Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Eclipse: morality obliterated by sparkly lurv

George Takei, who rivals James Earl Jones in the "I'd listen to him reading a shopping list" voice department, sends out a plea for Star Trek and Star Wars fans to unite against the mutual threat of... Twilight. "There are no great stories, characters or profound life lessons to be had in Twilight." He's right.

I have read the first two books in the saga and last night watched the third movie, Eclipse, thinking to further my education. I'm writing this assuming the scene I'm about to highlight plays out more or less the same in the book. Once again I was stunned by the moral bankruptcy of the very people we're supposed to be rooting for - the Cullens. While the hero is busy impressing us all by saving himself for marriage, something happens at the end that makes me wonder just how badly characters can behave without readers noticing because they're - I don't know, blinded by the greatest love story ever told?

The head of the clan, Carlisle Cullen, has made it his life's mission to encourage and train vampires to not eat humans. He has assembled a family who follow his ways. In Eclipse, Carlisle and his wife Esme offer sanctuary to a "newborn" vampire (a 15-year-old girl named Bree) following a major showdown with the evil vamp Victoria. Victoria has been forming an army of newborns with the sole purpose of killing Bella, as vengeance against Edward for killing her true love (in the first book). Bree is shown in the movie hiding out during the battle. The Cullens take pity on her and she surrenders.

Then the head vampire clan, the Volturi, show up to see what the fuss is all about. They aren't friendly to the Cullens because of the Bella situation, but they don't like Victoria and her army either because they've been drawing attention to themselves. Vampires are supposed to munch on humanity under the radar. The Volturi feasted on a roomful of tourists in Book 2, and I've had a thing or two to say about that - specifically Bella's reaction to it, and the Cullens' complete disinclination to stop such behaviour. This time around, the Volturi decide that Bree must die because she was part of Victoria's army. Carlisle makes a vague protest about how he's given her asylum. The Volturi ignore him and one of them steps forward and kills Bree while the Cullens... all stand back and let him.

How are we supposed to feel anything but disgust for a man who offers zero resistance when a 15-year-old girl, who's already shown the potential to be turned to the good side of the force, has her head snapped off under his pale sparkly nose? Exactly what does "offering asylum" mean?

The take-home message: virginity before marriage = good; preventing the murder of innocents = not even a blip on the moral compass.

Do readers notice these things? Do they care? Why don't they care??


trudi said...

I made myself ignore a lot with these books, but gave up in disgust when Bella, having seen the Volturi feasting on tourists, decided she still wanted to be a vamp. She never even thought, naively, that she'd be a good vamp and wouldn't eat humans, so the only conclusion you could make about her was that she wanted to eat humans because it would keep her young and with unicorn boy forever.

I've had sympathy for much nastier characters, but I find it really hard to sympathise with stupid ones.

Elizabeth Moon said...

For some very young readers, "Why don't they notice/care?" may be a function of the reader's age. I didn't notice the obvious racism and sexism in some of the books I read as a kid. If there was a heroic dog or horse in the story, ideally paired with an adventurous kid--that was all I cared about. Young readers may be reading well above age-groups targeted (I certainly did) and thus have even less social awareness & experience than the target audience.

For older readers, is disturbing that they seem to be fixated on "pure until marriage" as the touchstone of morality or ethics and ignore the rest. For certain segments of U.S. society, I know where that comes from, but that surely can't explain the widespread popularity outside those groups.

Sara Creasy said...

It's not even that I object to the no-sex-before-marriage thing, if that's a bee in the author's bonnet and if it fits the character (in Edward's case, considering his age, I find it slightly bizarre, but whatever). But to elevate that "virtue" so far above some really basic humanitarian ideals is what irks me.

Lexie said...

It was always my assumption that while Carlisle expected his clan to behave as he dictated, he wasn't going to pioneer to save the world from itself. After all aside from Alice, all the other Cullens were made by either Carlisle or by one of his brood. Alice was possibly the only one they actively sought/brought into the family post-vampirism and she's a special case anyhow (who knows how much she engineered because she saw it had to happen).

If nothing else Carlisle has shown a distinct protectiveness ONLY for those he considers his own. He doesn't really train his family to protect humans from anything other than their own bloodlust--he probably would have left James, Victoria, the wolves and the Volturi alone if they hadn't all decided to hunt/fight/threaten his family.

Not that I'm saying any of that is right or a justification for his behavior, but that's why it didn't even blip on my radar when he essentially handed over Bree (it reads worse in the book by the by because Bella's ever-enchantment with the Cullens justifies why Bree had to go). O'course by Book 3 I was ready to stake Edward, behead Jacob, shoot Bella and set the whole Twilight Universe on fire because I was so disgusted by the whole thing.

As for the chaste before marriage, even when I was enjoying the series (for the first book anyhow) I thought Edward was being unrealistic and, when I was feeling particularly snippy, lying to Bella about the fact he was a virgin. I had this idea that every time they restarted their 'high school lives' Edward used that line on some unsuspecting classmate who swooned and offered herself to him. I find I like that image better then the one where he's just a glorified pansy.

Sara Creasy said...

I don't know Alice's backstory but Jasper was also not turned by Carlisle. Eclipse shows that he was an evil dude before Alice and Carlisle found him. So Carlisle knows he can help newborns. Clearly he felt sympathy for Bree because he offered her asylum. And then he just sort of forgot that he'd done that.

The fact that Carlisle became a doctor - exclusively helping humans - shows he feels some affinity for humans. I think he's been set up to be ALL THAT, someone we're supposed to admire, and yet where it counts he does nothing to protect humans against vampires. As though he thinks vampires have the right to kill humans - he just chooses not to because he's above all that.

Jael said...

You read the first two books? Whoa, that's an accomplishment. I tried to read the first book got about 50-70 pages in and had to give up, which I rarely do. It was so bad for me.

Ha ha, I love that video of George Takei.

There's a website Truth vs. Twilight which the actual Quileute tribe established to debunk the myths that Twilight has created. And how the culture and mythology Meyer uses are all made up. On the website one of the things that they point is that Meyer has created the Quileute as mythological creatures in a fantasy role. Not as human beings.
Which for some Indians is a sore spot, there are so many stereo-types with the Hollywood Indian. Even Indian actors just want movies that portray them as human beings. (A really good documentary that shows this is Reel Injun).

Sara Creasy said...

I didn't realise the Quileute are a real tribe.

While I can understand them setting right the inaccuracies about their mythology, I'm not sure there's anything wrong with altering existing mythology in our fiction. There are a vast number of stories based on Celtic mythology, for example, and a lot of it is not "accurate". Writers make up stuff - about everything. Either every culture on the planet is allowed to kick up a fuss about it, or none is.

So - long live the inaccuracies for the sake of a good story, and long live the websites setting us straight about the inaccuracies.

(Not that I personally found the saga in question to be a "good story".)

Elizabeth Moon said...

It's typical of some religious groups to elevate sexual "purity" (which may include fulfilling "traditional" gender roles as defined by that group) above other virtues, and it bothers me a lot, too.

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