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Metastasis:“Twilight Biology Class Scene: Edward’s Golden Eyes”

December 6, 2011 1 comment

Metastasis is at work in the first Twilight film, as both Bella and Edward pass quickly over uncomfortable topics.  In Youtube’s “Twilight Biology Class Scene: Edward’s Golden Eyes” clip, we see a particularly effective exchange.  Edward and Bella sit, microscope between them, analyzing slides.  Edward asks Bella about the weather, and she answers that she doesn’t like “any cold, wet thing.”  Edward, curious about her recent move to town, had asked the question in order to “figure” her “out.”  He probes, “If you hate the cold and the rain so much, why did you move to the wettest place in the continental U.S.?”  She attempts metastasis: “Um… it’s complicated.”  Edward, unrelenting, says, “I’m sure I can keep up.”  After class and in the hallway, Bella (between um’s) explains that she had moved to be with her father because her mother remarried a traveling minor league baseball player and that her mother, staying at home instead of traveling with her new husband, had seemed unhappy without her new beau at her side.  Edward replies, “And now you’re unhappy?”  “No,” Bella retorts; “Hey, did you get contacts?” In turn Edward replies, “No.” She probes more, “Your eyes were black the last ime I saw you, and now they’re like a golden brown.” Edward responds, “Yeah, I know.  It’s, uh, it’s the fluorescents,” walking abruptly away.

Both character’s reluctance to address the issue on hand reflects their alikeness.  In fact, a careful eye picks up on the character’s purposefully balanced responses and sees it as the director’s or writer’s way of fusing the couple (despite the throng of Jacob fans).  Metastasis also serves to create a sense of mystery, propelling the plot.   In this way, the filmmaker and actors work effectively here in what we can call a sneaky, creative way of creating enigmatic sexual tension. Seamless execution here, even with the awkward um’s.  This makes me wonder, is there a rhetorical device that elicits or capitalizes on the word “um”?

Hardwicke, Catherine.  Twilight.  Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2007.  Film.

Also viewed at Youtube: “Twilight Biology Class Scene: Edward’s Golden Eyes.”

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Metastasis: South Carolina beauty pageant contestant

December 6, 2011 1 comment

In what has to be the most stunning example of a stereotype coming true, Miss South Carolina during the 2007 Miss Teen USA pageant answered a question so poorly that even her mother in the audience had to be shaking her head.  When asked by judge Aimee Teegarden, “Recent polls have shown that a fifth of Americans can’t locate theUSon a world map.  Why do you think this is?” Miss SouthCarolina rambles through a response so convoluted, so completely off topic that it can only be described as the worse case of metastasis that I’ve ever seen. Quoting in full—because to deprive the reader the full scope of her avoidance of the subject would be a disservice to the utter dysfunction of her reply and would also deprive the reader of a great deal of fun—the response goes as such:

“I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because uh some people out there in our nation don’t have maps and I believe that our education such as in South Africa and Iraq everywhere like such as I believe that they should our education over here in theU.S.should help theU.S.or help South Africa and should helpIraqand the Asian countries so we would be able to build up our future.. for our…”

The beauty queen, who really and truly looks like a blonde Barbie doll (a 1980’s Barbie with blue eye shadow and a turquoise, stream-lined ball gown), jumps from the idea that “U.S. American” households don’t have maps, to the idea that “they” should be more concerned with other countries such as South Africa, Iraq, or, curiously, Asia in order to “build up our future.”

Her response does little to dispel the myth that beauty pageants garner “real” beauty, talent, and intellect.  Instead, Miss South Carolina 2007 puts a nail in the coffin to arguments that seek to garner respect for beauty pageants.  Unfortunately, her response proves that beauty contestants don’t usually have a grasp on the entire world’s comings and goings. Everyone knows that pageant contestants “rehearse” responses to hot-button questions, and that, just like some politicians, the scope of current issues can’t be learned in a cram session.  So, just like politicians who only want to answer the questions that they feel comfortable answering, pageant contestants sometimes shift the question away from an issue that they know little about by mentioning the topic briefly, but then ending their response with a different issue.  When speakers such as Miss South Carolina perform metastasis so badly we “U.S. Americans” see behind the curtain, and find out the cruel truth: there are only a handful of people who really know about the whole world’s intricate problems, and even they don’t know all the answers.

Categories: credibility, metastasis, speech

Metastasis: Governor Perry’s “oops”

December 6, 2011 Leave a comment

During the November 12,2011, Republican Primary debate in South Carolina, the moderator attempted the following question: “Governor Perry, you’ve advocated eliminating the Department of Energy.  If you did that…”  The moderator’s question, cut short by Perry’s response that he was “glad you remembered that,” had capitalized  on Mr. Perry’s recent slip-up in the last debate during which Perry, holding three fingers high in the air, announced that if he were president, he would eliminate three branches of government—“Commerce, Education, and … What’s the third one?” (“Rick Perry stumbles”).  Perry’s quick remark to the moderator’s “remembrance” of this “oops” (as Perry had called it), elicited genuine laughter from his peers and cohorts.  The moderator, stunned for a moment, listening and waiting for the crowd’s laughter to subside, responded, “I’ve had some time to think about it.”  And to that, Perry retorted, “Me, too.”

Perry’s response, while clearly witty and showing that he can occasionally “think on his feet,” will probably not be enough to smooth over his blunder.  I’m not exactly sure what rhetoricians call an “epic fail,” but I do know that we can mark Perry way off the list of presidential hopefuls.  Here’s the deal.  It’s ridiculous for him to say that he will “poof!”  make three government agencies disappear; ludicrous to not be able to name one of them; and even more insane for him to fumble around in his pocket in search of a cheat sheet.  Regardless of Perry’s original sin, his “metastasis” moment on November 12th can equally qualify as a huge mistake.  Because he passes lightly over a heavy topic—the elimination of an entire branch of theUS government—Perry diminishes his character as a serious policymaker, for everyone knows that even God himself can’t eliminate the Department of Energy!  Responding, “Me, too,” he completely dismisses the moderator’s question about the possibility of life without a Department of Energy and moved on to another, less difficult question, the question that Ron Paul had just answered about the Middle Eastern crisis (Who would have ever thought that answering a question about the Middle East would be easier than answering a question about domestic affairs?).  Again, his swift movement or glossing over of an important question only highlighted his inadequacy.

Categories: credibility, metastasis, speech

Metastasis: Overview

December 6, 2011 3 comments

Lanham’s text, A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms, defines metastasis as a kind of two-pronged concept, as the motion or action of “passing over an issue quickly” and the act of “turning back an insult or objection against the person who made it” (101). In its simplest form, the term can mean to divert or move away from an uncomfortable subject, but the action can also entail a  “throwing back” of the uncomfortable.  Metastasis encompasses two different modes of retaliation—one in which the person to which the insult is hurled simply changes the subject, but also one in which the insulted person stays very much focused on the subject, enough that he feels comfortable and witty enough to respond with an insult of his own.

The way in which metastasis is used, then, depends upon the confidence and intelligence of its user.  If the insulted victim of metastasis isn’t very clever, his “quickness” can be perceived as cowardice, for his diversion into another realm of conversation may lead some listeners to believe that he can’t handle himself.  Conversely, his “passing over” can also be perceived as integrity, since he, in the act of bridling his tongue and resisting the urge to retaliate, may appear to the listeners as a man of self-control.  Certainly, however, with the tradition of Shakespeare so ingrained into the very fibers of what we perceive as healthy, intelligent conversation (and, as Lanham illustrates our reverence for Churchill denotes this cultural obsession as well), listeners do love the smart and sassy comeback.  So if the insulted is able to wrap the insult around the other person successfully, listeners revere him more so than if he didn’t respond to the insult at all.  It’s a tricky call for the insulted.

 

Lanham, Richard A. A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms.  2nd ed.  Berkeley: U of California P, 1991.              Print.

Categories: metastasis, overview