Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Life and Death: A Critical Analysis of Twilight, Reimagined, Chapters 11 and 12

Chapters 1-3

Chapters 4 & 5

Chapters 6 & 7

Chapters 8-10

Chapter 11: Complications

Summary: Bella/Beau sit through a VHS movie in biology with palpable (though not literal) electricity coursing betwixt them. (Bella/Beau claim they can't remember what the movie was, but it was Bill Nye the Science Guy. What else could it have possibly been?) After biology there's gym class with Bella/Beau being the requisite klutz (snore), and she/he find out Edward/Edythe peeped on them during the most embarrassing badminton game of her/his life! Edward/Edythe drive Bella/Beau home and explain why she/he can never see him/her hunt (too dangerous). There's a fraught moment, the meaning of which seems to mostly exist within the mind of the person not narrating, and Bella/Beau has a restless night. The next day is more of the same, and Mike/McKayla confronts Bella/Beau about Edward/Edythe. Long story short: Mike/McKayla doesn't like it. Bella/Beau blows him/her off and joins Edward/Edythe, who continue his/her long list of fascinating getting-to-know-you questions. Just as they're ending their day, Jacob/Jules shows up with Billy/Bonnie, who Bella/Beau can tell just knows.

Analysis: The long and short of it is: Meyer just got to be a better writer in the ten years between these books.
Well, okay, that's the short of it. Let's get to the long of it: Why, why, why is Bella/Beau so freaking clumsy? I'm no sports fanatic, but any idiot can wield a badminton racket. This isn't exactly Sweet Valley High territory here, but Bella's/Beau's clumsiness does come perilously close to being a complete absurdity.
Edward/Edythe spy on Bella/Beau during gym (the narrative--and us, it seems by extension--totally glosses over the changing-for-gym aspect of this) and Bella is pissed about it. I say that because Beau is reasonably embarrassed (maybe he didn't forget he had to change into those shorts), but kinda doesn't care because it's not that big of a deal. Bella, however, goes stomping off, only placated by some lame pretend apology Edward offers. It's kind of . . .listen, for a high school girl, that pretend-to-be-mad stuff isn't completely unbelievable (full disclosure: I remember doing something similar). But, if we're to believe that Bella is "wise beyond her years" or something--mature enough that Edward, at 100+ years old, finds her fascinating, we're going to have to do better than stomping off in a huff.
Beau pulls off a pretty spectacular cafeteria scene to get out of going to prom with Taylor. He even includes a line he remembers thinking about Edythe, "Is it being beautiful that's made you so cruel?" which I just think is great.
On the second day of the VCR electricity study (why isn't Mr./Mrs. Banner doing any teaching? is it right before a holiday? 2 days of movies? get a lesson plan, pal), the tension is back. Bella feels an "irrational longing" and struggles with her self control. Beau, however, does not just suffer from vaguely irrational longing--he longs specifically. He longs to put his arm around Edythe.
 . . . to pull her into my side and hold her against me. I wanted to run my fingers down the length of her hair, to bury my face in it. I wanted to trace the shape of her lips, the line of her cheekbone, the length of her throat . . .(180)
Meyer got a lot of grief for writing so much sexless longing, but what this proves (to me, anyway) is that there was room in Twilight for more sensuality, it just needed to be coaxed from the writer.

Chapter 12: Balancing

Summary: Jacob/Jules and Billy/Bonnie come over to watch the game. Jacob/Jules ask about Edward/Edythe and Bella/Beau stand guard to make sure no one's talking any trash about the Cullens. Edward/Edythe go hunting with a stern warning to Bella/Beau to keep safe. The next morning Edward/Edythe and Bella/Beau go for a real angsty hike.

Analysis: The choice to change everyone's gender but Charlie's (and Renee's) gives Charlie's relationship with Bonnie a different connotation than his relationship with Billy. It's fine, but kind of distracting.
Ugh, okay, so, they're in the cafeteria and Edward is asking Bella if she told her father where she was going and with who, so Charlie will know who to ask if Bella maybe goes missing (we're not even going to get into that implicit threat because it exists in both books). Bella tries to play it cool and makes a joke about having to do laundry and maybe Charlie will think she fell into the washing machine. I don't want to be over-dramatic here, but it's excruciating. Lucky Beau gets a watered down version of this "joke".
Apart from that, it's pretty similar, until they get to the trail head. Bella/Beau and Edward/Edythe are matching, for some inexplicable reason, and they all take off their sweaters as the day has gotten warmer. Which is fine, because we're about to see some vampires glitter.
So, Edward is perfect, as Bella keeps telling us. She compares him to an angel, which I find not particularly sensual, but, that's me. They get to the hike and Edward is standing there in a white shirt, which is . . . sleeveless, and, apparently a button down (because it's unbuttoned, so she can see "the marble contours of his chest, his perfect musculature no longer merely hinted at behind concealing clothes." (174))?
I'll be honest. I find this all kind of embarrassing. Which is probably my problem. Because when we speak of male beauty or sensuality, this is usually not the kind of language that's used. But, it's not inaccurate, it's just not the norm. Which . . . I don't know, is actually fine. (except for the sleeveless button-down shirt. there's no excuse for that. did he buy it that way? tear off the sleeves? will someone please explain to me how this happened?!??
However, in Beau's story, Edythe is wearing a tank top, which--at least I can imagine where she purchased such an article of clothing. She's looking away from Beau and he can see the
. . . delicate shapes of her shoulder blades almost like furled wings under her pale skin . . . Her pale arms, her slip shoulders, the fragile-looking twigs of her collarbones, the vulnerable hollows above them, the swanlike column of her neck, the gentle swell of her breasts--don't stare, don't stare--and the ribs I could nearly count under the thin cotton. (199) 
So, here again we can see Meyer embracing a far more sensual style of language, one that, if applied in the a similarly mature way, could have allowed for a much more open discussion of Bella and Edward's sexual choices.
Comparing these two stories is an odd exercise, because Life and Death is simply a better written book, and Beau is a better written character. He's innocent without appearing naive, he's mature without feeling morose. He's allowed to be aware of his sexuality without it becoming a driving force. He's so many things Bella's not, but it's not fair to Bella to condemn her for these lacks. She could have been these things too. And I wonder how that would have changed the dialogue about these books. I don't mind that they don't have sex. Everyone wants their characters to get together, but once they do, it's a snoozefest (just look at book 4, for crying out loud). That Edward and Bella don't hook up keeps things interesting, keeps people on their toes. But, I wonder if Bella had been allowed to be a more sensual person, more aware and in control of her sexuality, instead of just throwing herself at Edward, so he's forced to be cast as the morality police, how would that have changed the fundamental nature of their relationship and the conversation surrounding it?

1 comment:

  1. Such good thoughts. I actually really liked this book. I agree that the writing is just way better this time around.
    I also find the sensual stuff a little hilarious.