Sunday, July 17, 2011

Five Ways To Fix The Ending Of Breaking Dawn

Say what you will about the twisted, morally repugnant insanity in the first half of Breaking Dawn, but at least it makes for a compelling read. The second half of the book leads us down a series of boring, incoherent paths, finally ending the series not with a bang but with a whatever. The most interesting moment in the second half comes when Alice Cullen abruptly bails on the rest of her family in an unexpected but plausible moment of cowardice. Unfortunately that moment is a rare bright spot in the dull gray abyss of Book 3; Bella accomplishes a series of tasks meant to protect her daughter Renesmee in the event of her untimely death, the Volturi show up to maybe make that untimely death possible,* and then Alice walks in with a new character who saves the day and changes all of the rules we've been given so far. (It also cheapens the aforementioned departure of Alice, which turns out not to be a daring move but rather a literary life vest S. Meyer gave herself just in case.)

(*Maybe. The Volturi threat is never vivid or particularly explicit; S. Meyer always tells and never shows. In fact, far more acts of violence are carried out by the Cullens in these books than are by the Volturi. But anyway.)

It could have been so much better. Well, I mean really, there's no salvaging this series, but least could have gone out on a high note instead of alienating most of its readers. Here, then, are a few suggestions.

1. Alice Doesn't Come Back

Not only is the late introduction of Nahuel a dick move in the first place, it also negates the one daring thing S. Meyer did for 400 pages. The end would be marginally redeemed, therefore, if the perpetually safe S. Meyer was willing to leave one loose end dangling and never have Alice return. So the Cullens would peaceably resolve their dispute with the Volturi some other contrived way and live happily ever after except for not knowing if Alice will ever return (either out of shame or death or having found a better family, which wouldn't be that hard). It's a messy ending that would be more satisfying than the flaccid attempt at a messy ending we get, in which S. Meyer wraps everything up perfectly and then lamely tries to tease a future Volturi threat (maybe one that has to be faced down by the new love triangle of Jacob, Nessie and Nahuel, UGH I know) that nobody is buying.

2. Alice Comes Back...As A Member Of The Volturi

Speaking of lame threats involving the Volturi, why not make good on one? Imagine: Bella watches the slow, graceful approach of the dark-hooded Volturi, and when they get into the clearing and take their hoods off, Alice is standing at Aro's side, her eyes bright red. Awesome, right? Maybe the dispute is still resolved peacefully, maybe there's a fight. Maybe Bella has to kill Alice. I'd hate Bella even more for it, but I hate her plenty already. Jasper could be in the Volturi too, or it could be presumed that he is dead. Either way, it would be a totally awesome way to double-down on Alice's seeming betrayal of and lack of real attachment to her family, rather than duck out from under it as S. Meyer does. Plus bad guys have way better sex.*

*It's such an organic possibility that people have already started (but not finished, sadly) pieces of fanfiction in which Alice joins the Volturi as a kind of sex-slave.

3. Bella Dies In Childbirth

S. Meyer is going to invoke Wuthering Heights? Why not really do it then, and kill off her female romantic lead at the end of Book 2, leaving Edward as a tragic, mourning Heathcliff? We could switch to HIS perspective from there, or maybe Bella could narrate from beyond the grave (spooky!). Killing Bella would be a wild move, and even though we've spent most of this book hating on her, we'd still be shocked and moved. And then, Edward couldn't go and kill himself as he's promised to do because he's a single dad now. So he has to live with the guilt and sadness and the other complicated, interesting emotions we never get in these books.

4. Edward kills Jacob or Jacob kills Edward

This could happen in a lot of places, but just to make me feel better lets say Jacob imprints on Renesmee so Edward murders him. Romeo and Juliet callback! You just got Tybalted! That would resolve the love triangle in a more satisfying way, and again, S. Meyer could do some complex, adult shit with it. Maybe Bella can't forgive Edward for what he has done, so she leaves him. Then we follow her as a single vampire mother trying to succeed in the world. Then, in a mirror of New Moon, she is joined in her studio apartment by Alice, who comes in from the rain and wants to take a shower and... well, you know. Then, after they've finished up, Jasper knocks on the door to install the cable...

The flip scenario is that Jacob kills Edward, maybe again because of imprinting, or maybe because Edward just accidentally vamps Bella on the honeymoon with his jizz (which is technically what should have happened) instead of knocking her up. Either way, it ends with Bella and Alice having sex, obviously. Or Bella kills herself and Alice fucks her corpse. That'd be sort of fun.

5. Go Beowulf On It

This is the craziest and best idea I've had so far. Think about the way S. Meyer stresses the amazing, unique qualities of vampire Bella. She has more control than any other newborn, she's extraordinarily graceful, and her shield power has like, nuclear force. For a few minutes, I honestly thought S. Meyer was setting up Bella to the The One. So what if she was?

Think about the promise of that preface in which Bella assesses the threat of the Volturi and is suddenly filled with joyful, bloodlusty rage. It would have been wonderful if Bella's power had an offensive element to it as well, and if she could have used to it spectacularly, violently wipe out the Volturi. The Volturi's witnesses would bow down before Bella, electing her the new queen of the damned.

And that's when we turn the page and see Book 4: Renesmee. It's a hundred years (give or take) later, and Bella rules the immortal world from her throne in Forks. What would be wonderful is if the realities of governing the vampire world had worn down the Cullens' virtue and resolve: We open with Bella killing and eating Mike Newton's great grandson; we find out that Esme and Carlisle have long-since bailed; Alice, Jasper and a few of the new characters are Bella's violent enforcers, and Edward is her subservient, spineless husband. Jacob and Renesmee, both in their early 20s, sneak off together and drink wine and complain about Bella's ways, both as an overprotective parent and as a corrupt politician. And then something happens with an immortal child being created elsewhere in the world, and when Bella goes with her guard to take care of it, she realizes that You Either Die A Hero Or Live Long Enough To See Yourself Become A Villain. And the whole series ends on that painful, dark realization.

Fucking awesome, right? Sometimes I even impress myself. The last shot of the movie version could be Bella in the back of a cab like Michael Clayton, a distant, pained, overwhelmed expression on her face—the shot held on it for an uncomfortably long time.

Special thanks to Kira, with whom I first floated a few of these ideas a couple weeks back. Anybody have some other suggestions?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

BLOGGING BREAKING DAWN, pt. 48: Not With A Bang But A Whatever

WE DID IT. This is the final, brief chapter of Breaking Dawn. Wow, this book was terrible. I mean, the first half was interesting in a “diaries of a sociopath” sort of way, but then the wheels really fell off the wagon and then the wagon sat in the clearing in the woods for a while and did nothing. But whatever, we survived.

I started writing about Twilight so long ago that I don't remember starting. I read some of what I wrote back then, and some of it is pretty dumb and goofy. Then again, I think somewhere during Eclipse this blog got a little too academic and esoteric and I might have sacrificed some readability in my attempts to explain exactly what made S. Meyer a really terrible writer and person, from both a moral and writerly point of view. Some of it took a lot of words to untangle, and sometimes I probably wrote more than S. Meyer did.

(And I have still more to say! But this is for sure the final proper installment of "Blogging Breaking Dawn.")

But whatever, now this blog is here, 18 months worth of writing preserved on the Internet, should anyone need it. Along the way, several people have told me that this blog has converted them from normal Twi-hard to the self-aware, self-deprecating kind of fan/critic that we probably need a name for. Twi-soft? (“That conjures the wrong image”-Alice Cullen) Anyway, that is the kind of thing that makes me feel like this was all worth it.

Were it that the end of Breaking Dawn filled me with a similar kind of satisfaction.

Chapter 39: The Happily Ever After

So this chapter is a weird one. It tries to wrap up Bella and Edward's story, but also teases weird elements like Renesmee's future with Jacob and the romantic threat posed by Nahuel. It also suggests that the Volturi conflict still hasn't gone away, and to that I just have to say: Screw you, S. Meyer. Just screw you and shut up, okay? But the point is it does all of these other things at the expense of giving us much of a goodbye to Bella and Edward.

(And if you were hoping for any sort of farewell to Alice, Jasper, Carlisle, or even Jacob, well, forget it.)

Edward and Bella are sitting with their family and talking to “two remaining guests,” who turn out to be Nahuel and Huilen (revealed, as if it's a big reveal, after two pages of explaining where the other vampires went—I will spare you*). Edward is trying to explain what happened, and sort of failing. “What it really boiled down to was...Bella,” he says. That's the best you can do, Edward? We (eventually) learn that the Volturi were scared shitless by Bella's shield power, and that was a major factor in their decision not to engage. (Well, at least someone was impressed by it.)

(*Fucking Siobhan and Carlisle have another maddening conversation where she sarcastically refers to her ability to make positive outcomes by force of will and he jokes with her but also appears to think her powers are real, even though she doesn't. So are her powers real or not? Why doesn't Siobhan believe in them? (“So, what, am I supposed to shoot fucking webs out of my wrists or something? How the fuck would I do that?”-Spider-Man) If you were going to try and place S. Meyer on the autism spectrum, this totally incomprehensible Siobhan thing would be a very damning piece of evidence. (“We're going to need a bigger autism spectrum!”-scientists))

Bella is weirded out because Nahuel keeps eye-fucking either her or Renesmee, who is asleep in Bella's arms. Someday, someday soon, Bella and Renesmee will be basically the same age and probably posing as college roommates and stuff. Just imagine the twisted, incestuous fanfiction possibilities. You probably don't have to imagine it—if there isn't a Bella/Renesmee/Nahuel sex story online yet, it's at least on someone's hard drive (shudder).

Also, Renesmee will, for a while, have the mind of a seven year old in a 20-something body. And Bella will, as always, have the mind of an 80-year-old nun in a 19-year-old's body. I totally see a sitcom there.

Everybody is also super complimentary of the wolves and their contribution, and Jacob is flashing best-bud grins at Emmett and Edward and OK, that's fine. But then it devolves into another discussion about the distinction between REAL werewolves and the shape-shifters. GUHHHH why? Why are we doing this? Make it stop! We learn that Caius once almost got killed by a werewolf, the real kind, and has since had them almost hunted into extinction. Is this supposed to be a random world-building detail ? Is it supposed to be an environmental message, just tucked in at the end there? Don't hunt wolves! OR: Is S. Meyer planning another book in which Jacob has to fight the real Children Of The Moon?

I truly can't figure out if S. Meyer is really setting up another book/series or if she is just fucking with us throughout this chapter. For one thing, Edward indicates that someday the Volturi will recover their pride and come after the Cullens again. Go fuck yourself with that shit, Edward. I never bought the Volturi threat in the first or second places, you CANNOT tease me with a third act of Waiting For Aro (To Be Evil). S. Meyer also suggests a few more times that Nahuel might be a romantic interest for Renesmee. This stuff is probably just a lame way to end the series—showing the cycle repeating itself—right?

But then there's this business about Real Werewolves. Why go through the trouble of talking about a magical creature* we have never seen ANYWHERE in these books if you're not going to do something with it later? As Chekov said, “If there's a Child Of The Moon introduced in the last five pages of a book series, someone should shoot the author with a gun in act three.”

(*Edward tells us that the full moon thing is real, but silver bullets are a myth. OH OKAY. I'M SO GLAD WE GOT THAT OUT THERE BEFORE THE END OF THIS BOOK I WAS REALLY CURIOUS ABOUT THAT.)

Also somewhere this whole exchange, Bella and Alice have a cute but over-expository fight about her disappearance. Bella understands that “her defection was only a ruse because Edward had to believe that she'd abandoned us,” (GUHHHH) but eventually can't contain her irritation.

Alice sighed. “Just get it off your chest, Bella.”

Get your bra off, am I right Alice? Bella basically says “How could you?” And Alice speaks for a whole paragraph about how she had to search for something she couldn't see, and wasn't even sure that Nahuel existed, and blah blah blah, and

“And if you think I didn't feel like a schmuck—”
“Okay, okay!” I interrupted.

Oh god please stop retroactively summarizing your convoluted plot! Bella then asks Jasper why he's been treating J. Jenks so bad, and Jasper is just like, “That's how I roll, bitch.” Bella decides that she will be the Cullen family criminal liason to J. Jenks from now on. Oh good, I'm glad J. Jenks gets a happy ending, at least! Edward and Bella go back to their cottage, and Nahuel looks “intently after us, as if he wished he could follow.”

Once again, S. Meyer notices she's getting into trouble here with how sketchy that shit sounds, and so Edward explains as they stroll home that Nahuel sees Bella as like the ideal version of the mother who died giving birth to him—that because Bella managed to live through the birth of Renesmee, Nahuel feels better about his own nature. “He always thought of himself as an evil creation,” Edward says, and now “he's finally begun to forgive himself.” But you still killed your own mom, dude, hahahaha. Edward also mentions, in passing, that he's proud of Jacob for never once thinking about the fact that Renesmee will be physically mature very soon (“Like, I can feel her boobs popping out as we speak.”-Edward). Bella observes that Jacob really, truly doesn't see her that way. Here we are, three pages from the end, and S. Meyer is still trying to convince us that what she wrote was OK (it still isn't). He doesn't see her that way YET, Bella. Or he's just keeping his thoughts from you until he can go off by himself (sorry).

Why insist so frequently that Jacob's love is chaste and pure? What effect does it have? Is S. Meyer trying to get us to reconsider our position on sex offenders and child marriages? (The most telling line, on that front, is Edward's: “I know it goes against the grain to say so, but she could do worse.” WHY IS THAT THERE OH MY GOD) I really don't get it. This conclusion isn't wrapping anything up so much as it is perpetuating everything that sucks the worst about this series.

And then one more final irritating thing happens (I can't believe S. Meyer found the time to work this in)! Edward starts making out with Bella, and she pulls his hand off of her tits or whatever because she wants to show him something Zafrina tried to teach her. Anal? No, what happens is Bella concentrates for a while and then moves her shield power completely away from her own body, and suddenly Edward can hear her thoughts. She relieves a few moments from previous books (actually one event from Twilight and then several events from Breaking Dawn, hahahah that is how lazy S. Meyer is, she couldn't even be bothered to remember what happened for half of this series). He kisses her and she loses her concentration and the shield snaps back into place. But they realize they have “forever” to work on it. Yes, Bella, you have forever to work on getting rid of the one thing that makes you independent from your husband. I mean, how can you have a healthy marriage if he can't READ YOUR THOUGHTS!? You better get to work on that right away or Jesus will be sooooo mad.

And then we continued blissfully into this small but perfect piece of forever.

That's it. That's it? THAT'S IT!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Rilo Kiley's “Takeoffs and Landings” Ten Years Later

Jenny Lewis is, as far as I can tell, pretty happy now. She lives in Laurel Canyon or somewhere like it with Jonathan Rice and they make twee surf rock and Elvis Costello comes over for coffee and everything is probably great. I haven't listened to her new band Jenny & Johnny much, but I hear “Big Wave” in Forever 21 sometimes and it's fine. I'm happy for her. But I also really miss the Jenny Lewis we had in 2001, the one who sounded really, deeply unhappy, the one who sounded so fucking miserable that she was maybe/probably losing her mind.
Suffering is good for art and bad for artists; Chuck Klosterman wrote a whole book about that problem. I remember seeing an interview with him once where he said it would have been great for their career if the Rolling Stones had all died tragically in the mid-70s, but it wouldn't have been great if they wanted to, like, eat a pizza. That's what is at issue here. We like sad art, so we elevate sad artists, and we punish with irrelevance the ones who stop being sad. (This mostly only true for the “real art” sphere, as distinguished from whatever makes Kim Kardashian famous. Reality stars and tabloid celebrities drop dead and are forgotten—their life and art aren't separated enough, so they have no legacy. Heath Ledger died within a year of Anna Nicole Smith—who will you remember longer?)
Takeoffs and Landings was released by Barsuk Records in July 2001. There's a lot of plane crash imagery on the album—Jenny Lewis (with guitarist Blake Sennett) was one of dozens of songwriters with eerily prescient releases that year (Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot features songs like “Ashes Of American Flags” and lyrics like “tall buildings shake” and “skyscrapers are scraping together” and features two towers on the cover. Less remarkably: Jimmy Eat World's record Bleed American was hastily retitled Jimmy Eat World, and an Everclear album with an inverted American flag was pulled from the shelves and redesigned. Also: for a detailed explanation of how Radiohead's Kid A sonically predicted 9/11, read the aforementioned Klosterman book, Killing Yourself To Live)—but plane crashes here are the emotional kind. Successful takeoffs and landings are (at least partly) a metaphor for successful adult life, which Lewis sees as sort of impossible.

So yeah, Rilo Kiley songs aren't exactly “sad”--they're more like “stressed-sad.” Jenny Lewis sounds stressed out in a compelling, attractive way. There's a blue-collar “how are we going to make ends meet” theme running through this record, which is convincing even though Jenny Lewis was a child actress who grew up in Hollywood. She SOUNDS like a working-class chick, so when she sings “but I'd like some extra spare time,” you feel it. Or—I felt it when I was fifteen years old. Because it's important to note that this is not like, Rosanne Barr's standup comedy; Jenny's not raising kids in Ohio or whatever yet. The root cause of the blue-collar-y problems is mid-twenties ennui.

(When I was sixteen I dug the hell out of hearing about mid-twenties ennui. Movies, music, TV shows,--I ate that shit UP. What's weird is it doesn't really resonate with me now, now that I am really experiencing mid-twenties ennui. Maybe with music we always aspire a decade ahead? If that is the case, why did I like Rod Stewart when I was five? What does that say about him? Or me?)
Jenny Lewis learned to be an objectively better singer eventually—listen to “I Never” on More Adventurous (a vocal track she, legend has it, recorded while completely naked) for that— but here, on songs like "Science Vs. Romance," and "Always," she sings like she's about to shriek. It's unsettling without being upsetting, and it's weirdly consistent, too—this isn't an album chronicling a downward spiral, it's the sound of someone hovering just above one. Jenny Lewis is also really good at swearing; the way she sings “Mexico can fucking wait” on “Pictures of Success” is sublime. (But she got even better at it: “A Better Son Or Daughter” off of The Execution of All Things is probably the best time anyone has ever sung the word “fuck” in the history of indie rock. Disagree? Come at me bro.)
Here's an anecdote into which you can read a lot about Jenny Lewis's psyche, not that to do so would be correct: I saw Rilo Kiley play in Burlington, VT some time (as in, quite a bit of time) after More Adventurous, the penultimate RK album, was released. In “Portions for Foxes,” there's a line that goes “And the loneliness leads to bad dreams, and the bad dreams lead me to calling you, and I call you and say... COME HERE!” On the original record, Lewis screams those last two words. During certain live performances from just after the release, like on Conan maybe, she turned it into a terrifying roar (it was terrific). By the time I saw them, she imply cooed it. “Come here,” as opposed to “COME HERE!” She was cooling off, like molten lava. And okay, people are allowed to do that. But part of me (a dumb, fifteen year old part of me) resents that they do.
After all, Rilo Kiley never became the second coming of Fleetwood Mac (Lewis and Sennett used to fuck, by the way) because they all pulled themselves together (emotionally) and made a dance-y pop record (in 2007) that sucked and then went their separate ways. Jenny Lewis did the “sluttier Emmylou Harris” thing for a while and now it's the aforementioned surf rock. I saw Blake Sennett's band The Elected play a (Unitarian) church basement in Philadelphia and they blew the doors off the place; they've got a new record coming out. Drummer Jason Boesel is a jack of all trades, laying down beats for Bright Eyes, Jakob Dylan, and both Jenny Lewis and Blake Sennett (dude has probably heard a lot of stories). He also started writing and singing (with the encouragement of Conor Oberst) and put out a pretty great solo record with the even better title Hustler's Son. And bassist Pierre De Reeder is probably doing stuff too? I don't know. But I assume he's just fine.
So okay, we will always have Takeoffs and Landings, that moment where Jenny Lewis averted her nervous breakdown (at least until her next record) by singing about it. There are a bunch of great songs on it (“Science vs. Romance,” “Don't Deconstruct,” “Wires and Waves,” “Bulletproof,” “Go Ahead”) and a few marginal ones (“Always,” “August”). It has a base-level indie rock sound that people seem afraid to replicate these days (except maybe the dudes in Throw Me The Statue) but that I always appreciate. The more reasonable part of me is willing to let these things that we have and will always have be enough.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

WRITING BREAKING DAWN: The Entire Cast Of Breaking Dawn Dies In An Explosion

Thanks, Ben for making this poster for me, it's perfect! His YouTube channel is here, go subscribe to it! Also, happy birthday to my friend and yours, Ivana XL! She has new music for free download here, but since it's her birthday and all you should go buy a few of her songs on iTunes or Amazon. And pay double if they'll let you.

And now: the way it should have ended.

"The Entire Cast Of Breaking Dawn Dies In An Explosion"

“Mr. President, this evidence is solid.”
Barack Obama looked at the file full of satellite photos in his hands.
“These vampires have been standing in a clearing for several days,” the Admiral said. “We need to take them now.”
“What have they been doing?” President Obama asked. “I don't understand why they'd be there for so long.”
“We think, Mr. President, that they're talking.”
“And they're not bored?”
“Evidently not.”
“I guess I just thought, you know, I mean why aren't they fighting? They're vampires, right? It seems like if so many of them were in one place, something climactic would happen.” The President took a sip of coffee.
“Well, for whatever reason that is not happening. We have been monitoring the situation closely, and nothing has happened. A few of our guys are pretty disappointed.”
“Sure,” the President said. “I imagine people who have been following this for some time must be pretty let down.”
“To be honest, Mr. President, these vampires have never given us much in the way of interesting intel. I don't know why we thought much of anything would happen. But the fact remains, they need to go.”
“I agree,” the President said. He glanced at his top advisors and saw no voices of dissent. He picked up the phone on the desk next to him and dialed an extension. “Malia, honey, it's your father. Listen, how do you feel about vampires?” He nodded as she answered. “Okay, that's what I thought. Thanks, dear.” He hung up.
“Mr. President, this is highly unorthodox. You are consulting your daughter?” the Admiral seemed outraged.
“I just wanted to check. She knows more about these issues than I do.”
“Well, then, what did she say?”
“I'm sorry Admiral, but you don't have the clearance for this one.”
“I have code-word clearance!” the Admiral declared.
“Well, this is for Unicorn Team eyes only.”
“I've never even HEARD of Team Unicorn!” the Admiral fumed. “Mr. President, if you are keeping me in the dark about something, I will tender my resignation so quickly--”
“Percy, relax,” Barack Obama cracked a smile. “I'm giving you a hard time. Unicorn Team is Secret Service code for when I go to Malia's tea parties. Fact is, I don't know what she said. Something about a Katniss Everdeen, whatever language that is. The point is these vampires' time has come and gone. Take 'em.”
The admiral stood.
“Percy, what's the name of the operation? I like to know the names.”
“Operation Breaking Dawn sir,” he said.
“Really? That name is kind of lousy. I mean, what does it refer to?”
“I'm not sure. But we were also thinking about Midnight Sun.”
“Hmmmm. I'm not sure. I guess we can always decide on whether or not we want to do Midnight Sun later,” the President said. “Move forward.”
“Yes sir.”

Jacob Black, pedophile, shifted uncomfortably on his long legs. Beside him, another pedophile and a domestic abuser stood in a state of agitation. Edward Cullen, a religious bigot and former vigilante, continued to talk to Aro, a murderer. Edward's wife, Bella, a manipulative, hateful shrew and enabler of pedophiles, domestic abusers, and murderers, stood by his side. His parents, Carlisle and Esme, religious bigots in their own right and also enablers of murderers and pedophiles, looked on supportively as they always, unfortunately, did. Also, a bunch of people who no one knew anything about and who didn't matter at all were there, taking up lots of space for reasons passing understanding.
Several miles away, Alice Cullen, bon vivant and uber-slut, and her mate Jasper Whitlock, Lothario extraordinaire, ran through the forest guiding another vampire who was the key to ending the stand off in the most boring and easy way possible.
“Hold on!” Alice said, stopping abruptly. “How much of a dick move is this? Bringing in a new person randomly into the middle of this whole thing our family is having? Whatever they're doing over there, us doing this is not going to resolve it in an organic way.”
“I agree,” Jasper said. “It's contrived and stupid.” He looked over at the half-human half-vampire they were guiding along. “We don't know you. You have no significance for anyone. Get lost,” he spat.
“Cuba?” Alice asked after he'd gone.
Jasper picked her up in his arms and ran in the opposite direction.
Meanwhile, in the clearing, Garrett, who was just some asshole, was talking a lot. Edward looked meaningfully at Bella, as if to say, What the fuck is this thing we've been doing for so long? What were we trying to accomplish? What did we learn? Nothing? It feels like nothing. How did we get here? Why is this stuff happening? What does it have to do with anything? Nothing? It feels like nothing.
And then a bunch of bombs fell in the clearing and everyone died.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

BLOGGING BREAKING DAWN, pt. 47: No One Would Riot For Less

Guys, this is the second-to-last installment of Blogging Breaking Dawn. Ahhhhhhhhh!

Anyway, last time, S. Meyer stabbed me in the back with Alice's dildo, using my favorite character to introduce the cheapest plot development ever conceived: Aro wouldn't allow Renesmee to live because no one knew what she'd be like in a few years, so Alice showed up with a new character who was exactly what Renemee would be like in a few years. And this new character said, basically, “Don't worry everybody, I turned out fine.”

HOW CONVIENIENT, RIGHT? It's especially convenient when you think about the fact that when Alice left to go get this fucking guy in the first place, Aro's problem with the Cullens was COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. He (and the rest of the Volturi) thought Renesmee was a vampire baby, not a human-vamp hybrid toddler (it's a big difference, just take my word for it). The rhetorical conceit that RNSM was too unpredictable to be allowed to live is a new development, one that came up as a result of the back-and-forth between the Cullens and Aro on the battlefield five pages ago. What if Alice had showed up ten minutes earlier? The new character she was introducing wouldn't make any sense!

“You have an immortal baby!” Aro shouted. “You must be punished for this transgression.”
“Hi!” Alice shouted. “Hey I found someone who proves that hybrid children grow up to be totally docile and boring!”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” everyone said.
“Aw fuck, I've been drinking again,” Alice admitted.

Chapter 38 (con't): Power

So Nahuel, the hybrid-ex-machina, tells the Volturi about his sisters (yes that's right, there are dozens of other Renesmees out there, and none of these assholes figured it out), who are like him in every way (except they are not venomous? If that matters). He explains that his father thinks of himself as a scientist, creating a new “super-race” in South America. Oh my god, Mengele is a vampire!

Caius suggests they kill Nahuel AND Renesmee and then “follow it south” (“I've got something you can follow south.”-Alice Cullen). But Aro, who always seemed like a pretty good guy and then was briefly evil when S. Meyer needed him to be more threatening, is back to being a good guy again. He shares a long eye-fuck with Bella and then votes that there is no danger and they should go in peace. And everyone breathes a sigh of...relief? No. Confused boredom? Yeah, that's closer to how this feels.

Caius and Aro indicate that they will be speaking with the Nazi Doctor Vampire, and Nahuel is like “kill him but leave my sisters alone,” and Aro is like “word, dog.” And then they fist bump (probably). My god, the Aro thing annoys me so much. He has literally NEVER done anything wrong or bad in any of these books. In Volterra and here in the field, he has allegedly THOUGHT bad things, but never acted on them.* If you wanted to interpret this entire series as the story of an evil vampire (Edward) who misleads his wife and family into thinking Aro is evil in order to accomplish his own agenda (getting a virgin bride and knocking her up with his demon seed) you would actually have MORE EVIDENCE for your theory than S. Meyer has for the book as it stands.

(*That evil thoughts are essentially considered worse than evil deeds in this book is genuinely troubling to me.)

Anyway, Aro tells his guard to stand down, but Bella keeps her shield up. “Maybe this was ANOTHER trick,” she thinks. Shut the fuck up, Bella. As they depart, Aro holds his hands out, “almost apologetic.” Like, sorry for wasting your time with a plot that went nowhere. He tells Carlisle he is sorry to earn his disapproval and hopes they can be friends again. Carlisle says maybe some day. Whoa, what a dick!

Then everybody on Team Cullen erupts into cheers and spontaneous makeout sessions. This is totally Alice's shot at getting in Bella's pants, but Esme is hugging her and Jasper. Cockblocked! (A couple of my Twitter friends were discussing what you would call the female equivalent of cockblocking. Failing any meaningful rhyme with “clit,” I think they arrived at “Twat swat.”) Interestingly, the three South American possibly-lesbians just stand very close together with their fingers interlocked. They don't feel comfortable expressing their feelings around all these judgmental types, I get it.

And I half-climbed the giant russet wolf to rip my daughter off his back and then crushed her to my chest.

EASY BELLA! But am I the only one who took comfort at RNSM being ripped away from Jacob? I sort of hoped the police would be the ones doing it, but whatever. And then Bella and Edward celebrate the fact that they have “forever” to be young and boring and safe, and I think we're supposed to be happy, too. Are we? Be honest: when you first read this, were you happy? It's OK if you were.

Tomorrow: An alternate version of the ending, written by me.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

BLOGGING BREAKING DAWN, pt. 46: Alice Ex Machina

Can we stop for a second and talk again about how fucking weird and creepy it is that Edward calls Jacob his “son”? YEEEEEEEEEESH. And of course it represents the end of the path I knew S. Meyer would take—the path of fake resistance—to Jacob's horrifically inappropriate relationship with Renesmee. The fact is, S. Meyer never really thought it was bad to begin with, but like many sociopaths she had some notion that other people might find her ideas about love between adult men and infant girls offensive. So she had to put on a show and make Bella (and to a lesser extent, Edward) freak out about the whole thing for a while. But she couldn't convincingly transition her characters from righteous anger to morally complex acceptance, so she just DIDN'T. Edward and Bella's outrage just melted away and was forgotten,* and now here the fuck we fucking are.

(*Weeds just returned for a seventh season, and that show is the best example I can think of for the kind of transition S. Meyer SHOULD HAVE made, if she absolutely had to go through with the Jacob/Nessie thing. At the end of season five—spoiler alert—Nancy Botwin's young son Shane actually murders someone. Someone bad, sure—so that makes it roughly equivalent to imprinting on a child, I guess?— but Nancy spends most of the next season dealing with the material and emotional fallout from that. And she does it the way Nancy Botwin deals with most stuff—shutting down emotionally and fucking away her troubles with Zack from Saved By The Bell, never really coming to terms with anything but finding a new mental plane on which to survive. Am I saying Bella should fuck Screech or Slater or Kelly Kapowski? No. I'm saying the way you get over something like that is: you don't. You just go on, a reduced version of your former self.)

(I think I made a Saved By The Bell reference in like, Blogging Twilight pt. 5. We're coming full circle. Is Kelly Kapowski named like she is because she's a knockout? Get it?)

Always Relevant: Forks, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down

Anyway, everybody deserves to die on this fucking battlefield. But of course, that is not what is about to happen. Not at all.

Chapter 38: Power

As the Volturi hold a conference, Jane and the other soldiers try to preemptively attack the Cullens and their friends. Nobody even knows at first because Bella's shield is protecting their whole crew. Of course the whole crew doesn't even know about Bella's shield—she's playing this weirdly close to the (sequined) vest (that Alice bought her). But sooner or later it becomes clear to both sides that Bella is suddenly amazing with her powers; everybody is like, oh that's weird but okay. “I'm all over this,” she tells Edward with brand new, barely-earned confidence. (“I'm all over this like Alice in the Dallas Cowboys locker room.”) Then she grins a huge, smug smile at Jane, who shrieks in frustration. That'll be fun. I'm glad Dakota Fanning will have at least a little to do. (I weirdly wanted Jane to die in this book, not for any literary purpose but rather JUST so I could see it in the movie. I mean, I think the Fannings are great, but for some reason I really want to see Dakota get her head kicked off by Peter Facinelli. Is that weird?)

Alec, the dude who basically makes you a vegetable with his mind, attacks next. His magic spell (Terrius Shiavocus!) comes in the form of a “clear mist” which slowly seeps toward their camp. Benjamin, the one who is The Last Airbender or whatevz, tries sending wind to deflect the mist but it doesn't work. Make a fart joke here if you want. Failing that, uh, he tears the fucking earth asunder, leaving a big rift in the middle of the field (make another fart joke here, if you must). But Alec's mist keeps on rolling. DUH, it's mist, Benjamin! How could an earthquake stop it? (But you have to use Benjamin's powers in a cool way at least once since he's not going to have to fight anyone.) The mist makes it to Bella's shield and can't penetrate it (her power is a magic chastity belt, thematically speaking). Instead, the mist spreads across the surface of the whole dome and then everyone can (sort of) see the extent of Bella's shield (the old smoke and lasers trick) and they're all like “whoa.”

“I know shield kung-fu.”-Bella Cullen

Bella realizes she has made herself the number one target (in my mind she was already; KILL HER, ARO!) and asks Zafrina to keep people away from her so she can concentrate on her totally passive, uncompelling power.* She tells Edward he has to kill Demetri (whipping sound) and the rest of the vampires start to set picks. Aro speaks again and invites Bella, Edward, Zafrina, Kate and Benjamin to join their gang. Wait, he doesn't want Garrett and his extensive knowledge of US History power? (Can a vampire power be even more specific? Comprehensive understanding of presidential war powers, maybe? Because that's what I'd bring to the table.) Chelsea, the Volturi member who can break emotional bonds, apparently starts working on them, but since they abstain they have true bonds of love that she can't break. And that's why you wait until marriage, kids. Oh wait, maybe it's Bella's shield that is protecting them. What message does that send? Always wear a condom?

“Seriously. Wrap that shit up.”-Renesmee Cullen

(*So Bella's shield is evocative of S. Meyer's main problem, right? She's too protective of everyone and everything. She won't even kill off these extra vampires we just met—I assumed that was their whole purpose! To die and therefore bring dramatic weight to the proceedings. But of course, the Cullens' whole gambit is a fundamentally selfish one: Bella wanted to have sex as a human and then wanted to keep her baby. If anybody, like say, Garrett, dies for her happiness, that happiness will be forever tainted by Garrett's sacrifice. Which is a totally fine ending if you are anyone but S. Meyer, who thinks a happy ending has to be totally, uncompromisingly happy. Did she ever wonder why there wasn't an eighth JK Rowling book called “Harry Potter And The Nice Day”?)

So the Volturi vote: Caius votes for the very-late-term abortion of Renesmee; Marcus, the Larry to Aro's Moe and Caius's curly, comes out of nowhere and says the child poses no danger and they should bail. Whoa, okay Marcus.

Then, right before Aro speaks and casts his vote that will presumably condemn them all, Edward shouts “Yes!” and everybody stops. (Oh jesus, what is it NOW? I'm exhausted.) Edward gets a “beautiful and terrifying” look on his face and then starts stalling. Ooooh, is something coming out of nowhere to change everything all of a sudden? I CAN'T WAIT TO FIND OUT IF THAT IS WHAT IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN!

Edward asks Aro if things would change if we could be “absolutely sure” how Renesmee will develop. Aro, at this point, probably thinks to himself: Well, it's not like a new character is going to be introduced right NOW, I mean, that would be fucking insane! So he feels comfortable when he says “Yes... if we could be positive...there would be no question to debate.” Uh-oh. You forgot who is writing this fucking shit, Aro!

“Why don't you join us, Alice?” Edward called loudly.
“Alice,” Esme whispered in shock.
Alice, Alice, Alice!
“Alice!” “Alice!” other voices murmured around me.
“Alice,” Aro breathed.

Alice comes back, hooray! But: AT WHAT COST? This is how S. Meyer twists the knife in my back one last time: Guess who Alice is bringing with her? Seriously, GUESS. You'll never guess correctly, because it's someone you have never heard of before! But first, OBVIOUSLY, this happens:

Then Alice danced into the clearing from the southwest, and I felt like the bliss of seeing her face again might knock me off my feet.

Jasper follows, along with “three strangers.” One of them is the other Amazon lezbo, one is a girl vampire, and one is an exotic brown dude (how S. Meyer loves her exotic brown dudes) with a (WAAAIIIIIIIIIIT FORRRRRRRR ITTTTTTTT) heartbeat! He has a heartbeat! Fucking hell.

Alice leaped lightly over the edges of the dissipating mist that lapped at my shield and came to a sinuous stop at Edward's side.

GUHHHHH. She introduces her guests as Huilen and her “nephew” Nahuel. How can a vampire have a nephew? OMG we're about to find out. At Alice's prompting, Huilen tells a story about many moons ago her people were the whatever and her sister got knocked up by a vampire or something while she was wandering in the mountains or some place (so she was just hiking and a weird pale dude was like, “Hey let's fuck” and she was like “Okay, cool”? Is that how S. Meyer met her husband?) and blah blah blah the sister died or some shit blah blah blah but the baby monster lived or whatever and Nahuel is now 150 years old or something oh and also he made Huilen into a vampire one time when he tried to breast feed or something. He reached physical maturity at age 7 and has been the same way ever since. Hey, how about that! (Just like the werewolves, they hit peak physical condition and freeze there. The whole "best of all possible worlds" thing in Voltaire's Candide was sarcastic, did you know that S. Meyer?)

So RNSM won't die like Robin Williams in Jack, she'll just reach physical (so, sexual) maturity and then stay that way so Jacob can fuck her eternally perfect pussy forever. OH YAYYYY. Somehow I knew something like this was going to happen, since it's the least interesting possibility. S. Meyer has such a knack for resolving things in the most boring, irritating manner imaginable--the world's dullest Occam's Razor--and I'm beginning to wonder if this whole book is some kind of prank. Like there will be a fifth Twilight book in which Bella wakes up and it's the end of Eclipse and she calls Edward and is like “I just had the craziest dream...” (and then she'll explain it to him and he'll say "That was the most boring dream I have ever heard. Why did you waste my time with it? Let's break up.")

So okay. A brand new character comes in and flips the whole script on us. This would be an interesting development like, in real life, I guess, but here in a NOVEL (the word should be a clue, Stephenie), it's the worst writing ever. Literally everything the Cullens did was for naught, and literally every development here on the battlefield so far has been rendered meaningless by a new character coming in fucking TEN PAGES FROM THE END and changing all of the HYPER COMPLICATED RULES we've been reckoning with so far.

Why didn't we follow the Cullens on a world-wide search for another creature like Renesmee? Why did that happen out of our view? Why did we have to endure so much nonsense (J. JENKS!?!) when the real work was being done by Alice? And why did it take so long? Nahuel goes on to say that he has sisters, that he met his father eventually and I guess the dude makes a habit of knocking up brown ladies and leaving them single mothers. Oh, that's nice, S. Meyer but anyway what I am saying is THERE ARE APPARENTLY LOTS OF PEOPLE LIKE RENESMEE OUT THERE. And none of the hundreds of vampires in the clearing knew about these hybrids? What the fuck? It also blows up S. Meyer's “RNSM is unique like Jesus” motif from earlier but it's not like she cares about anything older than fifteen pages ago. Lady writes like a goldfish.

For hundreds of pages now, S. Meyer has been digging herself into holes and then awkwardly climbing out. The only rope she left herself was Alice. Having her leave was not a cool, daring plot maneuver, it was a get out of jail free card. With Alice gone, S. Meyer could write whatever insane shit popped into her head, knowing that she had an easy out. And so once she'd muddled through to the end of the book and couldn't write anything better than what she had, she took it. Sure, fine! There OUGHT to be nothing sacred by the end of this fucking thing; S. Meyer just had to take my favorite character and use her against me. This is weirdly poetic justice. Okay, justice isn't the right word.

SIDE BET: I bet having Alice bail was the only revision S. Meyer made. I bet she wrote all the way to the end with Alice in the mix, realized she had no idea how to end this fucker, then went back and took Alice out of the last 200 pages (fuck, there's probably a great threesome scene on the cutting room floor) and added in J. Jenks. She probably did a find-and-replace and changed the word “Alice” to “Edward said darkly.” God damn.