he is, huh?) Bella asks for Carlisle, and Alice asks what's going on.

"I just saw--"
"What did you see?"
There was a silence. "Here's Carlisle," she finally said.
It felt like ice water had been injected into my veins. If Alice had seen a vision of me with a green-eyed, angel-faced child in my arms, she would have answered me, wouldn't she?

Sort of hilariously, just thinking about NOT getting a green-eyed angel-faced child makes Bella picture GETTING such a creature, which causes her to recover from her dread and feel better, all in the space of time it takes for Carlisle to start talking. That's some baby-crazy brain you've got (all of a sudden) there, Bella! She gives Carlisle the news that she's with child, or with demon spawn, or whatever. She starts going over the details with the good doctor, and when she mentions feeling something move inside her Edward finally wakes up and asks for the phone. The men talk for a minute, and when Edward hangs up this happens:

"What did Carlisle say?" I asked impatiently.
Edward answered in a lifeless voice. "He thinks you're pregnant."
The words sent a warm shiver down my spine. The little nudger fluttered inside me.

Bella immediately loves being pregnant. I get that mothers share an instant connection with their child when they see it for the first time, but she has no misgivings about this whatsoever from the outset. Later she talks about how she'd never wanted to be a mother, had never really considered it. But now that she's going to be one, she could not be more thrilled. Of course, her baby is already moving around inside her, which brings us to...

Her baby is already fully formed! The argument that life begins at conception is given a huge rhetorical baseball bat when your baby is already kicking before you even know you're having it. S. Meyer wants to get in on the abortion debate but she drives past the real battlefield. OF COURSE Bella is not going to want to abort a baby that seems to already be communicating with her (she starts talking to it on the next page and it responds with the "nudging"). It is obviously, non-negotiably "a life." You don't have to do the cognitive work of rationalizing the life or nonlife of a blastocyst if Bella's kid was basically talking by the time Edward rolled off of her!

Edward starts making a flurry of phone calls, scheduling a flight home and shouting in Portuguese at people. (It will be interesting to see if all of this polyglot stuff makes it into the film. Robert Pattinson just learned to do an American accident, now you're throwing this at him?) Bella follows him around wondering what could possibly be wrong.

Surprising, absolutely. Astonishing, even. But wrong?

It's bizarre that Bella has completely discounted the notion that this thing growing rapidly inside of her could be anything but a green-eyed loving angel baby. IT'S KICKING ALREADY DUDE. It's only ever so slightly hinted that she is in denial about that possibility, that she could be having Rosemary's baby, basically--the overwhelming thrust of this passage is: Bella's protective, motherly instinct is kicking in. It's like S. Meyer herself can't bear the possibility that it would be anything but a darling little creature, even if the hole she's written herself into doesn't plausibly permit that. (In any other book, just a slight indication of that denial would be fine. But in Twilight, slight literary touches come off as accidental. It it isn't a broad stroke, it's hard to believe S. Meyer is responsible for it.) Bella looks out the window and feels the baby "nudge" again. "I don't want to go either," she tells it. Yikes.

In typical S. Meyer fashion, Bella stops to consider how strange it is that she loves this baby so instantly. "From that first little touch, the whole world had shifted. Where before there was just one thing I could not live without, now there were two." It's a good thing that "first little touch" came about ten minutes after you realized you were pregnant, and not like, say, after TWENTY WEEKS. She says she wants this child "like I wanted air to breathe." Then the important part [emphasis added]:

Not a choice--a necessity.

Edward comes into the kitchen and finds Bella crying by the window. He asks if she is in pain and tells her, tellingly, that they will "take care of this." The language used to indicate termination of the pregnancy is universally cold and unfeeling, the language used with respect to the baby is, in a word, miraculous. Edward goes on to say they will "get that thing out" before it can hurt Bella. The man has a point, but according to Bella (and S. Meyer) he doesn't.

Did this explain Alice's strange silence on the phone? Is that what she'd seen? Edward and Carlisle killing that pale, perfect child before he could live?

I don't know, I kind of feel like Alice would have been laughing if that's what she'd seen. Also, how crazy is it that Bella is suddenly the morally righteous one with respect to EDWARD and CARLISLE of all people? She jumped pretty far across the political spectrum in a single bound. "I would not allow it," she says firmly, meaning an abortion. Then the cleaning crew shows up, and there is a long, weird scene where Kaure (the suspicious maid) comes in, figures out that Bella is pregnant (when Bella brings a hand to her "womb," in another telling word choice) almost instantly, and then gets into a multilingual fight with Edward (he seems to be able to speak her native tribal language, and explains to her that he is upset about the devil baby too). It builds to the woman simply walking up to Bella, putting her hand on her stomach, and saying "morte."

I knew enough Spanish for that one.

Bella earlier indicated (vaguely) that by knowing a little Spanish, she can suss out the meaning of a few Portuguese words, but it reads more like she just doesn't know the difference. Also, most of S. Meyer's readers probably don't know enough to conclude what "morte" means, right? I'm personally at a loss for the part of speech it's supposed to be--is "morte" a command? Is the woman telling the baby to die, or indicating that it will die, or indicating that Bella will die? Or, most likely: is S. Meyer just trying to do a little "foreign lady says something ominous that sounds sorta like death" foreshadowing?

Edward brings their bags to the boat, leaving his cell phone on the counter. Bella makes a desperate play: she picks up the phone and calls Rosalie. "You have to help me," she says. Hey, why didn't she call Alice?"

"Um, I've got a solution for you and it rhymes with 'shmashmortion.'"-Alice Cullen

Oh right, that's why.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Well, sure. Of course. I resisted the easy argument that Twilight is abstinence porn for a long time. It has a tangled relationship with sexuality, sure. Edward himself gets off on abstinence, and this is not painted as unsexy (though it isn't really painted as sexy, either), sure. S. Meyer seems almost pathologically unable to use the word "sex," unless it is in a conversation about maintaining one's virginity, sure. Of course. But still, it felt too easy.

AND YET. And yet Edward and Bella finally had sex, and it was thoroughly unremarkable. The furniture destruction was such a feeble attempt at being kinky that S. Meyer herself didn't seem to commit to it fully. Bella's enthusiasm for sex has a serious "protest too much" element to it (because S. Meyer is either unwilling or unable to depict sexuality in a convincing manner and seems to know it). Bella's having fertility dreams with weird pro-life overtones now. She's eating eggs by the dozen, feeling dizzy in the mornings now.

Twilight emphatically is abstinence porn. Or rather, it was. Now that our heroes have done the deed it needs to be something else. An honest, if paranormal, portrait of the early sexual experiences of a young couple? YEAH RIGHT. It's about teen pregnancy vis-a-vis abortion now, get used to it.

(And that tonal shift is why Breaking Dawn feels off compared to the other books. Or such is my working theory so far.)

Chapter 7: Unexpected

Bella has the same dream where she's trying to protect a baby from abortion doctors--er--the Volturi. Yet in this dream, something is different. There's a flash, a burst of light (hmm), and everything changes. Bella suddenly wants the Volturi to come at her, she's ready, she's fierce. She's a pro-life crusader! She's got the power of Jesus on her side! Or vampires, or whatever. I'm still trying to figure out how these symbols are supposed to shake out. I'm guessing vampires=Jesus, right?

She wakes up sweaty, because her personal air-conditioner is out hunting. They don't also have a real air conditioner Edward could have turned on when he left? He's left a note telling Bella to go back to sleep, but instead she gets up and starts making fried chicken at one in the morning. I'm not saying I haven't done basically the same thing, but still, that's weird. She starts eating it right out of the pan, but is immediately disgusted and nauseous and throws it all away. She falls asleep on the couch, and when Edward wakes her in the morning she feels a sharp pain in her stomach. Huh.

Edward apologizes about the lack of AC (ha!), but Bella shoves her way our of his arms and runs to the bathroom to throw up. She blames it on the chicken, which she says must have been rancid. Gee. How about that.

Bella says she feels fine, and Edward makes her breakfast. They watch the news, and Bella gets bored (of course) and turns to kiss Edward. Stomach pain again. She runs to the kitchen sink to vomit. Hmm. Very interesting.

Bella goes to her suitcase to look for some Pepto-Bismol, but before she can find it she gets distracted by "something else that Alice had packed for me." She picks up a "small blue box" and holds it thoughtfully. My first thought was condoms, like "oh, maybe we should have used some of these." But then she starts doing what we all realize is period math. (It takes another page before Bella confirms they are tampons.) When Edward checks on her and she shows him her box (you are welcome) he asks if she's trying to "pass this illness off as PMS?" Nice, Edward. She tells him she's late. Oh man, isn't that feeling the fucking worst, Edward?

Let's a take a moment to all groan in unison, yes? OYYYYYYY VEYYYYYYYYYYY, you know? I mean, on some level, I knew this was going to happen. But on almost all other levels, I was thinking, there is no fucking way something so stupid will happen.

S. Meyer's sexual politics only SEEMED impossibly reductive until now. S. Meyer's only SEEMED to be influencing her readers in a morally reprehensible way until now. This book only SEEMED like the worst book ever. Until now. There's a flash, a burst of light, and everything has changed. For the worse. Or maybe for THE WORST.

My fears about Book 1's curious epigraph seem to have been confirmed. I'm now almost certain S. Meyer flipped open a copy of Bartlett's and picked the first "difficult"-seeming line about childhood she could find. That is how S. Meyer's brain works. Never mind that Edna St. Vincent Millay's quote seems to criticize the basic premise of Twilight-- I don't think S. Meyer was reading that far into it. Like the eggs and the baby dreams, she was trying to foreshadow a baby with the subtlety of basically a jackhammer.

It occurs to Bella that the pregnancy symptoms she has been feeling are coming on a little too quickly for someone who has only been sexually active for a week or two. She examines her stomach in a mirror, and sees a "small but defined bump." Were it that this monster baby were not also a reflection of S. Meyer's sexual politics (the sexual politics of a gym teacher in 1954) because otherwise it could be a morbid good time. And maybe it still will be. "There was no way I could be pregnant," Bella says. "The only person I'd ever had sex with was a vampire, for crying out loud."

Good point. S. Meyer has never been very specific with the science of vampirification. They still breathe, but their hearts don't work. They don't seem to go to bathroom, and the female reproductive organs apparently don't make babies, but I guess guys can still ejaculate? (This deal just gets better and better!) Now, this is sort of crazy to suggest, but if Edward has never had sex and never masturbated-- which for some reason, I would believe-- if Edward has never ejaculated EVER before, I guess it's possible that there is still some sperm kicking around in him from 1917 or whatever. Maybe that's why the first time was so difficult for him? Dude was backed up like whoa. If you'd been waiting to get off for a century you'd bite a pillow too! In that light, and there is no way to put this delicately: Bella's lucky that when he came it didn't blow the top of her head off, you know?

S. Meyer's vagueness really paid off here; it's actually more ridiculous that someone would get pregnant the first time they had sex than it is that a vampire would have operational semen.

"I told him to pull out!"-Alice Cullen

Let's stop here, because I feel like you all will have something to say about this. Plus, you know, it gets worse.

Monday, January 10, 2011

BLOGGING BREAKING DAWN pt. 8: A Perfect Day For Bananafish

Try doing an image search for Isle Esme sometime. There's really nothing like it. Previously: The Honeymooners.

Chapter 6: Distractions

Edward makes use of the sights and sounds of Isle Esme to distract Bella from the sights and sounds of sex. The film version of Twilight and this book were released in the same year (2008) which probably explains S. Meyer's sudden urge to write basically an island vacation montage: Edward and Bella go snorkeling (Edward doesn't have to wear a snorkel, ha ha, he's a vampire!), they watch the sunset over the water, they swim with porpoises and play with parrots. All in the space of a paragraph! (We have this paragraph to thank for "Jumping Rob," by the way. Thank you, this paragraph!) The accountants at Summit read this part and they were like, "that bitch." To Bella it's apparent that he is trying to keep her too tired to have sex-- she uses the phrase "the sex thing" which is a (weird) step in the right direction, if you are still keeping track of S. Meyer's willingness to use the word "sex" in a sexual context, which I am. Bella mentions trying to coax Edward into staying indoors and watching movies (good move, Bella, I played it that way all the time), "but he would lure me out of the house with words like coral reefs and submerged caves and sea turtles."

Those italics are S. Meyer's own, I'm not sure why they are there. Have you noticed that the Internet and blogging and Twitter have sort of dealt a death blow to italics? I still use them for emphasis (and titles, because Blogger does not have an underline button-- though for what it's worth I tend to only italicize Twilight when referring specifically to the first book. I indicate Twilight as a general phenomenon by absence of italics. I'm sure you found all that very interesting) because I'm old school, but the general style these days is CAPITAL LETTERS, which has made italics sort of a man without a country. I'm all for capital letters (and I use them to indicate emphasis mixed with exasperation, wow I'm being SO ENTERTAINING today), but that basically leaves italics for when you have to emphasize the word "I." If this blog had footnotes all of this would be in a footnote, but it doesn't. If I had my way they would, but again, Blogger. And the necessity of incorporating exemplary sentences into this paragraph. But anyway, my point is, since when is Bella this outdoorsy explorer who wants to kick it with sea turtles?

It's hard to know when S. Meyer's double (and even single) entendres are intentional and when they aren't. "We were going, going, going all day," Bella says, referring to everything but "the sex thing," sadly. Every night after their adventuring, Bella tries to "press [her] case"-- by "case" I assume she means "body up against Edward"-- but falls asleep before she can get too far. "I tried reasoning, pleading, and grouching, all to no avail," Bella says. Well, there's your problem. You should be trying licking, stroking, dry humping before you give up like that. She has nightmares, and GET READY FOR THOSE, but that's all we hear for now.

Bella resorts eventually to wearing the lingerie Alice packed for her. "I wondered if she'd seen a vision of why I would want such things," Bella says, "and then shuddered, embarrassed by the thought." Good point, Bella! Jeez, how did Alice contain her hysterical laughter around Bella during the whole wedding?

She starts with the most modest stuff, realizing that "revealing more of my skin would be the opposite of helpful." Another good point, Bella! When you want to turn Edward on, you can't think "is this what a normal man would like?" You have to think "would Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Taskhiri approve?" (I mean, maybe it's because she doesn't want him to see the bruises, but you have to admit that Edward would prefer a turtleneck over a tube top.) She works herself up to a "black, lacy, and embarrassing" number that makes Edward's eyes "pop open wide" (whether it's with attraction or disapproval is uncertain). She proposes they make a deal. Edward refuses, and Bella says "you haven't even heard what I'm offering." A blow job? A strip-tease? A strip-tease AND a blowjob? No. She offers to go to college for a semester as a human. Edward gets angry, as expected. I'd be bummed too if that was all she was offering, but for a different reason.

It is a little weird that Bella is suddenly willing to move the (un)deadline back like that; her justification is that she likes having sex so much, she wants to keep her human vagina around for a while. But don't vampires have like, heightened senses and everything? Isn't she only upgrading her software, so to speak? Edward bit a bunch of pillows when he had sex, after all. (If I'd done that metaphor for Edward I would have said hardware. I put more work into this than you'd think. That's what she said.) Edward starts trying to sing Bella to sleep, and let's not even get into that, and Bella says she's been having nightmares. He presses her for specifics, but she's reluctant to tell him "about the child." She's been dreaming about a human baby. It's not sitting on a pile of dead bodies anymore, but the Volturi are still coming after it. GET READY NOW:

I simply had to protect the unknown child. There was no other option. At the same time, I knew that I would fail.

Welcome back, nebulous abortion symbolism! S. Meyer has this horrible way of seeming to come down on the religious side of issues while representing the worst stereotypes about them. Edward is a condescending and sexist theologian, but he gets his way and protects Bella's virtue. Bella is irrationally pro-life, and in fact, that she's irrational about it is the ONLY DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC of her pro-life-ness, but still, you can see where this is going. Of course you can. Bella falls asleep, and after the first of several very suggestive line breaks, wakes up from what we realize eventually is a sex dream.

Outstanding. Well done, Internet!

She's disoriented, as usual. S. Meyer is getting worse at doing these "disoriented" scenes, though. "The dream had been so real," Bella says, and then a few lines later realizes it was "just a dream." WE/YOU KNOW. But anyway, when Bella's dream ends mid-fuck, she starts crying. Edward panics, and starts asking her what is wrong. "We were on the beach..." Bella says. [EDIT: There was a period missing there earlier, sort of like how there will be for Bella soon!] (Dream) Sex on the (dream) beach? I'm impressed, (dream) Bella! Edward susses out what the dream was about, and his opposition is suddenly very weak. I know that makes a certain amount of intuitive sense-- a girl starts crying and the guy just gives in-- but Dr. Noam Sobel has recently conducted a study that reveals that women's tears actually reduce a man's sex drive. Via Jezebel:

According to Pam Belluck the Times [sic], researchers in this amusing-sounding study recruited women who were "easy criers," then harvested their tears during screenings of sad movies. As a control, they also poured saline solution down the women's faces. Then they bottled both, and instructed men to sniff them. Those who sniffed real tears were less aroused by the sexy movie 9 1/2 Weeks than those who only got a whiff of saline.

But then again, Edward does not act like a normal dude, and it makes a certain amount of intuitive sense that he would get off on misery. He surrenders "with a groan" and it is once again (only) implied that they have sex. There's another line break and we cut to the next morning. S. Meyer is messing with us, trying to get us hot with text formatting. People confess to reading Twilight over and over again-- do you think by now some of them have a Pavlovian sort of reaction to double-spacing?

Next morning, Edward is still in a weird mood, but Bella inspects herself and is free of new bruises. Edward tells her she slept for twelve hours, and whenever she tries to move she gets dizzy. Okay. Again, they survey the damage. Bella's lingerie is torn to shreds. Nice work, Edward. Also: large chunks of wood have been gouged from the headboard. S. Meyer continues with the nasty habit of calling attention to her own writing problems:

"Hmm." I frowned. "You'd think I would have heard that."
"You seem to be extraordinarily unobservant when your attention is otherwise involved. It really strains credulity, but you have to wonder if anyone is engaged with this book at this point anyway, right?" Edward said.

Edward indicates he might be willing to screw Bella again. It's ridiculous that this feels like a victory, but it does. Edward himself calls attention to this problem, telling Bella she shouldn't feel guilty for seducing her "all-too-willing husband." Very charitable for Edward to describe himself as that, eh? Bella goes and cooks herself breakfast, and GET READY NOW: Edward calls attention to how many eggs she has been eating this week. Oy gevalt.

They start talking about going to Dartmouth in the fall, which isn't going to happen, but let's pretend for a second it is. Edward remarks that sex was the key all along, he could have "saved myself a lot of arguments." Sure, if you weren't a virtue-obsessed religious bigot. But anyway, should we be mad at Bella for selling out like this? We've been waiting for this fucking vamping almost as long as we've been waiting for the fucking! Now as soon as we get one we lose the other? I call bullshit.

Edward tells her he already owns a house near Dartmouth. "Real estate is a good investment," he says. Not with the property taxes in New Hampshire, buddy! But anyway I wonder if there is a way we can blame the sub-prime crisis on Edward? The cleaning crew shows up, because of course, Carlisle's deserted island no one has been to for years requires a staff, and Bella looks for a movie to watch while Edward speaks in Portuguese to the help. "The two Brazillians looked incredibly short and dark next to him," Bella says. My god, woman, can you go thirty seconds without picking on the visual appearance of minorities? What the FUCK?

The "coffee-skinned" (thanks, S. Meyer) woman in the crew seems to have an aversion to Bella, and Edward explains that she more or less suspects that Edward is a vampire. Well, it's nice that Carlisle keeps them employed on his PRIVATE ISLAND. First Rule of Vampire Club: Keep a low profile. So only buy ONE ISLAND and only employ ONE SUSPICIOUS PORTUGUESE WOMAN. Edward and Bella start making out, and Edward kisses Bella's neck, and the woman (Kaure) walks in and gasps. Busted. S. Meyer doesn't wait very long to use her punchlines, huh?

"She was thinking what I was think she was thinking, wasn't she?" I muttered.
He laughed at my convoluted sentence.

HA! I know that feeling too well, Edward. Anyway, for what it is worth, we finally have something close to a sexy scene undiluted by S. Meyer's creepiness. After the crew leaves, Edward suggests they go swimming with the dolphins to burn off the calories from lunch. Bella says she has other ideas for burning calories, and Edward carries her into the bedroom. Line break. Just a very sexy line break. No bruises, no weird post-sex guilt, nothing. But then you remember the dreams, and the eggs, and you get it. That should put more of a damper on your sex drive than a vial of tears ever could.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

WRITING BREAKING DAWN: Edward Asks His Family About Sex

Previously: The Honeymooners

Carlisle Cullen was arranging books in his study when there came a knock at the door. "Come in," he said quietly.
His son Edward entered, head bowed. "Carlisle," he began sheepishly.
"You are here to ask me about sexual intercourse, right son?" Carlisle gave him a reassuring look. "I've been anticipating this conversation. For a couple decades, actually, but you were always a late bloomer."
Edward chuckled. "Yeah, I guess you had this conversation with the others a long time ago."
"Yes, it was nearly eighty years ago when Alice first sat me down and taught me the way of love," Carlisle said wistfully as he took a seat behind his desk and gestured to Edward.
"You mean you sat her down and taught her, right?" Edward asked, settling into a chair with a quizzical look on his face.
"No, no. Your sister gave me the proverbial 'birds and the bees' talk first. Though the terms she used were somewhat more crass than that. And she didn't sit me down so much as, well... never you mind," Carlisle said with a wince.
"I'm nervous about my honeymoon," Edward said. "The thing that we're going to do--"
"Sex," Carlisle interjected. "You can say it, Edward."
"No, I can't," Edward replied.
They sat in silence for a moment. Carlisle shrugged. "Anyway son, physical love is a very powerful thing. We vampires can be so stubborn in our temperaments that it can actually change us in profound ways."
"That's bullshit, right?" Edward said. "I mean, this shit about us being like stones so much so that we can't even change our minds? That's ridiculous. You're a man of science, Carlisle. You can't tell me you buy that crock."
"You're trying to distract me, son," Carlisle said sternly.
Edward sighed.
"Sexual intercourse is a wonderful thing," Carlisle went on. "It takes a lot of effort and restraint, and usually the woman doesn't seem to enjoy it very much, but it can be a very enjoyable 30 or 40 seconds."
"It lasts that long?" Edward said miserably.
"It won't the first time. But with a lot of practice, eventually it will."
Edward could tell he wasn't going to glean anything else from his father, so he excused himself and went to see his brothers, Jasper and Emmett, who were sparring in a nearby field.

Jasper looked at him sternly. "Are you really ready for this?" he asked.
"I think so," Edward said.
"Well, first of all, stretching is really important."
"So important," Emmett echoed.
"I mean, you might think you can go for five or six hours without pulling something, but if you're going to keep a good tempo going you'll really only be able to blast her for an hour before your back gives out. Unless you stretch." Jasper humped the air emphatically for a few seconds after he finished talking.
"Wait a minute, we're talking hours? Carlisle said it would only last a few seconds," Edward moaned in disbelief.
"Edward, I know your sister seems like a nice girl," Jasper started, "but if I only lasted a few seconds I wouldn't be standing here before you today. At the very least, my voice would be a lot higher and my cock would be in a jar on the dresser."
Emmett snorted while Jasper slapped Edward playfully on the back. "I'm kidding buddy. No, I'm not."
"Change positions a lot," Emmett said, suddenly getting serious. "Rose gets bored if I don't switch it up."
"Oh, and oral skills are very important. That takes practice, obviously, but don't get discouraged. Stick with it," Jasper said.
"When you're doing really difficult positions like the 'Sideways Rabbit' and the 'Step Into My Office Baby' and shit like that, pay attention to your form." Emmett put a hand on Edward's shoulder. "You could really hurt her, otherwise."
"Oh yeah. One time I had to take Alice to Carlisle in the middle of the night because, well... I don't want to scare you," Jasper said, glancing sideways at Emmett.
Edward made the mistake of reading his brother's thoughts. "Ew, what the hell is that?" he said, blocking out the image as quickly as it had entered his mind's eye.
"Dude, you have to man up," Emmett said. "You know it's going to be awesome."
"It will?" Edward asked.
"Hasn't Bella at least given you a handy?" Emmett said, sounding perplexed.
When Edward didn't seem to understand, Jasper and Emmett made the "jerking off" hand motion in unison.
"Of course not!" Edward scowled. "I have a sense of propriety!"
"Hell Ed, Alice gave me a handy before I'd even introduced myself!" Jasper high-fived Emmett.
Edward stormed off in a huff.

Edward couldn't bear to talk to Esme or Rose, but his questions remained unanswered. He knew what he had to do.

"I'm going to suggest something crazy," Alice said, her eyes all alight. Edward had found her in the bathroom, where she was making gin in the bathtub. "Take her out to Isle Esme, tie the bitch up, and leave her there for a few days. Jasper did that to me once. It was so hot. Actually, it was so cold, because it was Siberia, but you get the idea."
"What were you doing in Siberia?" Edward asked.
"We like to put a little distance between ourselves and Carlisle and Esme when we fuck," Alice explained. "The mornings after just got to be... too awkward." She rose gracefully, but limped slightly as she led him out of the bathroom and into the living room, where she settled onto the couch gracefully again.
"Oh, I forgot to ask, how was your trip to Sweden?" Edward asked, sitting next to her.
"Excellent," Alice replied with a smile.
"So, why were the mornings after awkward?" Edward said. "Carlisle says physical love is beautiful."
"Well, for one thing, Jasper likes to be called 'Daddy.' For another, it ain't 'beautiful' when we do it."
"I just want to please Bella," Edward said.
"Good luck with that bitch," Alice laughed, making the "jerking off" hand motion for some reason. "Edward," she started, "you've given me no choice. I'm really a hands-on teacher, but you've made it clear you don't want to do that."
"I have a sense of--"
"You have a sense of propriety, I know, fuck," Alice said, exasperated. "It's fine, I have another plan. Jasper and I made you an instructional video. Well, actually we made it for an amateur porn film festival but we were disqualified because they claimed we used CGI." She winked at her brother and picked up a remote control. "It will work for this too, though."
"Alice, I'm not sure I want to--"
"Let's go to the videotape!" she shouted, pressing play.
Edward's screams could be heard for several miles.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

"And this also," said Marlow suddenly, "has been one of the dark places of the earth."

I still have no definitive final statement on Jashleygate. I'm working through it. I feel a little bit like Tommy Lee Jones at the end of No Country For Old Men, having stared evil in the face and realized my own powerlessness. There's nothing to say, but maybe my silence is significant, somehow. Anyway, I've written a primer on the Jashley thing over at MOBFD, which you should check out.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

BLOGGING BREAKING DAWN, pt. 7: The Honeymooners

Last time, Bella and Edward had sex. Of course, that moment – the moment it seemed like this series was building toward – did not actually happen on the page. Bella and Edward went for a pre-fuck swim and then we cut to the morning after. That's because Twilight only seems like a story about sex, only seems like it was building toward this. It's easy to understand why a normal human being would make the assumption that it was: it's a romance series, it is (at times) erotically charged. But S. Meyer is not a normal human being, and Twilight is actually a romance series about NOT having sex. If actual sex had been described, hilarious though it would have been to read, the book would have blown apart at the binding. In the comments last time, Emma suggested that at one time the sex scenes were more graphic, but S. Meyer toned them down. I do not believe this. I believe S. Meyer said that, but I am asserting that she was lying when she did. It's entirely consistent with my theory of S. Meyer's level of sexual maturity, which is something like the level of sexual maturity of a thirteen year old, and I mean mentally, not physically. S. Meyer has children, so theoretically she has had sex. But I don't think she really understands it.

I say that because in this scene, Bella and Edward have a post-coital conversation that makes me feel like they didn't even have sex. For one thing, it happens the next morning. They had sex and Bella immediately fell asleep? Bella also seems unable to remember most of the details of the previous night, which gives it an uncomfortable date-rape-y dimension. And then there is everything Edward says, and then there is the pillow biting. Oh, there's pillow biting, by the way. We'll get there. But fundamentally, the big problem is the way Bella and Edward won't stop talking about how great it was. It was the best, they are glowing; it was the most wonderful thing. There are more vague platitudes and compliments in this section than anything else. Methinks the lovers doth protest too much and too vaguely, you know? This is like your friend who claims he had sex, or even fingered a girl, or touched her boob, and it was so great it was amazing man, but as you question him, it slowly unravels.

Chapter 5 (cont'd): Isle Esme

Bella wakes up the next morning with this post-fuck glow about her, but it's probably just the sun beating down on her back. The whole back wall of the bedroom is glass by the way-- are there any locals on this island? Did they get a show or what?

Well, it's probably “or what.” Bella feels “perfect” and “happy” but I'm really not getting the “I just had sex” vibe from her. Maybe part of it is S. Meyer still trying to skirt around the matter at hand, but it feels less like she's avoiding writing about sex because she's prudish and more like she's avoiding it because she just can't, doesn't know how. We get some paragraphs that start out erotic but don't end that way:

I would have been happy to lie here forever, to never disturb this moment, but my body had other ideas.

Bella, you naughty lass! Oh, wait--

I laughed at my impatient stomach. It seemed sort of prosaic to be hungry after all that had passed last night. Like being brought back down to earth from some great height.

“All that had passed last night” and similar phrases is about as specific as we get. Not that Bella doesn't insist that a lot more happened. Edward says something, and his “serious and husky” voice brings back “a deluge of memories from the night.” S. Meyer really loves her “disoriented narrator” device, but it's disconcerting after a sex scene. Why are memories coming back in pieces like this? Why doesn't she just remember it?
When Bella finally opens her eyes (apparently her eyes have been closed for three pages, okay) Edward is sitting and staring all tense-like. The paragraph that follows takes some deconstruction.

My first instinct, a product of a lifetime of insecurities, was to wonder what I'd done wrong.

First of all, it's about time Bella started to self-diagnose. Isn't it kind of amazing we've gotten this far without Bella acknowledging her own inferiority complex? Or has S. Meyer been reading the reviews of her first three books? Or did Alice put a copy of the DSM IV in Bella's suitcase? Bella goes on, giving us another vague description of the sex. “Everything that had happened” is our new sex euphemism, apparently. I'm weirdly reminded of the way S. Meyer avoids band names. Eventually Bella's going to start talking about “that thing that we did in our bed on our honeymoon at night after we went swimming,” I can see that coming already.

I thought through everything that had happened, but I couldn't find any sour note in my memory. It had been simpler than I had expected.

Well, when you say a thing like that, it makes me feel like you're not doing it right. And then of course, there is this:

We'd fit together like corresponding pieces, made to match up.

Well, yeah! Of course! What, did you think Edward's penis was going to be a zig-zag shape and your vagina was going to be a crazy straw?

This had given me a secret satisfaction—we were compatible physically, as well as other ways.

Secret satisfaction= Bella did not have an orgasm. (I mean, first time out that's normal, but based on what we're about to hear regarding the rough nature of the intercourse it's a little surprising.) Edward asks how badly Bella is hurt. She says she's fine, and notes the odd sensation that “my bones had all become unhinged at the joints, and I had changed half-way into the consistency of a jellyfish.” That's some good fucking you did there, Edward. Bella keeps talking about how great she feels, and Edward freaks out. “Stop acting like I'm not a monster for having agreed to do this,” he says. He's fun after, huh?
There's some predictable confusion; when Bella gets up she realizes that her hair is full of feathers. Because Edward bit a pillow. “Or two,” he says. Edward bit a pillow. Or two. I've heard tell about this; among certain subsets of Twi-hards “the pillow scene” and “the feathers” have been alluded to frequently. (The above "handful of feathers" picture was released on Twitter by Bill Condon a few months ago.) It all makes sense now. Well, it sort of makes sense now. To hear them tell it, this scene has some sexy connotations. I'm not really seeing the “sexy.” Also: how did Bella not notice the feathers everywhere? What was she doing during the sex? Squeezing her eyes shut and trying not to notice anything? Did they fuck in a sensory deprivation chamber?
I am so happy this exists

Under the layer of feathers apparently covering everything, Bella finally sees that she has bruises on her arms. And, you know, everywhere. Bella tries to remember “a moment where his hold had been too tight” and she can't remember any of it. “I only wanted him to hold me tighter, and being pleased when he did.” Kinky. Actually, it's “harder, harder” Bella, not “tighter, tighter!”

Edward is full of self-loathing, it's like book one all over again, but with actual sex (sort of). “Don't ruin this,” Bella tells him. Too late. Bella trying to reassure him that she enjoys being fucked into pulp takes a while, and she slips up when she mentions that she assumed she'd be injured a little the first time out. But Edward finally cools his jets when Bella implies that he didn't enjoy himself, which makes for a weird moment. He calls it “the best night of [his] existence.” Really? S. Meyer is hedging here; Edward is filled with self-loathing over what he has done, but he still really enjoyed it? S. Meyer wants to keep the same basic dramatic tension going (why, I have no idea) but she also can't humiliate Bella by having Edward hate their first night together. So Edward bruised up his new wife... and enjoyed it. It gets worse. Edward says he's been talking to Carlisle about this night for a while.

“Carlisle told me it was a very powerful thing, like nothing else. He told me physical love was something I should not treat lightly.”

Oh, to be a fly on the wall when S. Meyer gives her kids the “birds and the bees” speech. If she ever does. If this book is any indication, she'll put it off for way too long and then she'll only do it half-way. Anyway, Edward seems to imply that sex is dangerous because it can permanently alter a vampire's temperament. The whole thing about vampires being like stones in mind as well as body has always been very poorly articulated, and it feels more and more ridiculous every time it comes back. Also: Edward says he didn't think he could go through with it, but Carlisle had “faith” in him. “Son, you can fuck this girl, I believe in you!”-Carlisle Cullen.

“I spoke to my brothers, too. They told me it was a very great pleasure. Second only to drinking human blood.”

(“Ahem”-Alice Cullen) It must have been an uncomfortable few weeks at the Cullen house, with Edward going around asking everyone about sex. Also: he's only asking about it now? He hasn't been curious for the last hundred years? Talk about arrested development! Edward gets out of bed to make Bella breakfast, leaving a cloud of feathers in his wake. I have a theory that if you show any reasonable person the hallway scene from Inception for the first time, they will all make essentially the same "surprised pleasure/shock" noise. I also believe that if you tell any reasonable person about the feathers in Breaking Dawn, they will make the same "bemused groan" noise I made five or six times while reading this chapter. “Why did you decide to ruin Esme's pillows?” Bella asks. S. Meyer is not content to let a joke like that just hang there, she has to use it to ruin something.

“I don't know if I decided to do anything last night,” he muttered.

See, this is what happens when you wait until marriage. You get way too excited, and you can't handle it. How long do you guys think this first fuck lasted? Over or under 30 seconds? It was long enough, apparently, for Bella's whole body to get bruised up; when she gets out of bed Edward turns away and balls up his fists in anguish. Great reaction to seeing your wife naked in the daylight for this first time, Edward. Bella goes and examines her “naked body” in the bathroom mirror, in a weirdly explicit sentence. ("Naked body" passes for explicit at this point.) Bella surveys the bruises on her face, arms. She doesn't elaborate on what the rest of her body looks like-- you know, the parts that were receiving the lion's share (get it because the lion fell in love with the lamb) of the jackhammer-like (I imagine) thrusting. Bella's more upset by the feathers all through her hair.

That's what I don't understand about this scene. Fans seem to have interpreted it as sexy. S. Meyer seems to be trying to play it as simultaneously threatening and funny. I'm finding it unrealistic and atonal. The Venn Diagram of possible interpretations of this scene looks like the Olympic Rings. Edward, still in a bad mood, makes Bella breakfast. It's then that Bella realizes she's not getting any more dick. Edward confirms as much, in another sentence that passes for explicit: “I will not make love to you again until you've been changed. I will never hurt you again.”

That's where the chapter ends, and I feel neutral about it, dramatically speaking. Edward is probably right; he shouldn't fuck Bella again until he can handle it. It's too bad for Bella, sort of. But not really: she is going to get laid again when she's a vampire, which we know is going to happen sooner or later. If “when is the next time Bella gets to have sex” is going to be the engine driving this book, then, well, fuck.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Six (Or So) Thoughts About A Six (Or So) Part Documentary About Eclipse

I. A making-of documentary should theoretically accomplish two seemingly opposite objectives at once: it should show you how a few minor cinematic feats were accomplished, to make you feel like you could do it (“Oh, that's how they did that!”) but should also give you an idea of what an immense project a feature film really is, to make you feel like you couldn't do it (“Wow, can you believe they did all that?”). One thing it should not do is make you feel like the actual director and producers and everyone involved BARELY pulled it off (“Wow, can you believe THEY did all that?”). Yet in just four minutes or so (while a knock-off version of Arcade Fire's “Rebellion” plays underneath), the first featurette on Disc 2 of Eclipse totally undermined my confidence in the team behind this movie. David Slade talks and gestures like a patient in an insane asylum; it almost looks like he's trying to break up and distort his own words as they leave his mouth to keep you from hearing him.
At one point he mentions directing videos for a band, a job that got him noticed for this gig. “Ten years later they're huge,” he says, “and I'm directing a Twilight movie.” I'm not sure how he intended for that to come out. But no matter how often he uses phrases like “visual alchemy” he doesn't convince me that he knows what he's doing; in my notebook I wrote: “Not movie-making FOR retards, but movie-making BY retards." I'm a little less refined in my notes.
II. The story of the making of Eclipse is a story of missed opportunities. At one point in this section, we get a tour of the Cullen house. We see way more if it than we ever see in the films, and (surprise!) it looks much better than it does in the films. Eclipse uses a lot of close-up shots of actors, which is either because they were going for a certain mood or (more likely) because it's easier to avoid continuity errors that way. So why spend so much money on a set you're never going to see when you should be buying Ashley Greene a better wig? It's deeply ironic that the purpose of these documentaries is to show you how much effort went into building a set for a movie you've already seen and therefore know was squandered. The visual representation of this should be a funnel: a gigantic staff of visual artists doing all kinds of creative work at the top, David Slade using only fractions of it at the bottom. Similarly, a ton of time is spent showing us the fight training all of the actors went through. For what? I can't think of a single image in the film that looks like it required fight training except for maybe this:
and I'm pretty sure Ashley Greene didn't do that herself. The rest of it is running and punching, and you don't need to hire an expensive fight trainer for that! These movies need a stricter accountant.
III. I'm starting to think the only reason this documentary is six parts is because the other DVDs had six-part documentaries too. The “six part” framework is pretty badly imposed on this thing: the runtime of the segments varies wildly, some are four minutes and others are close to twenty. Some stick to a single topic, others have five or six subdivisions. Part three is entitled "The Heart of Eclipse," and focuses first on Bella's "choice." And then on Jasper's backstory. Eclipse has multiple hearts, like an earthworm. We cut between cast members and S. Meyer herself, who offer an oversimplified plot summary of the plot of the book which is still more complex than the film adaptation. Ashley Greene is weirdly burned by the editors of this feature: when discussing Jasper's military career she gets his rank wrong; her clip is sandwiched between two other actors getting in right. What did AG do to piss off the DVD crew?
IV. Quote of the Day: "The Victoria of Eclipse is... a different Victoria." We know. Victoria's plan is called "brilliant," which is kind of stretch. A distinction is drawn between "carnal love" and "true love"; Victoria and Riley have carnal love and not true love, Edward and Bella has true love (and not carnal love, which is a problem no one addresses).
V. That the cast has "established dynamics" after three films together sounds like code for "we've all fucked many times in many combinations," but maybe I'm reading too much into that. In this mixed-bag segment, we see Taylor Lautner's Blue Man Group-like ability to catch grapes in his mouth. He seems like a cool guy. I like throwing grapes! We could totally hang out!
Am I the only one who noticed that there is no pronunciation standard for "Aro"? We get "Arrow" and "AR-oh" in rapid succession. Also: it turns out that during the filming of the fight between Edward and Victoria, Robert Pattinson was making a bunch of weird animal noises. That David Slate cut those sounds out makes me feel like I should have more confidence in him than I do.
VI. Everyone praises the "ravine chase" sequence, which apparently took enough work to warrant half of this segment. And yet the end result is so fucking artificially darkened it might as well be claymation. Once again: the funnel. Meanwhile Taylor Lautner, who had to wear basically Charlie's Green Man suit from It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, is disappointed by the fact that he didn't get to do any of the stunts. Just like his character: not getting any action. Of course, much like how sleeping will Bella is probably no fun, the action work Peter Facinelli (who is wearing a hat with a blurred out logo like this is MTV Cribs in 1999) and the gang got to do looks like a drag anyway. Running on treadmills and doing cartwheels is basically all I see.
Okay, so I have too much time on my hands.

Did you guys watch this fucking thing? Are you as hardcore as me? Any thoughts?