Let’s Read Life and Death: Chapter Four

This is a weird one. I don’t know if it’s because I keep asking myself “Did this happen last time?” or if it’s because I have a little more time to check, but I keep finding these pointed alterations and changes made to the original Twilight.

Basically, when Meyer said “it’s about the same,” she was cheating, and she knew it. This is way more than “Find/Replace: he, she.”

Invitations

Beau is having dreams about Edythe, and how she’s so pretty, and how he can’t possess her. She’s “always on the edges, never within reach.” Beau has already shown he has a big inferiority complex (Edythe is a beautiful perfect immortal creature of the night, so yes, Beau is inferior), so this is nothing new.

Taylor follows Beau around at school asking for forgiveness. Where Tyler in Twilight was “impossible,” Taylor in Life and Death is “super annoying.” Uh huh. Totally the same.

Edythe is pulling her “now I’m not talking to you” trick, which junks up Beau’s mind a bit. He decides she must regret saving his life.

Jeremy (formerly Jessica) asks Beau about a dance, out of nowhere. Beau somehow has not been aware of the girl’s choice dance that’s coming up. One, I’m glad Meyer kept it girl’s choice (now it makes a modicum of sense that all these girls will be asking Beau out). Two… now, I’m probably being picky here, but Bella was not blindsided by this dance. Meyer makes a big deal about how detail-oriented Beau is (“he’s like, so OCD, lol”), how did he miss the posters?

Anyway, Jeremy asks Beau at school (note: Jessica called Bella–I don’t know why this is relevant, but Meyer decided teenage boys hate calling each other so much that she needed to change this) if anyone’s asked him to the dance yet. Jeremy wants McKayla to ask him. Beau assures him that he doesn’t do dances, and Jeremy plans to tell McKayla this. McKayla asks Beau about the dance, Edythe eavesdrops on them, Beau tells her—

Ugh, even recapping this is tedious.

Three girls ask Beau to the dance, Beau turns them all down. He feels really bad about hurting McKayla’s feelings (aw, Beau), but becomes more jaded/annoyed with each girl (especially Taylor, who is very… well):

“I’m not going to be in town, Taylor.” I realized I sounded too sharp. I had to remember it wasn’t Taylor’s fault that McKayla and Erica had already used up my patience.

“Yeah, McKayla told me that,” she admitted.

“Then why—”

She shrugged. “I was hoping you were just letting her down easy.”

Okay, it was totally her fault.

“Sorry, Taylor,” I said, not feeling nearly as bad as I had with McKayla and Erica. “I’m not going to the dance.”

“That’s cool,” she said, unfazed. “We still have prom.”

I like Taylor. I know I’m not supposed to, but… listen. Men are encouraged to act this way, especially toward women; it’s considered masculine. Because it’s considered masculine, women are discouraged from acting this way. I know I’m supposed to not like Taylor for being the third person to annoy Beau, but I just really like when ladies flip the script and are super confident–it makes my heart do the smiley emoji.

Anyway, five beautiful immortal “high school students” in the Volvo are watching the bit with Taylor transpire before Edythe speeds away. Edythe still drives everyone! This will probably still be justified with the weird line about “she can read minds so she can speed” but I’m glad she’s still a stunt driver.

Beau lets his dad know he’s going to Seattle the day of the dance. The conversation is largely the same as it was in Twilight, with the exception of Beau having very practical reasons to go get clothes. Because he’s a boy, am I right!! Boys hate clothes so they need a really good reason to wear them!! LOL!!

The next morning, Edythe starts talking to Beau again, which further junks him up. This scene is still pretty alarming (she takes turns insulting him and flirting with him, like Edward did in Twilight) but there are some interesting changes–Bella in Twilight was exceptionally angry, even at one point mentioning how badly she wants to hit something.

This hitting something line is absent in Life and Death. Hmmm. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)‎ Exactly the same!

Bella also has a throwaway line accusing Edward of having “multiple personalities,” which is, again, absent. Dissociative Identity Disorder: off the table. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, suicidal ideation: Absolutely fair game!

Most alarming are the very gendered additions. Edythe is saying things “primly” all of a sudden, something Edward never did before (gotta remind everyone that Edythe is an extremely feminine woman now). Worse, Beau waxes poetic for a paragraph about how angry he is that Edythe is beautiful (?!).

Edythe finally gets around to asking Beau if he wants a ride to Seattle in her shiny Volvo. Beau accepts, and Edythe chides him with the iconic “You really should stay away from me. I’ll see you in class.”

Sounds great, hell beast!

Beauty Made Her Cruel

There is a lot to unpack here, but I’ll give it a shot.

Gender dynamics cannot be find/replaced, which Meyer knew. If she had merely replaced everyone’s names and pronouns, we would still have Beau feeling angry enough to hit something. Bella hitting something (i.e. Edward) is awful and inappropriate, but easily brushed off because women committing violence against men is not on most people’s radars–we are encouraged to think it is impossible for a woman to “really” hurt a man. Beau hitting something (i.e. Edythe) is systemic–we have an ugly reaction to it because violence against women is a huge problem, and because we are encouraged to think a man not protecting a woman is a massive failure of gender roles.

I’ve already talked about how my perception of Tyler changes when she’s Taylor–what was uncomfortable, typical behavior in a young man is now remarkable behavior in a young woman. And changing the language Beau uses to describe this character’s behavior–from “impossible” to “annoying”–is probably more than it seems. “Impossible” suggests behavior that is intolerable but cannot be stopped–it treats Tyler’s antics like they are inevitable. “Annoying” could just as easily describe a child, small dog, or insect–Taylor could be all of these things. She’s diminished a lot more than Tyler is, and while both characters are brushed off, one feels way less justified than the other.

Then there’s Beau and Edythe, compared to Bella and Edward. In Twilight, Bella is angry at Edward for how he treats her, but submits to him willingly:

“Are you trying to be funny?” I interrupted him, wheeling toward him. My face got drenched as I looked up at his expression.

His eyes were wickedly amused. “Will you please allow me to finish?”

I bit my lip and clasped my hands together, interlocking my fingers, so I couldn’t do anything rash.

In Life and Death, Beau is angry at how beautiful Edythe is, but doesn’t submit.

“Is this funny to you?”

She stared up at me, seeming oblivious to the drizzling rain that was falling. She was apparently wearing no makeup at all–nothing smudged or ran. Of course, her face was just that perfect naturally. For a second, I was actually angry–angry that she had to be so beautiful. Angry that her beauty had made her cruel. Angry that I was the object of her cruelty, and even though I knew it, I still couldn’t successfully walk away from her.

Her amused expression was back, the hint of dimples threatening on her cheeks.

“Will you please allow me to finish?” she asked.

Walk away, I told myself.

I didn’t move.

Let’s not even touch the huge pile of BS that is the no makeup line, there’s something ugly lurking here.

In Twilight, Edward issues orders and Bella follows them without much of a fight (something that still squicks me the hell out). In Life and Death, Beau doesn’t want to follow Edythe’s orders, but her beauty compels him. There’s a long, long tradition of men blaming women for how they, men, react to them, for crap as simple as “you exist and I find you attractive.” In this, we have Beau furious with Edythe for how her face looks, and assuming she is a terrible person because of how her face looks, and hating her for his reactions to how her face looks. Her behavior cannot stand on its own–Beau can’t just be mad at her for being mean, end of story, because her meanness is all tangled up in her body.

This isn’t something I like seeing in any work, much less a young adult romance novel.

Next chapter is the “they’re doing blood typing in science class so the vampire plays hooky” incident. I need to get some more rum for that–we can’t find anymore 1671, anybody got any recommendations?

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