Thursday, September 24, 2009

CharacterExploration: Jacob - Not Your Typical Prince Charming


Jacob Black
By:
Krum Cake

In any other story, Jacob could have been the hero.

Isn’t that what heroes are supposed to do? To fight for the ones they love, no matter the cost? Turn the tables and look at the world of Twilight from a new perspective, where Jacob is no longer the trusty friend, the other man, or the enemy. From this new point-of-view, he is the protagonist. He’s in love with a woman, but there is another man—a man that Jacob, for reasons he hardly understands, was raised to hate. He sees how hurt the woman he loves is when this other man leaves, and he sees that being with the other man means death for the woman he loves. Things are rarely ever black and white, but when the situation is skinned to the bone, there remain just two options: to give up, or to fight for her.

It’s true that there is sometimes beauty and honesty and even catharsis in giving up, like Julia Roberts in My Best Friend’s Wedding. But although Jacob could see how happy Bella was with Edward, he could also see
elements of their relationship that were unhealthy. Giving up would have meant watching Bella continue in a relationship with a man who used to sneak into her room and watch her sleep at night, and how could he find any beauty in that? So he fought. He stumbled along the way, some of his tactics were questionable, and he ultimately failed. But he never gave up on the woman he loved.

Jacob could have easily been the hero of Twilight. But this is truly the age of the vampire, and when his story is told from another perspective wherein he is just a supporting character rather than the protagonist, he doesn’t stand a chance.

He is perhaps one of the most abused characters in this fandom, second only to Mr. Michael Newton. So I’m prepared to get my hands dirty and my knuckles bloodied as I dig to uncover the many faces of Jacob Black as we know him in canon and as he is represented in fanfiction.

Understanding Jacob: a History

The best way to understand canon Jacob is to take a look at his life and see what events and other crazy shenanigans shaped him into who he is.

Pre-Twilight:

  • His mom dies in a car crash when he is young, leaving his father, Billy, to raise three children on his own. HARDCORE SUCKAGE.
  • He grows up with two older sisters—who probably talk about tampons and men’s asses and *NSYNC all the freaking time.
  • Every now and then he chills with his dad’s friend’s daughter, who seems pretty cool and would rather talk about Boo Radley and Stuart Little than Justin Timberlake.
  • His sister Rebecca actually ran off to Hawaii with some surfer dude in order to escape the pain of Sarah Black’s death. There are some buried emotional issues in this family, for sure.

Twilight:

  • Heyyyy-o, Boo Radley chick is here to stay, and she got rather pretty over the years. NICE.
  • And she flirts with him!
  • …just to get information out of him. Ouch.
  • His dad sends him on this weirdo mission to go stalk Bella at her prom and warn her to stay away from the Cullens or…he’ll disapprove of her? Whatever. Jacob gets money out of it.

New Moon:

  • After he hears about her crazy depression, Jacob is randomly approached by Bella one day, and she has motorcycles and is all, “LET’S DO THIS!”
  • They hang. A lot.
  • Like seriously, a lot. They do homework, chill in the garage, and IT IS AWESOME.
  • Whoa. She’s a girl. And she’s pretty, smart, funny, and…holy shit…he’s starting to really fall for her.
  • Meanwhile, his two best friends magically transform into major jackasses and stop hanging with him in order to prance around with dickhead Sam Uley, and that sucks. Hard.
  • So on one hand, he’s dealing with Bella, who is hurting and very fragile, and he’s learning that piecing a heartbroken girl back together is insanely hard work. And on the other hand, he’s losing the only other friends he has to something he doesn’t quite understand…
  • Until…SHABAM! Jacob the man-wolf emerges, and
    suddenly his whole world has turned upside-down, because WTF IS GOING ON, and his brain is overloaded with information and he feels like he might be going a little bit crazy and suddenly he understands Sam and Embry and Quil’s behavior, except it still doesn’t really make sense, because HOLY SHIT HE CAN TRANSFORM INTO A WOLF, THIS SHIT IS CRAZY.
  • Also, he is suddenly a buff twenty-five-year-old (physically) whose internal temperature is 108.9 degrees, which is an incredibly convenient excuse to run around La Push shirtless. How can life suck so much while being SO AWESOME at the same time? And don’t lie. We all wish we could wake up one morning and be, like, super hot. You’d run around shirtless, too.
  • Meanwhile, his friend’s dad dies of a heart attack and Bella, the girl whom he is growing to love, flings herself off a cliff. Just another day in the life.
  • Just when it seems like things are going well with Bella, her ice cold vampire boyfriend comes back and she’s happy again and all Jacob can think is FML. For serious.

Eclipse:

  • The girl he loves doesn’t love him, but his mortal enemy instead.
  • He’s like this giant hormonal sixteen-year-old stuck in the body of a twenty-five-year-old, and the only thing even remotely close to action that he’s getting is the rare glimpse of Leah Clearwater naked after phasing. And seriously? What a bitch. He wouldn’t touch her with a ten foot pole.
  • Well, there is that night in the sleeping bag, FOLLOWED BY A REAL, HONEST-TO-GOD KISS FROM HER, AND SHE BETTER NOT BE FUCKING AROUND THIS TIME, BECAUSE HE LOVES HER, DAMMIT, HE LOVES HER, AND—
  • BAM, totally injured by a crazy newborn vamp, no time to think about this shit.
  • Except she makes him think about it anyway by visiting him while he’s healing and…what’s that? Do his ears deceive him? She loves him? HOLY FUCK.
  • Oh, but she can’t live without Edward.
  • And she’s marrying the leech?
  • Essentially, his brain explodes, and he goes all feral wolf on everyone and disappears into the woods.

Breaking Dawn:

  • SHEER INSANITY.
  • Woman he loves marries his worst enemy, blah blah, this is old news by now, but it still hurts like hell.
  • Oh, and now’s she’s back from the honeymoon and she’s preggo and dying. Sweet. (But not really.)
  • Edward, after having gone over the deep end, tells Jacob that he can…father Bella’s babies? WTF? Okay, he loves her and all, but even he’s got to admit that that’s just a tad creepy.
  • All he wants to do is imprint, dammit, because that would be way easier than loving someone who is going to be killed by a demon fetus or be turned into a vampire or possibly both.
  • Wish granted! He imprints! On…the demon baby. OH HELL. Life will not cut him a break.
  • His best friend, the woman he used to love, is now a cold, dead vampire. Which means she smells gross.
  • AND, in the midst of all of this, he broke free of his original pack and became Alpha of his own pack, which totally wasn’t stressful and overwhelming at all, probably.
In short, it’s not easy being Jacob Black. Not by a long shot.

So, that’s what we’ve been given. How has this translated into fanfiction?

The BFF

This is a role that Jacob fits into quite snugly. Throughout the series, Bella often referred to him as her “personal sun,” and he has a personality that matches that description. He offers large smiles, envelops with warm hugs, has a lightening fast sense of humor, and genuinely cares about those around him. BFF Jacob is the self-same Jacob who sacrificed working on his beloved Rabbit in order to fix Bella’s bikes.

This version of Jacob is almost always cast in the role of supporting character, there to encourage the protagonist and to provide comic relief in the form of his snarky wit. He is generally “always the friend and never the boyfriend,” which may or may not bother him, depending on the plot. Out of all the
variations of Jacob, he is the closest thing to canon, and most often reflects pre-transformation Jacob, who is warmer and more happy-go-lucky than post-transformation Jacob.

But just because he is playing the best friend archetype doesn’t mean that BFF Jacob has to be a cliché or cookie cutter character. We’ve all seen those movies where the best friend is a 2D plot device used simply to prove that the main character isn’t a friendless loser. But sometimes the best friend is just as complex as the main character, if not more. One of the most well-known examples of this is in
Innocent, Vigilant, Ordinary
by
Oxymoronic8
. In the story, Jacob is Bella’s other half, but in a way that is more platonic than romantic, which is something both characters are learning the hard way. Jacob is Bella’s best friend, but there is a depth to his character that transcends the usual best friend cliché.

A more lighthearted portrayal of BFF Jacob can be found in
Shuffle, Ball, Change
by
Fiction101
. Jacob once again plays the supporting character to protagonist Seth, and his sharp, teasing sense of humor shines in a way that is far from flat and enhances the personality of the story itself. The following excerpt is taken from a scene in Seth’s point-of-view in which he and Jacob are discussing the fact that Seth, a high school teacher, just—horror of horrors—imprinted on one of his students:

Does it really matter where she sits?” Jake asked exasperatedly. “When she turns eighteen and is no longer sitting at the back of the classroom you can take it from there.” You know your life’s pretty messed up when a guy with a milk mustache starts making sense.

“Man up,” I repeated. “I can do that.”

“Good.” Jake grinned as he grabbed my head and gave me a noogie. “And if you can’t I heard that the forecast for tomorrow is cloudy with a chance of balls. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll get lucky and find a pair.”

I flipped him off. “Or I could ask Nes to lend me yours.”

“Son of a—” He made a swipe for me but I easily dodged it.

“By the way, I need a favour.”

“Brother, mother, psychologist. What next? Does he need me to shit a rainbow too?” Jake mumbled, turning his gaze to one of the many overpriced ceiling fans that decorated Chez Wolf. “What’cha need, kid?”

In spite of the fact that we may have teased the crap out of each other, when it came down to it we were brothers in every way that really mattered. We always had each other’s backs.

The Creeper

We’ve all bumped into him in fanfiction. Creeper Jacob is a severe distortion of his canon character and his existence is similar to that of a vicious rumor: somewhere, deep down, there is a tiny seed of truth, but it has been so twisted and convoluted that its origins are hardly recognizable.

It would be incredibly biased of me to ignore the roots of Creeper Jacob’s many incarnations. It’s not enough to simply say, “People just hate Jacob.” Why, exactly? Here are my speculations, all of which come from canon events:

1.
He loved Bella even when she didn’t love him back. He kept hoping even though she repeatedly tried to enforce the fact that their relationship was purely platonic. While I previously cited this as
behavior of a heroic protagonist, it could be argued that this is behavior of a guy who just won’t get a clue. And that’s just ew.

2.
He purposely got Bella in trouble with Charlie when he was angry by leaving the motorcycles in her front yard. With fronds like these, who needs anemones, right?

3.
He kissed Bella and she just took it. Then, when she punched him for it, he laughed in her face. This is not exactly honorable behavior.

But Jacob’s biggest crime is not one that he had any control over:

4.
He was not Edward.

Honestly, Jacob never stood a chance. After Edward enchanted audiences everywhere in Twilight, there was no turning back. And even when Edward left Bella, most readers’ loyalties still lay with him. And suddenly Jacob was just there. For Jacob, the events of New Moon were simply life, but from a reader’s standpoint, he was just another obstacle in the way of Bella and Edward’s Happily Ever After. And it appears as though a majority of readers could never really forgive him for that.

And thus Creeper Jacob and all of his cousins were born. Rapist Jacob, Abusive Jacob, Stalker Jacob, Stupid Jacob, Rageaholic Jacob, Evil Husband Jacob, Kidnapper Jacob, Beer Gut Jacob…the list goes on and on.

These are not fair portrayals of Jacob. They’re just not.

But acknowledging and understanding the problem is half of the battle, if you’ll excuse my use of cliché. I’m not saying it’s necessary for Jacob to be a golden boy in every story, because not even Edward gets that much reverence in this fandom. I can’t make anybody like Jacob and I can’t stop people from using him as a villain. But where’s the harm in having a well-developed, complex villain? That is completely respectable.

I feel like Creeper Jacob is a good lesson for all writers. Each story, whether it is a published novel or a piece of fanfiction, needs its fair share of unlikeable characters. And while it’s fun to mercilessly write about bitchy cheerleaders or brainless jocks or rapist werewolves, stories begin to lose credibility when some characters are given thorough, deep personalities and others are just depthless plot devices meant to purposely rile the emotions of readers.

Love Jacob or hate him. Just develop him as a character, please.

The Annoyance

This sounds negative at first, but believe it or not, Annoying Jacob is different from Creeper Jacob in a million different ways. Annoying Jacob is that snarky guy hanging around in the backdrop, pushing everyone’s buttons and pissing the hell out of them simply because he can. And most importantly, he’s funny…in that “Oh my God, ahaha, I’m dying, but no, seriously, I want to punch you in the face” kind of way.

We all know a guy like Annoying Jacob. He’s not exactly your friend, and you like to roll your eyes at him a lot, but sometimes when you’re lying in bed and you can’t sleep, your thoughts turn to him for a second and you go, “Goddamn, that guy’s fucking hilarious…the bastard.”

He’s usually seen bugging the crap out of Leah or even Rosalie, but that’s not to say a fic featuring Jacob directing all his poisonous snark at Jasper wouldn’t be absolutely priceless.

Kobe Grace
’s Jacob is pitch-perfect in her Leah-centric story
Waiting for the Sky to Fall
in that he is the perfect mix of annoying and caring.
He’s moody and nosy, but there’s no denying his concern for Leah. It’s sweet, even if you want to punch him sometimes. And to think, he’s been confusing people since he was nine freaking years old:

"I hate fourth grade,” Jacob exclaimed dramatically as he neared.

“Already?” said Quil. “It’s only been a week.”

“I don’t care — I hate fourth grade so much. I won’t make it to the end of the year.” He looked at Quil and Embry solemnly. “You guys, if I don’t make it, you can have all my Digimon cards.”

Leah tilted her head in his direction. “What’s his problem?”

“Mr. Wright told the fourth-graders that they’re doing times-ing with two digits this year,” explained Embry, who himself was in fifth grade. “Jake here doesn’t think he can handle it.”

“What?” Leah rolled her eyes and smiled. “Aw, Jake, it’s not so bad. You just have to know your tables real well. And then just make sure that you keep track of the order you’re doing the numbers in.”

“But I can’t do that! You should see the homework Mr. Wright handed out today — it’s crazy. There are numbers everywhere!”

“It is math, Jake,” Quil pointed out.

“Yeah, but it’s crazy killer math. Math that kills. Did you know,” he added grimly, “that math is what killed my mom?”


Okay, seriously? I’m torn between punching the kid and hugging him.

The Romantic

Romantic Jacob is probably the exact antithesis of Creeper Jacob. He is generally a leading player in romance stories, paired with either Bella or Nessie.
He has all of the warmth and teddy bear qualities of BFF Jacob with just one exception: he’s not just in the background.

Describing Romantic Jacob with words just doesn’t do him justice. You have to feel him.

Caffeineaddict13
has a number of one-shots and drabbles that make my heart ache with their beauty. Yes, most of her stories are Jacob/Bella, and they are gorgeous. They’re incredibly emotional without being over-the-top, and Jacob is both beautiful and in-character and heartbreaking at times. Although all of her stories are worth devouring, I strongly suggest
Hate is a Strong Word
and
For the Last Time
.

Another great writer of Romantic Jacob is
blueandblack
. And while her portrayal of Jacob throughout her various one-shots might not seem incredibly romantic at first, it feels real. She writes him as a true teenage boy, and Bella as a true teenage girl, and there is beauty in their connection. Jacob’s romance is all in the way he speaks, jokes, calls her “Bells.” Her stories often sting of heartache, like
Better and Worse
, but it’s not all hopeless, such as in the aptly named
Happy Ending
.

He’s not your typical Prince Charming; he’s just a teenage boy who doesn’t always say the right things and can’t fully keep his emotions in check, but he makes you melt, absolutely melt.
Krum Cake
’s loyalties lie with Team Quileute, thus making her an awkward black sheep of the Twilight fandom. She is an unmotivated, procrastinating college girl and the author of
Well, This Sucks: Life According to Seth
, which means she spends her free time writing some fictional guy’s diary. She is obviously not a loser at all.
Archived Explorations:








Upcoming Characters:
Angela, Rosalie, Paul/Quil/Jared, James/Victoria.

19 comments:

  1. I want to snuggle Krum Cake.

    ...and get her drunk and talk about shirtless Quileute boys, but yeah, anyway, this whole article was just fucking awesome. Thank you Krum Cake!

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  2. This article is fantastic! I am not a Jacob/Bella shipper at all, but I do believe that Jacob is much maligned in fic. I really like Jacob as a character in the books: I think he's a pretty good guy who makes a few mistakes, I think he's got an incredibly funny and snarky voice, I think he is loyal almost to his own detriment. So it bothers me to see Jacob cast as the villain so often.

    But I really like this article because while you defend Jacob beautifully (and humorously), you also are able to see the other side, and the things from the books that provide the genesis for Jacob-as-villain stories.

    Very nice.

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  3. I always thought that he should have been with Angela and just forgotten about Bella. I mean, the fandom was enchanted with Bella being with Edward, first.
    I've been able to see both sides of the coin since I first read the book. There was no way Jacob was going to end up with Bella. I'd like to see Stephenie write more about the Wolf Pack and Jacob, too.

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  4. Great article! I'm not really a shipper of anyone. As long as the story is well written I'll read it, but I'm very tired of the demonization of Jake. I like how you've broken down the different aspects of him that are found and now I've got a few new authors to check out. I also just recently found an author who's got several pretty good Jake fics. Her name on ff is aowalison.

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  5. Jacob is the male counterpart to Tanya in fic, neither of them really are bad people in the books and yet in fic they are used when a villain is needed.

    And it isn't like there aren't plenty of bad men in Twilight to use: James, Laurent, Aro, Dimitri, Alec, just to name a few.

    I may have not liked Jacob as a character in the Twilight books, but I never thought of him as the raging asshat of LaPush either. He just wasn't for Bella. I do think he is often unfairly maligned in fic.

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  6. This is such a great article. I appreciate you exponentially for this. Every word is merited and true. The sole reason I started reading fanfiction was because Jacob's character got screwed in the original. So, I owe more to Jacob Black than just the fantasy of him sneaking through my window! :) Now I have one J/B fic under my belt and I'm working on another. Thank you for your acknowledgment of his character.

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  7. Wow. Thank you so very much for recognizing the character that has captured many of our hearts. Although I love Edward, my heart was captured by the under"dog" in New Moon. He was the epitome of all things I dreamed of in a boyfried when I was young-many, MANY years ago.

    I seriously want you to know that it touched my heart to read the article written objectively, and with respect to the true character of Jacob Black. Thank you, with all my heart. Mombailey(Team SOB)

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  8. These character explorations are quickly becoming my favorite features of the site. Really well done.

    I feel bad for poor Jacob. On top of never getting the girl, all of the fans hate him just because he isn't Edward. Le sigh. One of my favorite slash fics is a Jacob/Emmett and it's really well done. He's a lead character, very well thought out by the author, and it made me reconsider Jacob's role in fanfic in general.

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  9. Great article! I am not team Jacob, but I am not really team Edward either. I think that given different circumstances, Jake would have been the one for Bella. He definitely gets a bad wrap A LOT. Overall he's a really good guy...and I think he does okay given his age and the situation!

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  10. You're makin' us Team Jacob-ers proud, bb.

    Thanks for the rec! =)

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  11. I love these character explorations a lot. I am a Team Edward fan, but liked Jake a lot in NM/BD as Bella's friend. I do not like the demonization of Jacob in fan fiction either, but let's get something straight.

    I do think that you missed that forced kiss in EC and the manipulated second kiss. Your explanation glorifies his actions under the Creeper. He did laugh off her pain and told her to use a tire iron next time. That is where that depiction comes from.

    When I see Jake, he is two people to me -- werewolf Jake that does what he wants with no regard or respect of other's wishes & Jake who is funny and faithful friend.

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  12. I'd never realised how much he had gone through.. we always focus on Edward and Bella and get glimpses of his situation(exept for New Moon) and getting it all together has been... revelating. Really liked your character exploration!!

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  13. Thanks for writing this. Seriously. You represent our poor Jacob well.

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  14. Thank you SO MUCH for writing this! I'm late to the party, but this article is awesome. I love the 'sides' of Jacob you've presented, especially the one about how he's 'not Edward'.

    My favourite part:

    'For Jacob, the events of New Moon were simply life, but from a reader’s standpoint, he was just another obstacle in the way of Bella and Edward’s Happily Ever After. And it appears as though a majority of readers could never really forgive him for that.'

    YES YES YES!! Finally, someone has explained this! The fact that Jacob isn't Edward is NOT HIS FAULT.

    This article is hilarious & awesome. Well done.

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  15. Ahhh THIS >> "Love Jacob or hate him. Just develop him as a character, please. "

    I ♥ Jacob

    I ♥ Leah

    I ♥ The Quileutes

    I ♥ Krum Cake

    lol

    ^_^

    Team Wolfpack!

    [sorry for going all fan girl]

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  16. Thank you so much for this exploration. I am firmly Team Edward as far as Bella is concerned but I am saddened that in SO many fics Jacob is either demonized, killed off, or is that annoying guy who won't leave Bella alone. I love canon Jake and write my own post BD story between his relationship and Renesmee. I loved where his storyline went and would love to see more from SM in the future about him and the other wolves. They are some of the best characters in her series. Jacob is complex and I feel like he's the most honest character in the series. So thank you for writing an in depth look into his character and how the fandom portrays him.

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  17. So... I'm a quite a bit late to this party, BUT I love what you've done here. You really took the time to pick things apart and show why he does the things he does. So many people focus on the negative aspects of his character and really crank out the hate. The best part of this entire post (besides the riot of a timeline you presented) was "He wasn't Edward". That pretty much sums it up. Thank you!

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  18. I loved every word of this. Except these: Krum Cake’s loyalties lie with Team Quileute, thus making her an awkward black sheep of the Twilight fandom.

    Perhaps you mean the black sheep of TLYDF, but I can assure you Team Quileute is a large and important part of this fandom.

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