Friday, August 14, 2015

Twilight Guide - The Volturi Coven - Aro

I'm going to confess something: I like Aro. He's probably my favorite Twishite character. He's a vampire who actually ACTS like a vampire, and he's happy to play the campy evil puppetmaster of the supernatural world.

If you think this doesn't sound good, consider: the "good" vampires are whiny, emo, blandly-dressed characters who go to high school fifty times in a row, romance high school girls and dress like all-American borefests. Blech. I'm bored just thinking about it. They're also every bit as sociopathic and evil as Aro... but they pretend to be GOOD.

Also, consider that the Volturi are the product of thinly-veiled religious prejudice. So I automatically like them better.


Nickname: "Sweetbuns" (by his wife) or "That bastard" (most of the people who work for him)


Except for that brief "ginger" phase.

EYE COLOR: Red/black, with an overlying milky film (vampire)

Uh, I thought that only happened if the vampire stayed still for two long.

HEIGHT: 5‘10"

He's actually only 5'5", but uses high heels and camera angles to make himself look taller.

He has shoulder-length jet-black hair and perfect features.

  1. We were told his hair color just a few lines ago.
  2. Oh editor? Please do your job. Someday. For once.
  3. Perfect features - how boringly predictable.
  4. In fact, the word "perfect" has pretty much lost all meaning in this series, because we're hammered with it so often.
  5. The perfect vampires with their perfect faces and perfect hair and perfect sparkly skin live in perfect houses with perfect furniture and perfectly kill animals in their perfect forests while splattering their perfect clothes with blood that looks perfect on them. Perfect perfect perfect. Perfect.
  6. Also topaz and bronze chagrin of beautiful. Adonis.

His skin is translucent white, slightly resembling the casing of an onion.

  1. Not all onions are white, you know. There are also yellow ones and red ones. Although I can believe Smeyer only buys white ones.
  2. Skin is already translucent, you know.
  3. Ever held up your hand in front of a light bulb? You can see the light right through it.
  4. And so.... what, his skin is brittle, thin and shiny?

SPECIAL ABILITIES: When he touches someone, he can read every thought the person has ever had.

"Gods, you are such a pervert. How do you get the butterscotch off the carpet? Where do you buy the Harley Quinn costume? And did you REALLY need two goats?"

He usually acts as the Volturi spokesperson.

This is because Caius has stage fright, and Marcus tends to eat the messenger.


Time out. Why does it refer to Sulpicia as his "mate"? Why not "wife"? They've been married for millennia - at what point does "wife" become an appropriate label?

It's especially weird because Smeyer tries to emphasize the "troo luv" and "no sexxin' before marriage" for pretty much everybody in her series. Even her bad guys have soulmates and troo luv, and nobody just screws around. But if everybody has to get married, why refer to them as "mates"?

And it's not like the vampires have their own culture or anything. If anything, they are ANTI-culture - nobody who becomes a vampire retains any cultural aspects of their country, and they don't really get any new ones to replace them. No style. No religion. No differing attitudes. No philosophical effects. No clothing stuff. Everything is turned into "Wonder Bread" Americanism at its blandest and most vacuous.

In fact, the Volturi are the closest to having vampires who have a culture. The Cullens, on the other hand, are basically like a clothes catalog - blandly attractive people in front of bland backgrounds, wearing bland clothes and never moving their faces.

His closest coven members are Caius, Marcus, and Athenodora.

Second closest are Crazy Pete, Mike the gardener, and Chester A. Bum.

"This is the greatest vampire I've ever seen in my life!"

His natural sister, Didyme, is deceased.

She was killed in a tragic incident involving hedge clippers.

Aro was born in Greece just after 1300 B.C.

John Glenn was born just a week earlier.

All his life, he was ambitious; power was always his primary goal.

"Aro, are you trying to take over your play group again?"

It was in the pursuit of this goal that he was transformed into a vampire in his mid-twenties.

How? Why? In what circumstances?




We're never going to find out any of those details, are we? We're just gonna be told half-facts and be left hanging, aren't we?

Aro formed this coven (which also included Caius‘s wife, Athenodora) in order to further his ruling ambition, seeking strength in numbers to augment his own powerful mind-reading talent.

Dammit. We're never going to find out those details. No, that would be INTERESTING and would probably make a damn fine vampire book, so Smeyer naturally averts her gaze from it.

Also, how can other vampires "augment" his magical vampire skill? Does it somehow become stronger if there are a lot of people around?! I don't quite get this.

It was Aro who devised the plan on which the Volturi ultimately founded their reign over the vampire world: the concept of vampire laws of mutual convenience.

So basically he's the vampire Hammurabi. And if you don't know who that is, google it.

So... why is this series not about HIM? I know he's not a good guy, but neither are any of the Cullens. And unlike them, this guy is actually smart, charismatic and has done interesting stuff in his unlife.

Aro was the last of the coven to form a romantic attachment.

This is actually shown TWICE on the page - once in the regular text, and once off to the side in swirly girly oversized font.

I love how it's been established that Aro is basically the vampire Hammurabi and managed to create his own powerful worldwide vampire organization that he almost completely controls... but the only INTERESTING part, the part that is EMPHASIZED, is when he got a girlfriend. Typical Twishite.

After Marcus and Didyme fell in love, Aro felt that the balance of power had swung away from him (before this, he would have counted his sister an infallible ally; now he assumed she would side with Marcus in any difference of opinion in the coven).

  1. Yes, because NOTHING could disrupt the status quo except Marcus getting a girlfriend.
  2. Love... love changes everything.... makes you fixate on your boyfriend.... love... love changes everything...
  3. I think this is supposed to show how the human-blood-drinking (read: Catholic) vampires are BAD EVIL BAD BAD, and such they care only about power instead of the all-important FAMILY VALUES.
  4. Then again, Aro might be right. I mean, this is the Twilight universe. In these books, you're practically required by law to care about nobody and nothing but your love interest. And if you're a woman, you're supposed to do whatever your boyfriend (or otherwise, the hottest nearby male) orders you to.

So what does Aro decide to do? Why, Aro decided in advance that he would rather choose a human and create a mate than look for his match in another vampire, who might have ties to her own creator or other relationships that would complicate his plans. Actually, this is a pretty intelligent approach. I mean, if you're mainly interested in establishing your own powerful organization and don't want any chinks in your armor, it's probably best to make sure that your significant other is not a potential liability.

But I think this another time when we're supposed to be booing Aro. Why? Because he was calculating what he wanted in a mate instead of being swept away by TROO LUV. You're an evil cold-hearted bastard if you actually figure out the best approach for a successful relationship instead of letting your genitals do the thinking!

As for Sulpicia: He courted her successfully, and she agreed to be transformed into a vampire and join Aro as his wife. She remains totally devoted and loyal to Aro.

Again, I think we're supposed to be booing and hissing about how horrible and cold-hearted he is about Sulpicia. But think about it: this is one of the most normal, semi-respectful starts to a relationship in this whole series. He courted her, asked her to marry him, and she agreed. BOO HISS! What a creep! He can't possibly love her because they weren't swept away by Destiny and Fate and all that crap, and he actually gave her a CHOICE instead of FORCING her to become a vampire!

Does Smeyer have some sort of hangup about free will? Notice that we're supposed to boo and hiss at Aro ALLOWING his girlfriend to make an informed decision about whether to become a vampire.

On the flipside, we have holier-than-thou perfect VampireJosephSmith, who made innocent people into vampires not based on whether they WANTED to, but for purely selfish reasons and without their consent. And yet we're supposed to think he's a wonderful pure-hearted unselfish saint.

Aro had chosen to transform his sister because he hoped she might have a gift similar to his own powerful mind-reading gift. He was disappointed in this, and later disposed of her when she got in the way of his plans by distracting Marcus—her mate—from Aro‘s goals.

Here's a good sign of a horribly-written book: the important stuff just floats by, and you don't even notice it until you're doing a line-by-line snark of the series.

I mean, WHAT THE HELL, PEOPLE?! One of the villains kills his own sister for power, but it's just sort of mentioned in passing like it doesn't actually matter at all. This book has rundowns of all the Cullens' CARS. It has a FAN ART GALLERY. And yet major important events like this are just sort of swept out of sight.

Honestly, I wonder if this was a last-minute addition to Smeyer's canon because, well, she doesn't include it in the actual books themselves. She mentioned it elsewhere. Maybe she actually had a moment of semi-lucidity and realized that Aro isn't actually that villainous as vampires go.... so she had to PROVE it with familial murder! Those Catholics, not caring about FAMILY VALUES!

One unintended consequence of this action was the near total debilitation of Marcus by the loss of his mate.

Because as we all know, nobody ever recovers from the death of a lover. You just fall apart and hopefully die, because nobody EVER moves on or, heaven forbid, falls in love again.

Over time, as Aro and Caius increased security in every way they could devise, Sulpicia and Athenodora became virtual prisoners in their home. Part of their confinement, however, included a vampire talented at making them feel content.

Boo hiss! Those nasty Volturi, treating women like prisoners and not allowing them to do what they want! Controlling their lives! Acting like they're not actual people who deserve to be treated as such, but little kids who need to be taken care of!

... OH WAIT.

With Corin as part of their personal guard, Sulpicia and Athenodora never objected to their incarceration.

Bow chicka wow wow... unintentional innuendo!

He created the Volturi guard out of gifted vampires who shared his desire for authority.

Is Smeyer implying.... that they joined out of FREE WILL? Booooooooooo! What an evil repressive douche! He should have FORCED them to join him like VampireJosephSmith, who is a shining saint who NEVER allowed his fledgelings free choice! BOOOOOOOO HIISSSSSSS.

The guard were never fully part of the coven or the ruling body, but they gained prestige and protection by joining them in a subordinate position.

Ugh! It's an organization of like-minded people who aren't a FAMILY! That's just SICK! What kind of depraved freaks spend any time around people who AREN'T family?!

After Aro acquired Chelsea (then Charmion)

.... why would she change her name? Was "Charmion" too interesting a name for the Wonder Bread world of Twilight, so Smeyer had to make her change it?

who had the ability to bind people to one another and break any bonds that already existed

  1. Because it's not like personal relationships are actually formed through KNOWING each other. Personal bonds are entirely based on FATE.
  2. Also, supposedly all vampire powers are based on human psychic powers. What the fuck kind of power turns into "controls relationships"?
  3. Is she the vampire version of that creepy chick who likes to screw "taken" men and break up their romances?
  4. And how much does your life suck if you become a vampire, and your magical ability is... "relationships"? That's like becoming a ninja who can only do cartwheels.

he was able to influence vampires to join the guard who would not otherwise have been motivated by power or prestige.

Again, SMART. Why is this series not about the Volturi?

Aro made one of his best discoveries around 800 A.D.: the young twins Jane and Alec.

... who also changed their names so they could be as Wonder-bready as possible. I mean, we can't have ANGLO-SAXON names like Aldin and Esma. No, we have to give them 19th/20th century American names!

"Haha! We rejoice in our total lack of cultural presence!"

Unfortunately, Jane‘s and Alec‘s psychic gifts were very pronounced for mere humans, and drew the notice of the other humans around them.

Especially their ability to magically turn their favorite toys into dancing rats.

So Aro came rushing in, said, "Screw the rules! I have vampire sovereignty!", and saved both of the kids from near death by turning them into vampires. Oooh, how awful he is.

Here's another question I have: do the vampires even KNOW what kind of psychic powers humans have, or do they just detect some sort of nebulous psychic power? And how do they manifest as humans if it isn't something convenient like "sensitivity" or "slight precognition"? Because Jane's ability is to inflict pain, and Alec's is to cause sensory deprivation. What exactly was the human precursor to that? Did Jane make people mildly uncomfortable, and Alec bored people into a stupor? Those don't seem like things bad enough to warrant burning as witches. Most of the time.

Then, having revealed his true nature in a rather dramatic way, he was compelled to destroy the entire village in order to obey his own law. He left no witnesses, and brought home his two most valuable assets.

  1. Again, this is probably intended to show what a horrible wretched amoral person Aro is. But remember: dreamy super-sexy best-boyfriend-in-the-world Edward Cullen was cold-bloodedly planning to do the exact same thing. And he wasn't even saving anyone from death.
  2. Also, what's the point of being able to move faster than the eye can see if you can't dash by, grab two kids, then dash out again?
  3. And hell, why were the Anglo-Saxon villagers even still there? Do they hang around after witch-burnings, having picnics?

—Bella, on Aro‘s gift (Breaking Dawn, Chapter 27)

Maybe it's actually a GOOD thing that Smeyer has such incredibly blah taste. It sounds like her idea of ornate and luxurious is... tacky as hell. Especially since I'm not sure that she doesn't mean there's a picture of a rainbow on it.

Remember, this woman created sparkling vampires with diamond skin. She has the sensibilities of a seven-year-old who loves unicorn stickers. Or Mariah Carey.

Just because a human or a vampire has a special talent doesn‘t guarantee that Aro will add him or her to the coven.

For example, Aro is uninterested in Joe's ability to seek out rare comic books.

Aro seeks out talents that will make him more powerful, especially on the battlefield.

... the Volturi actually fight BATTLES? Because an all-out vampire war sounds incredibly awesome! Doesn't it? DOESN'T IT? It sounds like such an awesome epic...

Never mind. It sounds less cool now.

For example, in Aro‘s mind, Alice Cullen‘s ability to see into the future—a skill he‘s never had access to—

... for real? Seriously? In ALL OF HUMAN HISTORY, he's never encountered another human who had any kind of precognition? So what, oracles, witches and psychics throughout history have NEVER had any kind of precognitive power?!

Fuck, even Bella - whose "special gift" is that her tiny brain is totally impenetrable - has precognitive dreams in the first book, which is doubly stupid because this is never mentioned again. WHY IS THERE SO MUCH STUPID IN THESE STUPID STUPID STUPID BOOKS?!

Aro is deliberate and patient by nature.

He can wait DAYS before opening a box of Girl Scout cookies.

When he locates a desirable new talent, such as Alice‘s, he plans carefully the best way to acquire it. He doesn‘t make a move if he believes that doing so might destroy that talent. Instead, he bides his time and explores other avenues toward his goal.

Carlisle disapproved of this approach. Obviously it is MUCH better to charge into hospitals and turn whatever teen boy is prettiest!

For example, he might convert human psychics in the hope of duplicating the talent.

So why doesn't he do that to someone with precognition? Why chase after the girl with the most useless psychic power ever?!

If a vampire‘s talent is no longer needed—if Aro finds a vampire with a superior version of the same talent or, as in the case of Didyme, one vampire‘s presence interferes with another vampire‘s needed talent—Aro will restructure the guard. Sometimes, as with Didyme, he will do so by execution. However, Aro will allow an amicable separation when he sees no possible threat from releasing the talent, or if he thinks he might need access to that gift in the future but has no way to hold on to it now.

Again, this is not making your villain look like the incarnation of evil. In a GOOD series like the Dresden Files, I would take this as a sign of complexity in the villain, showing that he's not all evil and that he's got shades of grey. Maybe he loves kittens. Maybe he donates to charity.

But this is Twilight.

Stephenie Meyer is the one who wrote, with no irony or sarcasm, that a girl who didn't like Bella anymore had "crossed to the dark side" and describing the doting Cullens as "good" and "civilized" vampires despite them not having any value for human life. None of the non-Aro villains have a shred of dimension, subtlety or even PURPOSE. Her villains exist solely to stalk and try to kill Bella because... she's so speshul... and then get revenge by trying to kill her again. They barely even count as characters.

And as she's written it, her big Volturi villain is not actually that much worse than the heroes. Yeah, we hear about him doing bad things like murdering his sister or wiping out villages... but when you balance out the positives and negatives, he's not actually that much worse than the Cullens.

And again, THAT COULD WORK in a book where the main characters are ANTI-heroes. If there was moral ambiguity. If there were some shades of grey. But in these books, there aren't MEANT to be that way. We are meant to cheer for the Cullens and boo the Volturi, and not ask any of those pesky questions.

This was the case with Eleazar.

And he is...?

googles it

Okay, apparently his special ability is... identifying others' abilities. Well, I have three things to say:

  1. How much does your life suck if your special super-awesome ability is... to ID other people's special super-awesome abilities?
  2. Lazy, lazy, lazy writing.
  3. If he IDs the special ability of a vampire whose special ability is to ID other people's special abilities... does the world explode?

Occasionally, vampires approach the Volturi directly to seek a position in the coven. Usually, Aro already has a better version of the gift or skill being offered, but if not, the applicant is gladly accepted. Vampires who are not satisfactory are allowed to leave in peace.

Again, this is actually a fairly pleasant and civilized approach. And IT'S NOT VILLAINOUS!

I mean, a villainous action worthy of a book series this shallow and stupid would be to kill off all vampires that have lesser versions of those psychic powers, so he has a monopoly. You know, something Bond-villainesque. Instead it's like:

"Sir, I've come here to ask if I can join the Volturi guard."
"Well, son, what's your special ability?"
"I have the ability to sense when large cats are approaching."
"Oh, sorry, kid. We have one of those in the guard already. But if you leave your phone number, country and full name at the front desk, we'll contact you if anything happens to Stan."
"Thank you, sir. I'll do that."
"Have a great day, kid. Here's a parasol. It's sunny out today."

Other vampires visit the Volturi simply out of curiosity.

Curiosity about WHAT?

Aro encourages such pilgrimages, as it gives him a chance to read their minds.

You know, considering the Volturi are vampire Catholics, it makes you wonder what Smeyer thinks goes on in the Vatican.

Wait, I guess that's what the Pope is REALLY doing when he blesses people! Suddenly it all makes sense!

Image of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the   Birmingham Oratory where he met and blessed  the Oratory cat, Pushkin  Contact details as follows  Servizio Fotografico "L'Osservatore Romano" 00120 Citt del Vaticano - Tel. 06/69885041 - Fax. 06/69884998 E-mail:
Pope Benedict: "Hmm... let's see... yes, he wants sardines and catnip, and he's going to pee in your shoes while you sleep unless you feed him. Like, now."

More than just a tactical advantage or a chance to locate other talented vampires, these readings provide Aro with much-needed entertainment throughout the millennia.

"Really? And she didn't have a problem with the sheep? Or the garden hose? Or the rainbow wig? I have to ask Sulpicia about trying that out!"

—Bella, on Aro‘s gift (Breaking Dawn, Chapter 27)

You know, I would expect a guy who has been around for more than 3000 years to have slightly better taste in jewelry.

When Carlisle Cullen arrived in Volterra in the early 1700s, Aro was impressed and intrigued by Carlisle‘s "vegetarian" philosophy.

"Really? You're able to survive on just tomato juice?"
"Uh, no. What I meant was that I only drink from animals, not humans."
"But that's not vegetarian."
"Yes it is."
"No, it isn't."
"Yes it is."
"No it isn't. 'Vegetarian' means eating plant stuff."
".... well, I'm morally superior to you human-blood drinkers! So there!"

Also, being impressed and intrigued by the supposedly controversial approach of the "good" vampires is not very villainous.

Aro tried to convince Carlisle that drinking human blood was natural.

... and, for a vampire, it is.

Also, that doesn't sound like he's "impressed and intrigued." More like he's trying to argue with a guy who thinks he can live on nothing but honey.

He continually teased, prodded, and tested Carlisle (for example, by having a member of the guard deliver a profusely bleeding human body to the library where Carlisle was studying, just to see what Carlisle would do).

He was rather disappointed when Carlisle shouted, "Ew, it's a GIRL! I only want pretty teenage boys!"

Aro was torn between wanting Carlisle to stay strong—the limits of Carlisle‘s resolve fascinated him—and wanting him to surrender to his true nature.

Again, why is this character not the lead? He's got way more dimension and depth than creepy-ass Carlisle.

Aro intended to drop in on Carlisle later in his life, in four or five hundred years, to see how things had turned out for him.

Five hundred years later: "Wow.... uh.... where did all these teenage boys come from?"

“I love a happy ending. They are so rare.” New Moon, Chapter 21

Me too, Aro. But sadly, there aren't any in Twishite - the series ends with Jacob brainwashed into grooming a baby, Bella becomes super-Sue, and Edward.... not dead.

“I certainly never thought to see Carlisle bested for self-control of all things, but you put him to shame.” New Moon, Chapter 21

Why? Because Edward is just that fucking sparklySuey.

“Besides, I'm so terribly curious to see how Bella turns out!” New Moon, Chapter 21

Don't get your hopes up, dude. You'll be disappointed. She's even more insufferable as a vampire as she is as a human.

“I doubt whether any two among gods or mortals have ever seen quite so clearly.” Breaking Dawn, Chapter 36

Wow, I wonder which speshul snowflakes he's talking about. I'm too lazy to look up the quote, though.

“Oh well, we're all together now! Isn't it lovely?” Breaking Dawn, Chapter 37

Campy, weird, smart... I love this guy.

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