Sunday, February 8, 2009

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

First published in 2006.

I knew we were both in mortal danger. Still, in that instant, I felt
well. Whole. I could feel my hear racing in my chest, the blood pulsing hot and fast through my veins again. My lungs filled deep with the sweet scent that came off his skin. It was like there had never been any hole in my chest. I was perfect - not healed, but as if there had never been a wound in the first place. (book back blurb)

Everything that I’ve said previously about these characters and their personalities still stands. The most compelling characters are those that are tucked in the background, somewhere behind Bella and Edward’s single dimensions. Only now we get to see more of Jacob Black whose mood swings and grumpy tantrums (which would be quite normal in a 16 year old boy) are explained away by the fact that he turns into a werewolf. See, I like the whole werewolf/chick getting her period thing of the movie Ginger Snaps. The parallel made there was awesome and eerily accurate. The teenage boy thing, though, it just seems a little too easy. Perhaps because it was done with little to no oomph and the parallel was made to interact with family history instead of hormone changes. The latter might have been purely coincidental.

Aside from the fact that Bella only defines herself by Edward, the way she attempts to get over him is by falling into the arms of yet another boy. Because that’s healthy. Because she’s been on the verge of a catatonic depression for months so the only way to get herself out of it is to distract herself by getting into an equally unhealthy rebound relationship with someone else. Someone needs a psychiatrist.

And on top of all of that, Bella actually becomes delusional and risks her life in order to trigger these delusions. It’s the only way to hear Edward’s voice. It’s always good to “cheat” on your werewolf pseudo-boyfriend with the boy that now exists only in your head. Again, healthy.

Meyer is quick to defend Bella and claim that none of this is misogynistic, that she really is a strong character. This is what she has to say, from her website–

(Side note: there are those who think Bella is a wuss. There are those who think my stories are misogynistic—the damsel in distress must be rescued by strong hero.

To the first accusation, I can only say that we all handle grief in our own way. Bella’s way is no less valid than any other to my mind. Detractors of her reaction don’t always take into account that I’m talking about true love here, rather than high school infatuation.

I emphatically reject the second accusation. I am all about girl power—look at Alice and Jane if you doubt that. I am not anti-female, I am anti-human. I wrote this story from the perspective of a female human because that came most naturally, as you might imagine. But if the narrator had been a male human, it would not have changed the events. When a human being is totally surrounded by creatures with supernatural strength, speed, senses, and various other uncanny powers, he or she is not going to be able to hold his or her own. Sorry. That’s just the way it is. We can’t all be slayers. Bella does pretty well I think, all things considered. She saves Edward, after all. Side note/rant over. Back to the story.)

Ok, so this is “true love” instead of a high school infatuation. Can the two not be synonymous? Are these stories not one and the same? To say Bella isn’t infatuated with Edward is a bit of a stretch on the best of days.

Do I think Bella is a wuss? No, I just don’t think she’s much of a character. She doesn’t flinch at running off to Italy to save Edward. A wuss wouldn’t have done that. Unfortunately, the definition of Bella is Edward so she was only saving herself. There isn’t a line between the two characters. They are one and the same so it would only be natural for one to save the other if that’s how they define each other. Really, is it so much to try and save yourself?

I think where Meyer misses the point on people objecting to Bella is that very definition of “true love.” In the Twilight world, to truly love another is to completely forfeit your own self. You as an individual no longer exist and are thus only defined by your life mate. I think having the story from Bella’s point of view only magnifies the misogynistic tendencies of the stories because we have a girl whose self-worth is rooted in her boyfriend. We see her not giving a damn about anything else except Edward. And when she isn’t with him, she’s longing for him. Bella is not Bella without Edward. You can say you’re for girl power all you want but when you have a girl whose life revolves around a boy and exists only for him (and occasionally her parents), you’re going to be hard pressed to prove otherwise. I have no doubt it’s entirely possible to truly and fully love someone without forfeiting your individuality and sense of self. This book obviously doesn’t show that.

When Edward leaves, a hole is torn in Bella’s chest. Oh how often she goes back to that image. It’s not occupied and filled again by close friends or family but by yet another boy whom she tries so hard to convince herself is just a friend but, even towards the end of the book, knows she’s not fooling herself. According to Bella, the only way to fill one hole torn in her psyche by a boy is to fill it with another. Isn’t that slightly oxymoronic to the whole girl power message? I understand the whole “we grieve differently” mantra but showcasing this very notion of defining yourself by the boy you date is not something young girls should be reading about.

Another spot where Meyer misses the boat in her own defense was the human actions among inhuman beings. I don’t question that. When you’re around things that can crush your head like a piece of Styrofoam, I have no doubt the intimidation level would be pretty high. And no, not all characters can be slayers. Not everyone is Buffy. But at least Buffy, despite everything else, had a sense of who she was. Bella does not. Meyer is thinking of only extremes in this respect. Bella doesn’t have to be a slayer but if she had a mind of her own, I’m sure her ability to hold her own would have been a little stronger. Unfortunately she no longer sees herself as a person but as Bedward. Bella’s reliance on outside sources for salvation makes her the chick that Buffy would be constantly saving and getting tired of. She doesn’t take responsibility for herself. If she can’t do that, of course she’s not going to be able to stand up to anything. It also helps to be a whole person without the aid of the opposite sex to complete you as well.

Remember, Xander and Willow and Giles were not slayers. They were quite human and quite capable of handling situations on their own. Of course Buffy was able to do it better but they had enough sense of self to not be wholly dependent on her. Even Pike from the original Buffy movie took it upon himself to throw a few stakes even though he knew he was way over his head. He didn’t depend on Buffy to get him out of trouble and while Buffy didn’t require his help and tried to talk him out of helping, she would allow it nonetheless.

I guess what it all really boils down to is the whole dependency issue and how a person defines themselves. I take serious issue with girls that insist on defining themselves according to the guys they’re dating and I’ll be hard-pressed to be convinced it’s true love. Maybe that’s why I’m having such a hard time comprehending all this they live for each other and thus define each other stuff in the books. Have I loved? I am human. Yes, I have, quite deeply and quite painfully and while, with hindsight, I may have gotten in too deep at times, I didn’t lose the sense of who I was. It was always me with a boyfriend, not just a portion of myself while the rest of “me” was at work. I know the concept of “other half” and “better half” and all of that but it does really involve giving up who you are in order to remold the definition of you?

To be fair, I am a very independent person and weakness, especially in the self worth and self recognition departments, frustrates me because you don’t need to have another person in your life to complete the definition of you. They can complete your life, they can fill in a piece of your soul that was missing but they aren’t the essence of your being, the definition of your existence. If I had to interact with Bella, I’d have multiple ulcers.

Meyer makes it OK to love fully and shunt out everyone around you because all you need is love. Bella ostracizing her friends when Edward is around and then even further when he leaves is brushed off because they’re “not the greatest people” to be friends with. They leave a bit to be desired in the personality department. With that I won’t argue but it doesn’t make it right and it certainly doesn’t make it healthy.

Love, love until your heart explodes but keep some semblance of a sense of self. It definitely won’t hurt.

This is a sad story and not in the star-cross’d lovers category. It’s sad in that we have a teenage girl whose only source of existence is her boyfriend. The whole of her self worth is buried in her boyfriend. The reason for her existence is her boyfriend. Nothing else matters except the moments spent together. Perhaps I’m made of stone and I should see the love in that relationship. When I’m reading, I do. But when it sinks in it depresses me. There are a lot of young, impressionable girls reading these books and it makes me sad to think what they’re going to take away from this. I’d like to say they’ll get that true love really does exist but I’m afraid the magnification they’re going to give it, the romantic levels they’re going to take it to are going to surpass any sense of reality that they should have. It’s OK to put your head in the clouds so long as your feet are on the ground. I can only hope.

And yes, I’m still reading them. I don’t read for Edward and Bella. I read for Alice and Ro and Carlisle and the Volturi. Pretty much everything else except Edward and Bella and now Jacob Black. This book, though, was my least favorite. Take some Prozac already, Bella.


robin_titan said...

hahaha prozac, nice

I thought this series was okay, not super amazing and life changing like a LOT of people seem to think
This book was also my least favorite especially since Stephenie Meyer was just writing this to write it, to get people to want more. There wasn't much of a story to it so it lost points for that.

Donna said...

I agree with you on that. It just seemed like ti was filler to create more conflict when Edward finally got back. Her OMG!depreshun! was grossly overexaggerated.

robin_titan said...

hahaha I completely agree!

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