…or, The Return of OH, POOR TOOKIE!

Chapter Eighteen: La Lumière

When we last left Tookie, she was foolishly thinking that she was being sent home when anyone would suspect that the story wouldn’t actually go in that direction. And as it happens, Tookie suddenly starts smelling blood oranges and opens her eyes to find herself in the Modelland campus. ZhenZhen comes up behind Tookie and hugs her, then Tookie sees her three friends walking towards her in slow-motion. She suspects that she’s dreaming, until she sees Chaste and Zarpessa, then she thinks it’s a nightmare. Because if our protagonist doesn’t like them, they’re not allowed to be at Modelland.

ZhenZhen tells them that Thigh-High Boot Camp is over and that they’ve all passed. Including Dylan, sadly. Piper comments on how there was no fashion show, and ZhenZhen states that it’s because Guru Gunnero doesn’t want new Bellas to do fashion shows before the Bellas get lessons from him. Which is reasonable; you wouldn’t want preschools requiring new applicants to already know what’s being taught in order to be enrolled.

Zarpessa makes a smug comment, giving Dylan the opportunity to roll her eyes. Because we need to make it clear that we shouldn’t like the Alpha Bitch and that everything she does and says is Wrong. ZhenZhen reveals that fifty-four students made it through THBC, and tells them to follow her into the D building.

Dylan planted her feet. “Honey chile, I just been invaded by bacteria, sliced and diced by earrings, stabbed by a monster needle, and had my head imprisoned inside a bubble. I’m not goin’ in there until I know what that whacked-out place is.”

Just to remind you of how Dylan talks. Also, funny she didn’t speak up in between the bacteria, earrings, needle, and bubble, but does speak up now when they’re simply going into a building. I guess she was fine with the first three things, but the fourth was just too much.

ZhenZhen says that it’s where they’ll be living, and leads them inside. The first room is a living room—no wait, it’s an “UnCommon Room”, because we need stupid names for everything. Tookie realizes that the “D” stands for “Dorms” at this moment. Six Mannecants enter, carrying Senturas—the strips of fabric that give the models their power. As ZhenZhen explains:

“The Senturas are very, very special. The more you wear them, the stronger your pow-pow-powers become.” ZhenZhen accented the pows with a pointed finger, like she was shooting a pistol.

…why is she doing that? As we’ve already seen, the model powers revolve entirely around being a marketing tool. I think I’m going to have to make a regular feature of “why in the world is this happening?”

The Mannecants toss the Senturas into the air, and the Senturas fit themselves around the girls’ waists. ZhenZhen tells them to keep an eye on their Senturas and to go up to the second floor.

When Tookie and her group go upstairs, they find that the names of who is in what room appear like graffiti out of nowhere on the doors. Piper and Dylan are together in one room, while Tookie and Shiraz are in a different room along with Kamalini. I can’t decide whether Shiraz or Piper is worse, but Dylan is definitely beneath them both and I’m glad that our protagonist will be in a different room than her. Kamalini wonders where the beds are, until Shiraz discovers that they were merely invisible when she stumbles into and falls onto one. Tookie and Kamalini find their beds, and on the white comforters, abstract images of the three girls appear. And yes, the image on Tookie’s comforter is ugly and has differently-coloured eyes.

Kamalini falls onto her bed as if depressed, talking about how nervous she is and how she didn’t try very hard to get into Modelland even before she found a SMIZE. Kamalini admits that her parents are worried about her addiction to her Headbangor. She tells them that her father—an inventor and dean of Chakra’s most prestigious university—invented it. And that her mother is a Chakrawood actress, director, and singer.

Chakrawood.

Um, excuse me? Ms. Banks. They don’t call it “Indiawood”.

Now that I’m done banging my head against a wall, let’s get back to Kamalini’s Headbangor. She explains that “something…happened” and that she uses her Headbangor to “[ease] the pain” and “[help her] forget” She even suffers withdrawal without it. Hooray for cliches.

Kamalini lets Tookie listen to the Headbangor. The song is by Kamalini’s mother, a song about forbidden love. Kamalini realizes that Tookie knows her language, and Shiraz blurts out how Tookie knows every language.

“Magical, Tookie is.”

Nah, just a Sue. To Banks’s credit, Tookie really wasn’t a Mary Sue in the early chapters; a boring and annoying protagonist, yes, but not a Sue. Sadly, that’s going to change in the coming chapters, especially now that Tookie’s mastery of languages is benefitting her and earning her praise.

Anyway, who should turn out to be their fourth roommate but Zarpessa! Zarpessa struts in, acting like a typical Alpha Bitch, even making fun of the picture of Tookie’s face on the bed Tookie chose before stealing Tookie’s bed. Tookie finds another bed, and naturally “it was smaller than the others, and the sheets were the teensiest bit scratchy.”

It’s been a while since I’ve said these words, but here we go again: OH, POOR TOOKIE.

ZhenZhen walks in and tells them that their clothes are in burlap sacks, they can only keep two things from home, and that Modelland tells time not by numbers but by colours. Let’s file that under “why in the world is this happening?”, shall we?

ZhenZhen leaves, then four nightstands appear with nightgowns and toiletry bags. After the girls change into their night clothes, Zarpessa complains about only getting to keep two things from home. Tookie has no problem with it, as she knows what she wants to keep: her T-Mail Jail and her T O OKE button. We’re also told that Shiraz puts a piece of paper into her own drawer.

Zarpessa asks what the “beat-up thing” is that Tookie is holding is. Tookie, afraid that Zarpessa might recognize the button, goes running around the room to grab a large flower to pin over the button. Because Tookie has to do something bizarre in order to cover up her obsession with Theophilus. Is anyone still wondering why Tookie didn’t have friends back in Metopia?

An annoucement comes on, saying that “It is now time for the Lumière.” The lights turn off, and just as everyone is about to go to sleep, a light suddenly appears. The light is shining on Zarpessa’s face, and as Zarpessa explains, the light is her Lumière—a magical light that shines on Bellas at night, with the properties of whatever light they look most flattering in. Apparently, it also makes you look better. This happens because…because, and as Kamalini—whose Lumière also appears—points out, being unable to sleep because you have a light shining in your face because…because would probably negatively affect your appearance.

Shiraz and Tookie don’t have Lumières. Shiraz suspects her light is “broken”, and Zarpessa says that it’s probably because they don’t belong in Modelland. Because of her use of the word “sacrificed”, Tookie and Shiraz wonder about the sacrifice rumours before falling asleep.

And then Tookie wakes up, having sleepwalked out of the D building and ended up in some random location. She sees a passage and hopes that it leads back to the D building.

Then she hears a whack (and surprisingly, it’s “Whack!” instead of the usual bored onomateopia) and a voice mumbling “It’smyfault” over and over. She sees a person beating themselves with a wooden plank and a picture of the Obscure Obelisks. The person reaches for the picture, wailing “SORRY!” over and over, and Tookie finally realizes who this person is.

Ci~L.

So we close off the chapter with another plot-relevant scene that Tookie just happens to stumble upon through sleepwalking. (Earlier in the book, we had Tookie waking up while her father was doing gymnastics in the middle of the night.) So Tookie’s sleepwalking is just a convenient way for her to figure out things.

I shouldn’t have to explain why that’s not good writing.

Chapter Nineteen: CaraCaraCara and the Dormitory Effect

And then Tookie wakes up in her bed, wondering if what she had seen was really a dream. Well, that’s just great. I’m not sure whether it being a dream would be stupider than having her conveniently sleepwalk upon Ci~L or not.

And it turns out that Tookie is sick. OH, POOR TOOKIE!

Tookie goes into the bathroom, where all of the girls inside appear to be nauseous as well. There’s graffiti in one of the bathroom stalls; one of the samples we get is PERSEQUESHON: NEVER FORGET, NEVER RETURN.” It’s written in the book in this really stupid font that I really doubt anyone would take the time to draw on the wall of a bathroom stall.

Tookie sees Piper, who has her toiletries all arranged neatly and is playing with a puzzle. Piper asks Tookie to mess up the puzzle so she can do it again, and Tookie thinks about how all of the people in SansColor are smart, because that’s how countries work in real life. It turns out that Dylan and Piper are rooming with Chaste (Zarpessa’s friend, because the protagonist’s friends need to suffer through the Alpha Bitch’s friend) and the Likee sisters from MiniPaul (who all share the same bed).1

Tookie winces again, and complains to Piper.

Piper shrugged. “Join the club, Tookie. Every new Bella started menstruating at the exact same time this morning.”

“Wait. What?”

That “Wait. What?” is in the book itself, but that’s exactly what I would have said myself anyway.

Piper tells Tookie about menstrual synchrony, also called the dormitory effect—the theory that the menstrual cycles of women who cohabitate synchronize over time. At Modelland, it apparently happens near-instaneously.

Why in the world is this happening?

Tookie says that she never had her period before, to which Piper says that she’s now a woman. Then Tookie looks at Piper’s toothbrush, causing her to remember Chris-Crème-Crobat’s words about his belief that Tookie is not his daughter. She starts angsting about this, looking in the mirror to see if she can find any similarities. She realizes that she looks nothing like Chris-Crème-Crobat. Tearing up, Tookie tries to comb her hair, causing the comb to break. OH, POOR TOOKIE.

A bit later, Tookie hurries out of the D building, wearing her Modelland uniform and Sentura. We’re told about a bottle of perfume that appeared on her nightstand that, when she depressed it, released a mist that formed into a piece of paper with her “quadmester” schedule. I’m still wondering why things like this have to happen. Tookie’s schedule consists of CaraCaraCara at Midnight-Blue, Run-a-Way Intensive at Kelly Green, and Mastication at Goldenrod. Remember, Modelland uses colours instead of numbers for time because…because.

Tookie heads off to the right, and we get a comment about how “CaraCaraCara” means “FaceFaceFace” in Gowdee’an. She comes upon a half-finished stadium, where male models from Bestosterone are working on construction. It’s great that models in this world do so much more than simply modelling.

One Bestostero asks if she’s lost, and introduces himself as Bravo. Tookie is completely unable to speak, even as he talks about the fireball that burned down the previous stadium. One of his fellow male models asks Bravo “what” he is talking to, but Tookie just turns and walks away.

Eventually, Tookie ends up at the CaraCaraCara building, the massive ship she had seen on the orientation tour. Piper, Shiraz, and Dylan are already there, each of them bearing “achy, period-stricken looks”. After looking at the bust of the BellaDonna on the ship’s bow, they enter a room which Piper immediately deduces as being the inside of a shark. The teacher appears, a tall man with “poochy lips, a button nose, bushy eyebrows, and twinkly, saucer-shaped eyes” whose “features flapped and twisted as if they were made of something much more flexible than flesh and bone.” Saying “¡Hola!” several times, the teacher introduces himself as Guru Pacifico Cruz, from Texicoco. And yes, he frequently and randomly uses Spanish words in his dialogue. He explains that the class is inside of a great white shark to warn them of the “sharks” in the real world, and mentions the cramps that all of the girls are suffering from and the dormitory effect. The point of CaraCaraCara class, as Guru Pacifico explains, is not to mirror expressions but to mask them, to make the opposite expression of what they see or feel.

“But fail, and you may be relegated to spending your life as, heaven forbid, an actress.” The Guru said this last word in a low, disgusted whisper. “Actresses are incapable of ‘opposite performing.’ They must think about sad times in their lives to project sadness on the silver screen. Nonsense! We mustn’t let that pitiful fate happen to you.”

More actress-bashing. Because every actress acts in the exact same way, and thus that way of acting is Bad.

Pacifico has the girls wrap their Senturas around their heads, telling them that the Senturas will help them show the opposite expressions.

With the sound of a shark bite, an image appears before all of the girls of a two-headed vulture picking at a child’s eyes. Most of the Bellas freak out over the image. Zarpessa has no problem smiling at the image and bragging about it.

Next, the image turns into a feather that tries to tickle the girls. While Tookie’s friends and Chaste are able to prevent the feather from tickling them with their Senturas (and Chaste’s Sentura is described as “[shimmying] sexily” because she’s a slut; I’m going to touch upon this at the end), Tookie’s Sentura does nothing. Pacifico calls her out on her failure, and she feels bad that the first time that she has been called out in class ever was for something negative. OH, POOR TOOKIE!

The next few pictures are of rotting food and “an earless baby rabbit abandoned by its mother.” Piper is doing well at showing opposite expressions. Next comes a bunch of boys mooning and a hooded Death-like figure. Tookie continues to fail and be called out by Pacifico.

The only girl he corrrected almost as much was dead-faced Bo, who didn’t even freak over a photo of a dead cat giving birth to an octopus on an abandoned road.

…excuse me while I throw up.

And as it would happen, the movement of the ship causes Tookie to throw up. This causes Bo to throw up as well, which relieves Tookie for some odd reason.

Pacifico tells the girls to remove their Senturas from their heads, then after considering calling out Piper on her good work, praises Zarpessa instead. Zarpessa brags that she was trained, while she and Tookie glance at each other, knowing that her claims are false. Tookie feels a little sorry and envious for Zarpessa, which probably won’t change how Tookie treats Zarpessa like scum.

Pacifico explains that the girls have two gifts for finishing their first CaraCaraCara class, and the wall opens up to reveal the masthead of the BellaDonna. The BellaDonna masthead speaks to the girls, explaining the first gift: that they will never have periods again in their lives, for Modelland doesn’t want their studies impaired by their cycles. They’ll still be able to reproduce, but will never have another period in their lives. “Period.”

So Modelland causes every girl to suffer through periods…then makes it so that they never suffer periods again? Brilliant.

And what does Tookie do? Angst, of course—she thinks about how Myrracle had teased Tookie about not having her periods yet, and how she had “finally reached womanhood” only to have it snatched away. Because the defining trait of being a woman is an unpleasant cycle.

The second gift are three-dimensional images of their work in class. Dylan complains about not having had her “game face” on. Chaste makes a comment about her image being hot, and Zarpessa mocks Tookie’s image. Tookie worries about the possibility of failing and angsts about her family, Lizzie, and the possibility of becoming a Factory Dependent. Her thoughts then turn to the rumours of sacrifices and experiments, with the chapter closing on Tookie’s worries that she will be nothing more than a guinea pig.

We’ve already gone over how Zarpessa is a flat Alpha Bitch, but I want to touch upon Chaste. Chaste’s only character traits are that a) she’s a friend of Zarpessa and b) she’s a slut. And based on how her slutty behaviour is portrayed, it’s safe to assume that we’re supposed to have a negative opinion of her when she tries to act sexy.

But what about when Dylan tries to act sexy? Should we be scoffing and scowling when she does a sexy swagger, as she did in a previous chapter? Or should we have a different view on her attempts to act sexy solely because she’s a positive character (by virtue of being nice to the protagonist)?

We’ll stop here for today, but there’ll be plenty of poor storytelling and angst-fuel for the protagonist in the future. We’ll tackle Chapters 20, 21, and 22 in the next installment, get them over with, because Chapter 23…let’s just say that Chapter 23 is a special chapter.

(And apologies for taking so long and only doing two chapters this time. Can you blame me for being more interested in Mass Effect than the dormitory effect?)

1 Kudos to sakuuya, who figured out that the home of the Likee sisters, MiniPaul, is a combination of “Minneapolis” and “St. Paul”, also known as “the twin cities”.

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Comment

  1. swenson on 14 March 2013, 08:33 said:

    Piper tells Tookie about menstrual synchrony, also called the dormitory effect

    Which may not actually exist, but in this book, I doubt that matters much.

    Tookie says that she never had her period before

    All together now: OH, POOR TOOKIE! Because of course the pathetic protagonist is a late bloomer too, because that’s the worstest possible thing ever for a girl to suffer through. There’s enough of that kind of pressure on young girls (who CAN’T CONTROL WHEN THEY HIT PUBERTY ANYWAY) without getting it from escapist fantasy, thank you very much…

    The BellaDonna masthead speaks to the girls, explaining the first gift: that they will never have periods again in their lives, for Modelland doesn’t want their studies impaired by their cycles.

    There is no downside to this. Tookie is just naive.

    This world is like… a cartoon. I’d criticize worldbuilding or magic system or something, but there… isn’t one, really. Stuff just sort of happens. We’ve discussed this before, that maybe that’s just how this world works and I have to get over it, but I can’t stop myself from trying to analyze it and work out the rules. And there just doesn’t seem to be one. Why do ordinary people (like Tookie) just seem to be ordinary people, while in Modelland, magic is apparently possible and used frequently with no repercussions or cost? Is it magic or technology or divine will or what? Why do they actually need things anymore if they can change reality by waving their hands? Where does this power come from, who controls it, and why can’t ordinary people do it?! It just doesn’t add up!

    (on a side note, I didn’t intend to talk entirely about periods, it’s just that’s the most nonsensical part of this chapter, and that’s saying a lot.)

  2. Brendan Rizzo on 14 March 2013, 12:16 said:

    Just to remind you of how Dylan talks. Also, funny she didn’t speak up in between the bacteria, earrings, needle, and bubble, but does speak up now when they’re simply going into a building. I guess she was fine with the first three things, but the fourth was just too much.

    Not to defend Dylan, but I think it’s reasonable to be suspicious of Modelland after all that. Did she even have the opportunity to express her doubts before this?

    Tookie finds another bed, and naturally “it was smaller than the others, and the sheets were the teensiest bit scratchy.”

    It’s been a while since I’ve said these words, but here we go again: OH, POOR TOOKIE.

    First World problems for the win.

    “PERSEQUESHON: NEVER FORGET, NEVER RETURN.”

    Never Again?

    Piper shrugged. “Join the club, Tookie. Every new Bella started menstruating at the exact same time this morning.”

    “Wait. What?”

    What the frick-frack? Some of us don’t want to read about this, particularly those of us in possession of Y chromosomes.

    Then Tookie looks at Piper’s toothbrush, causing her to remember Chris-Crème-Crobat’s words about his belief that Tookie is not his daughter. She starts angsting about this, looking in the mirror to see if she can find any similarities. She realizes that she looks nothing like Chris-Crème-Crobat. Tearing up, Tookie tries to comb her hair, causing the comb to break. OH, POOR TOOKIE.

    Oh, for Pete’s sake. How does the first thing lead to next? And why would she even want to be Chris-Crème-Crobat’s daughter? He’s a horrible person!

    and Mastication at Goldenrod

    In the immortal words of Tara Gilesbie: “And Loopin was masticating to it!”

    Oh, that cracks me up.

    One Bestostero asks if she’s lost, and introduces himself as Bravo. Tookie is completely unable to speak, even as he talks about the fireball that burned down the previous stadium.

    Will Bravo become Tookie’s love interest? Will she realize that Theophilus isn’t into her? Will they enter a love triangle? Find out next week!

    With the sound of a shark bite, an image appears before all of the girls of a two-headed vulture picking at a child’s eyes. Most of the Bellas freak out over the image.

    Wow, this place is horrible. Modelland seems to have an obsession with shock sites. If Banks isn’t writing satire, I will be very worried.

    But what about when Dylan tries to act sexy? Should we be scoffing and scowling when she does a sexy swagger, as she did in a previous chapter? Or should we have a different view on her attempts to act sexy solely because she’s a positive character (by virtue of being nice to the protagonist)?

    Oh, double standards! Where would we be without you?

    Is it just me, or is this book actually getting worse?

  3. lilyWhite on 14 March 2013, 13:04 said:

    Not to defend Dylan, but I think it’s reasonable to be suspicious of Modelland after all that. Did she even have the opportunity to express her doubts before this?

    She does talk during THBC, but never actually complains about what’s happening to them during THBC.

    Is it just me, or is this book actually getting worse?

    I’m not sure whether it was worse at the beginning or worse now. There was a period in between the beginning and now where it wasn’t awful, but now we’re getting more Tookie angst and stuff happening for no good reason.

  4. Takugifian on 14 March 2013, 18:26 said:

    “Actresses are incapable of ‘opposite performing.’ They must think about sad times in their lives to project sadness on the silver screen.”

    Because runway models are SO expressive and emotive.

    And what does Tookie do? Angst

    I could understand that, because she’s just been effectively made sterile. No Tookophilus or Thoodie! Oh, poor Tookie!

  5. Lady Momus on 15 March 2013, 19:32 said:

    I could understand that, because she’s just been effectively made sterile. No Tookophilus or Thoodie! Oh, poor Tookie!

    Sadly, no. The book says that they won’t have any more periods, but they can still have kids.

  6. Taku on 15 March 2013, 21:25 said:

    How would that work, biologically speaking? How are they going to have children, if they can’t/don’t ovulate?

  7. Lady Momus on 15 March 2013, 21:41 said:

    How would that work, biologically speaking? How are they going to have children, if they can’t/don’t ovulate?

    Well, being underweight can result in skipped periods. So if you want to be generous, you could say this is a reference to how modelling can lead to skipped periods. Or it could be another attempt to make the audience feel sorry for Tookie.

    My theory is that Tyra thought that she didn’t need to explain how it works because it’s magic.