Tuesday, June 26, 2012


I get it now. It took three entire volumes, but I finally understand the appeal of these books. It doesn't make me like them any better, but it does make the phenomenon a little less inexplicable. These books are porn for girls with low self-esteem. And not in the Arrested Development sense of "girls with low self-esteem". These books are meant to serve as living proof that you can be a big soggy sack of nothing and still receive undying, unconditional love from everyone around you. Not only do you not have to put any effort into being kind, or charismatic, or decent in any way, you can actually be actively unpleasant to everyone you know and all people will ever do is lavish constant affirmations of praise on you and indulge your every whim like the spoiled bitch princess you are. That's the real fantasy of this series, not the vampire/werewolf crap.

Eclipse is not the worst book of this series, but that's not a compliment. For a while, it seems like Stephenie Meyer is going out of her way not to repeat the mistakes of the first two books. Dream sequences are kept to a minimum. We get some backstory that has to be told from the point of view of characters other than Bella, for a change. Bella even does something useful for the first time in this series: she deduces that the vampire(s) who raided her room and stole her clothes earlier in the book are the same as the groups of vampires who are responsible for a slew of unsolved murders up in Seattle. The plot of this book is that the girl vampire who was soulmates with the evil vampire who tried to kill Bella in the first book has been building up an army of newborn vampires to stage an attack on Edward's family.

This has potential for excitement because as soon as you hear about you think "Hey, the good vampires should team up with the werewolves and fight these guys!" But unfortunately, that potential is never realized. The Cullens and the werewolves are all raring to go kick some newb-vampire ass, but Bella, being a killjoy spoilsport, refuses to let Edward join in the battle, despite the fact that, you know, him being in the fight gives them a significant tactical advantage. Once again, she puts her own selfish needs above everyone else's, putting everyone else's life in danger in the process, and instead of being called out for it she gets treated like her requests are perfectly reasonable and is accommodated accordingly. So instead of being treated to a epic orgy of vampire-killing action, we as readers merely have to settle for a much smaller-scale showdown between Edward, the vengeful female vampire, one of Jacob's friends, and another bad guy vampire, while Edward experiences the actual big battle telepathically. At the risk of quoting Jay-Z's "Takeover", that's so LAAAAAAMMME.

What's lamer still is the book's treatment of sexual mores. OK, so Edward puts the condition of turning Bella into a vampire that she has to marry him first. That's pretty controlling, but somewhat understandable. But then Bella tries to get him to sleep with her before they go through with any of this stuff. Not that you could blame Edward for blanching at the idea of having sex with such a hateful person, but he's constantly been telling her how much he loves her and how "amazing" he thinks she is all this time. And his reasons for not doing it are flimsy. First he's like, "I'd kill you." Maybe he had been planning on doing her only after she became a vampire or something, but she wants to experience this as a human, which she is well within her rights to want. But I still don't buy that just because he's a vampire, he'd be unable to control his super-strength during sex. If anything, being a 117-year-old virgin just means that he wouldn't last long enough in the sack to put Bella in any danger at all (except the danger of an underwhelming sexual experience). Then, he claims he wants to preserve his virginity until marriage because he's committed every other sin in the book, and he wants to remain "virtuous" in the last remaining area. So, the guy who betrays no other religious inclination whatsoever in any of these books suddenly becomes all pious when it comes to chastity. I understand that Stephenie Meyer wants to impose her values on us, but there had to have been a more elegant way to do it. Near the end, Edward finally relents and decides to give her some, but then for no reason at all she declines and the only explanation we get from her is "I want to do this right." Well that sure cleared it up!

The love triangle is way overblown. Team Edward vs. Team Jacob is never presented as a legitimate choice. At the end of the book, Bella arbitrarily comes to the realization that she actually is in love with Jacob as well, but instead of putting her in the dilemma of who to spend her life with, all this does is wrack her with guilt over how to let Jacob down easy. Keep in mind that earlier in the book, she punched Jacob in the face for kissing her. (not that Jacob wasn't asking for it; he kind of rape-kissed her) How she went from punching a guy in the face for kissing her to claiming to be in love with him is anyone's guess; the text sure doesn't give us any clues. This is nothing but artificial conflict. Bella never for one moment even entertains the thought of leaving Edward, so how is this even a love triangle? Not wanting to hurt somebody's feelings is not the same thing as being in love with that person.

See, in addition to every other defect it is possible for a fictional character to have, Bella is a walking martyr complex. Stephenie Meyer even realizes this, to the extent that she inserts a didactic werewolf/Indian myth about a woman who saves the tribe by sacrificing herself to the vampires. Bella recognizes herself in the woman immediately, and longs to off herself just to give her friends some kind of upper hand in the battle against the bad vampires. Every event that takes place in the book, she never thinks about any of it in any terms other than how it directly impacts her and her happiness. Everybody else falls all over themselves to please her, she never shows any gratitude toward anyone, she even acknowledges that this world would be a better place for all concerned without her. What is this all for, if not to burnish the egos of all the women who identify with someone like Bella?

But this is Meyer's world. Love will happen to you, regardless of whether you seek it or want it or merit it in anyway. Have you heard of this werewolf thing she came up with called "imprinting?" For some reason, in her mythology every werewolf has a certain someone out there that they fall in love with on the spot, no matter what age they are. For the rest of their lives (and they live a long time, even if they're not immortal like the vampires), they remain bonded to this person no matter what happens. One of Jacob's friends falls in love with a baby here. To her credit, Bella is properly outraged by this, but then Jacob explains that when you imprint on a person, you become whatever they need at that point in time. So you'll be her favorite uncle until she's old enough to marry you or whatever. That's the ideal for love, in Stephenie Meyer's world. You see someone once, and it's over. You love them forever, and those feelings never have to be earned or maintained. They just happen, for no reason. It's all about as magical and believable as, well, werewolves and vampires.

Only one book left. Then our nightmare will be over. Unless I decide to start watching the movies.

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