Here we are in the final leg of this book – the Breaking Dawn section and four more essays remaining. Surely it can’t get any worse…
Twilight like some of the best examples of vampire fiction, both celebrates and critiques the creature upon which it focuses.
lolwut? No really, where did the Twilight “saga” critiqued meyerpires?
It’s easy to see what’s wrong with bloodsuckers, but what makes them so appealing? The answer is simple: wish Fulfillment. Human desire is the basis for the vampire mystique. While vampires remain horrific by virtue of their transgressive acts, we nonetheless desire to be like them. By why is that? As we’ll see, existential philosophy offers an explanation for our fascination with vampires and suggests that it is a love we may want to bury.
[gasp] A chapter with… with actual philosophy?
Hang on, I need to lie down a moment.
Whew, for a minute I was panicking. Yeah turns out this chapter isn’t that bad. Sorry to disappoint everyone.
An Undying Wish
The existential philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) argued that humans fear death more than anything else. Although other things can inspire fear, nothing arouses it like our mortality. Indeed, Heidegger suggested that most commonplace fears derive from, and are psychological substitutes for, our fear of death.
It’s a frequent cliche nowadays that public speaking is actually feared more than death yet this chapter never does address or mention that. Which is funny because following the above is a long proof about us fearing death, which… I don’t think needs much proof. If you’re capable of reading this chapter, I’m willing to bet that you are quite aware of the human condition and the universal fear of death. An examination of how public speaking fits in with death would have been more interesting.
Although she [Bella] is happy to have escaped a violent death, she despairs because Edward’s rescue is temporary. In rescuing her, he damns her to eventual death.
Well… that’s true of every rescue ever. If anything, it was her parents who damned her to eventual death by birthing her. All Edward (and anyone else who saves her) does is postpone the inevitable. And that’s all anyone can do any day at any time. I find it pretty insulting to say that our firemen or EMTs or doctors “damn” anyone.
Bella cries, “I’m going to die… every minute of the day I get closer.” Although Edward and Jacob Black try to convince Bella that death is natural, she states, “I was… eager to trade mortality for immortality.” She asks, “What [is] so great about mortality?” and regrets that Eddward is wedded to an idea “as stupid as leaving [her] human.” She describes transformation into a vampire positively—even religiously—as a “conversion that [will] set [her] free from [her] mortality.”
This is… kind of weird. On the one hand, I’m no fan of death (except in Bill & Ted 2, he’s cool there) but it’s not like immortality isn’t without costs as well. Even meyerpires. It’s one of life’s greatest paradoxes that while death is the enemy and our greatest foe, we might need it on this side of its veil. After all, what if the most evil of us couldn’t die? (just one example) It is for good reason that the lands of immortals are often shown as nations of saints.
So what then? We all seek to be free of mortality, but what horrors might we become if we obtain physical perfection before moral and spiritual perfection? That’s a question I wish this chapter would answer. As das_mervin has pointed out, Bella is far from even a morally decent person (well, we are told she is, but not shown) yet she is granted immortality regardless. Does this parable show that flawed man should not be immortal? Or the opposite?
Although our own mortality tends to be of greatest concern, we suffer the mortality of others, too. … This desire to extend immortality to others is also illustrated in Twilight. Carlisle Cullen creates the members of his family not only for companionship, but also to save them from the “horrible… waste” of premature death.
Now that could be an interesting story. I always laugh in New Moon [movie] when the bad meyerpire calls Bella the “pet” of the Cullens. So what if the Cullens had pets before Bella? (or what if some of the family were a “pet” to Carlisle prior to adoption?) The dynamics could be very interesting.
So after this we go into a long segment on aging and how meyerpirism also fights that, and I will give the essayist credit for recognizing that youth has become a fetish a lot more in recent society than it was historically which… has its pros and cons. Let’s skip all that to return to our lulz-worthy TW:
Because Bella seeks a long-term relationship with an immortal vampire, she expresses more concern over aging than most teens. She states that “age is a touch subject,” and when she discovers that Edward, his family, and Jacob are exempt from aging, she screams furiously, “ ‘Not… again? Is that a joke?’ … Tears – tears of rage – filled my eyes… ‘Am I the only one who has to get old? I get older every stinking day! … Damn it! What kind of world is this? Where’s the justice?’ “
Justice? JUSTICE? Next time someone asks me why I hate Bella so, this is the quote I’m using! I mean… what does this have to do with justice??? To quote a far, FAR better writer:
Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them?
What does one’s life have to do with justice at all? No child, one minute old, has done a thing to earn its existence and in the world of Twilight what has anyone done to “earn” their meyerpire status? That word – that concept – has no bearing here. This is an apt demonstration on how skewed is some peoples’ concept of what they are “owed”. I’ve watched far, FAR better men and women than Bella die way too soon. Men and women that contributed far more to improving the world than she did in her hypothetical world. Where’s your justice then, bitch? Can I tear the years from you and give them to those more deserving? No! So don’t you DARE mention the word “justice” in regards to your pathetic life ever again!
(it’s a good thing I never read the books, I probably would have set them on fire at that point)
… Where was I?
Mortality and aging are not the only problems that people have with embodiment. Bodies have other “weaknesse[s]” that we seek to overcome. Although our bodies are possessed of many wonderful abilities, they are also vulnerable. We suffer extremes of cold and heat. We are easily injured. Minor falls can break bones. Simple accidents can cause injuries that demand emergency care. Our susceptibility to injury compels a desire for the superhuman bodies that vampires possess.
It’s ironic because those vulnerabilities are usually necessary for the “wonderful abilities” our bodies have. Suffering is how our bodies tell us something is wrong and we need to fix ourselves or our surroundings. Let’s assume for a minute that we didn’t suffer extreme cold/heat because they didn’t affect us. How then would we appreciate a cold creek around our feet or savor the warm touch of a lover? Being able to sense the good means that we must also sense the bad else the bad would be fatal.
And falls are injurious not because of our bodies, but because of that harsh mistress, gravity (a force of nature I don’t think we’d want to do without).
How many of us would give up many of the joys and pleasures of life to gain the “benefits” that many immunities and invulnerabilities would grant us? After all, if meyerpires were completely scientifically accurate, they would be as unmoving as the statues they are as hard as.
These anxieties make it easy to sympathize with Bella, the charming, yet comically clumsy teen.
Wait – Charming? REALLY? Has this author read the books? Or watched the movies?
Vampires are appealing not simply because of their indestructibility, but also because of their special powers. Like the superheros from Marvel Comics, the vampires in Twilight are possessed of superhuman strength and speed.
Wait – hold on. Marvel comics? Don’t get me wrong, I like Marvel, but look at all the references to invulnerability and strength and speed. All that and you don’t think about or mention Superman? The FIRST superhero and mainstay of DC comics who “standardized” the idea of superheroes being invulnerable, strong, and fast? What the hell – What the actual hell?
Oh and don’t forget how, in addition to all their super-special-awesome abilities, the vampires are pretty:
Perhaps nothing is emphasized more consistently in the Twilight saga than Edward’s physical appeal.
My fellow imps, I present you with my nominee for understatement of the year.
Vampires feed our thirst to be special in another way. Sartre and his fellow existentialists agreed that a major cause of human anxiety is our lack of necessity. We see concern over meaning in Twilight when Bella denies that she possesses any special abilities and scoffs at the notion that she could be the object of undying love. Regardless, she captures Edward’s heart, commanding his affection so powerfully that, like Romeo, he declares that he will not live without her. In addition, she ends up being a central figure in an epic battle and the unsuspecting savior of the vampires from the Volturi. Bella expresses our own latent wish to escape anonymity and ascend to a state of supreme significance.
Interesting, I think they’re onto something there. Just imagine how immensely popular a religion would be if it made the above a core principle and promise. It would probably spread worldwide.
Though Heidegger argued that we normally take comfort in others, Sartre was alert to the potential that our relationships have to arouse anxiety. … We don’t know who represents a threat because we do not know what others are thinking. Philosophers call this the problem of other minds. While people can tell us what they are thinking, they don’t always do this. We don’t like this! Vampires, though, can read minds. The vampires in the Twilight saga derive additional appeal from this ability.
Uh… I haven’t read the series and even I know Ed’s the only one who can do this, it’s not a species-wide feature. (by the way, would anyone else be interested in seeing how I would write Midnight Sun?)
Although they are subject to some limitations, they are all able to see into the minds of others, with one exception: Bella. … Bella and the vampires articulate an understandable wish with respect to others. More often than not, we would like to be able to know what others are thinking; however, we do not want them to be able to do the same.
IT’S. JUST. EDWARD! that reads minds. Oh and that right there? That’s why true equality in this life is nothing but a pipe dream for the foreseeable generations. We all love the idea of everyone else being equal, but we? We want to be exceptional (and yes I’m very much including myself there, I’m probably more guilty of it than any of you). It takes a LOT of self-discipline to willingly give up an advantage that benefits you that you may be equal to others. I certainly don’t do it nearly as often as I should. (Heh, that would have made the series interesting. Just imagine: Carlisle has a plot to turn every human on earth into a meyerpire, not only making everyone equal, but then also forcing all vampires to become “vegetarians”. The Volturi want to stop him.) Even the essay ends up agreeing in a roundabout way:
Vampires personify the desire to ascend to “another plane of being” where we are no longer affected by “constant concern” for other people. Others are reduced to means, indeed, to meals. Vampires do not have to curb their impulses to gain social acceptance. Instead, they embody our desire for “absolute freedom,” our wish to be “master of the situation,” “to get hold of [another person] and reduce [him] to being subject… to my freedom.”
Actually I’m pretty sure meyerpires do have to curb their appetite to gain social acceptance. Even if they don’t want to fit in with other humans, the Volturi will pitch a fit if meyerpires go on a buffet-rampage (for some reason). The big difference is that meyerpires don’t need social acceptance like we do.
The rest of this essay is actually pretty good and I don’t find many faults with it, although I think the author’s attempted proof of Meyer’s negativity towards her chosen people is stretching things:
As in classic works of vampire fiction, she uses gothic imagery, negative characterization, and graphic violence to cast suspicion on her shining subjects. From the onset, Forks is described in ominous terms. From the word itself, which alludes both to a flesh-piercing eating utensil and a point at which a precipitous choice must be made, Forks is presented negatively as an irrevocably gloomy place affected with “omnipresent shade.”
Of which I note, 1) It’s official people. “Gothic” no longer has any meaning. And 2) I’m pretty sure das_mervin has proven that all the negative characterization in Meyer’s novels are unintended.
Otherwise the rest of the essay is almost a comical effort to talk about religion and theology without actually mentioning religion or theology. There’s not much Twilight lulz, so we’ll end this journey here. (I might continue discussion of this one on my blog but they’re too boring for here.)
Man at this rate, the home stretch of this book might be easy going. What’s the next chapter?
Bella’s Vampire Semiotics
Oh that’s going to be fun!
Oh! I’m also announcing a “big” prize. At the end of this series (3 more essays to go), one lucky commenter can win the copy of T&P I’ve been working on (complete with all of my notes on the pages, and damages suffered when I threw the book across the room). The only rule is that certain imps (who’s user handles begin with ‘S’ – you know who you are) won’t be eligible since they’ve already got other goodies from me already. Otherwise my decision is completely arbitrary. One can run back and comment on earlier entries right up until I announce a winner. Sucking up to the judge isn’t sanctioned, but it is encouraged.