Saturday, December 12, 2009

CharacterExploration: Jessica Stanley - The Bothersome

Jessica Stanley

La Serenade

As is the case in fan fiction, characters tend to loose their personalities to overused clichés. Such is the sad case with Alice the Pixie, Edward the Womanizer, and Emmett the Jock. Such is also the case with Jessica the Bothersome. The difference between Jessica’s cliché and the rest of them? Most of us don’t care what happens to that annoying, gossipy human.

None of us are to blame of course. From the beginning, she was already one of the least popular humans. Which brings me to the first topic: Canon Jessica.

Stephenie Meyer set the mold when she decided that the role of loquacious, fraudulent friend should rest on Jessica’s unfortunate shoulders. In Twilight, it’s quickly made evident that Jess likes Bella more for her popularity than her charm (though, to be honest, Bella doesn’t have any). This is further backed up by Midnight Sun when Edward hears her traitorous thoughts. Then, in New Moon, Bella falls into zombie state and Jessica ceases to pretend to be her friend. (You can’t blame her for that. How many of you thought that Bella was pathetic?) After that, Jess fades evermore into the background as Bella’s love triangle becomes the main problem.

And there you have it: Canon Jess. Bland, simple and ridiculously easy to sum up.

But now is where I point out that Jessica was never openly malicious. Only in fan fiction did she become that way.

Jessica: Lauren’s Posse

When it comes to writing a ‘mean girl’ there are three popular choices: Tanya, Lauren, and Jessica. Tanya is the mysterious, beautiful girl who’s often written as Edward’s ex or current girlfriend. She’s just another obstacle between Edward and Bella’s happy ending. Lauren is almost always portrayed as just plain crude, and Jessica doesn’t come off much better. But while Lauren has no hope of redemption, Jessica sometimes seems to want to redeem herself. Of course, her better nature doesn’t flourish while under the influence of Lauren.

Written in the Stars
, Jessica is Lauren’s cohort, used to make Bella’s teenage years painful. Jessica helps Lauren attack Bella’s insecurities, and they do their best to make her feel inferior. It’s a classic portrayal of Jessica in fan fiction; infuriating, shallow, and totally lacking in morals.

"Hey, Swan. How do you feel about the fact that you are the reason that Lauren and Edward broke up?”

Jessica was running enough that she could catch up and then kept pace with me. I rolled my eyes and continued on my run. I didn’t think I needed to justify that with a response. I kept running and she punched me in the arm.

“Are you fucking deaf, Swan? What the hell do you have to say for yourself?”

“I don’t control Edward, Jessica. He does what he wants, and if he doesn’t want to date Lauren, then he doesn’t want to date her.”

Must Have Been Love
with has the most creative portrayal of Jessica that I’ve seen so far. How many fics have her as Edwards’s pregnant, lesbian, ex-girlfriend? Jessica uses Edward and is the major cause of pain for both him and Bella, but she is egged on by Lauren. Her guilt for what she’s doing to Edward wins out in the end, and she sets him free against the wishes of her girlfriend, Lauren.

Jessica: the Un-bitched Version

Of course the problem with the classic “bitch,” is that they are not dear to a reader’s heart. Frankly, we wouldn’t give a damn if they jumped off a cliff.

I was stuck in that exact mindset. And then, uh-oh, I made the oh-so-wise pick of Jessica Stanley for a character exploration. So now I have to, for the first time ever, look for unique fics featuring her.

Which is horrendously difficult. The humans of Twilight are sadly neglected, as I soon found out. No big surprise there; who would write about them when you could write about the perfect man (a.k.a. Edward), who you’ll never meet in real life?

Hoping for a quick fix, I did a fanfic scan on Jess and found a hell lot of one-shots depicting the time Jess asked Edward out.

Boring. (No offense.)

Anyhoo, after pleading to my awesome beta for help, I found one!

But Inside I'm Screaming
is a wonderfully hilarious fic that captures Jessica’s personality perfectly, but in a totally bearable way, free of Edward’s prejudiced perception. Imagine Princess Diaries meets Twilight, and voilà: Twilight from Jess’s POV, albeit with some deviations from the original. I laughed and snorted every single chapter, and loved how it was so different from stories in other characters’ POVs.

I gobbled up that fic and suddenly realized that I hadn’t died from boredom. Quite the opposite, in fact. It was the first thing I read that made me consider Jessica in a different perspective — it gave reasons for why Jess is who she is.
And I wondered why epicinsanity101 chose to write a fic featuring Jessica, when there were so many other choices.

I started out wanting to write a journal-type fanfiction about one of the human characters since they were so underappreciated in the book. I chose Jessica after I saw how she was portrayed by Anna Kendrick in the movie.

Some of the things she said and did were so hysterical. Like how she said the Cullen’s weirded her out with their “relationships”, and the part where they’re shopping for dresses and she says, “This dress makes my boobs look great!” ;D

I sort of connected with her at that point. I never read Midnight Sun, so I obviously don’t know what Stephenie Meyer really thinks of Jess.

The journal format just seemed to fit Jessica’s character. She acts one way on the outside, but it’s a whole other story in her head.

For those of you who have read
Tropic of Virgo
, you would know that Jessica isn’t totally devoid of loyalty. She is Lauren’s best friend; superficial, slutty, covetous, and shallow. But eventually, she proves there’s more to her than that.

“No one drugs my best friend,” Jessica said. “They sure as hell don’t do it twice.”

Despite all her insincere actions towards Bella, she proves that she doesn’t act that way with everyone.

Portrayals of her as she is in canon with a slight twist for the better are the most realistic. Bella is a loner, Angela is so nice it’s almost fake, but Jessica is real — a typical teenage girl. She can be bitchy, but it’s evident that she is insecure and wants to be popular. She’s capricious and gossipy, but it’s her desire to be noticed and admired that makes her so. She’s not a very loyal friend, but she does feel hurt when Bella abandons her in New Moon.

Second Glance
by the
Scarlet Sky
is a one shot describing Mike when he finally realizes that Bella isn’t the only girl worth paying attention to. Mike’s an average guy, Jess’s an average girl: this is the way it’s supposed to happen.

Jessica the Jealous

Other authors have used rational explanations for Jessica’s behavior. After all, jealousy is one of many reasons behind contempt. The following is quoted from
Look At It Through My Eyes

“Jess. Nice to see you here. How are you?” Bella’s calm made me think I had imagined the stress in her eyes before. But then again these days she constantly looked stressed. Maybe she and Edward were arguing? I wouldn’t be surprised if they were, I mean, just looking at them, anyone could see he was too beautiful for her. Actually, scrap that thought. From just looking at them, you could tell that he wouldn’t care if she had warts smothering her body; he would still love her. His arm was wrapped tightly around her waist, protective, almost. And the other hand was twiddling with little bits of Bella’s hair. Jealousy panged through me. Damn Mike freaking Newton and his blindness, I wanted someone to do that with my hair.

I wanted someone to do that with my hair. Isn’t that a perfect description of what all of us felt when we first read Twilight? Twilight is the drug, Edward is the addiction…the perfect man that every woman (and teenage girl) wishes they had. It’s not so hard to imagine that Jessica feels the same. She did ask him to go out with her. Ouch. Also, she’s not only jealous of Bella because she has Edward but she has Mike drooling over her too. Not only has Bella got Jess’ dream man, the unattainable fantasy, but she has stolen the realistic, attainable, Mike’s attention too.

Twilight is Bella’s point of view, and Midnight Sun is Edward’s. Both of them are too mature, and not fond of Jessica. We never really consider Jessica’s feelings, her thoughts, actions, and the reasoning behind them. Try to think back to your teenage years, the crushes, the friend that had everything you wanted, and got it effortlessly. And if you do, you’d be surprised to find that Jessica isn’t so despicable after all.
La Serenade
is a fan fiction obsessed, amateur writer with an imagination too big for her own good. Her World War II fic,
Where Poppies Grow
, is currently in the works.
Archived Explorations:


  1. I adore "But Inside I'm Screaming"! I couldn't stop thinking of it when watching how kickass Anna Kendrick was in NM. I also love the way she is portrayed in dryler's "Bright Like the Sun": obsessive about Edward, but in a pitiable, humorous way. She's fully fleshed out and a joy to read.

  2. Yay. I was waiting for this to got up.

    I only dislike Jessica because of her 2Dness in most fics. It doesn't help we only hear about her in Bella or Edward's head in canon. Neither like her, and I dislike fake people. So it's all I ever saw of her.

    I think Anna Kendricks amazing job as Jessica made me want to see a different side of her. She has some of the best lines in NM IMO. She's funny too.

  3. I'm so glad that someone did this exploration--I've never just loved Jessica as a character, but I get so tired of reading fics where Jessica is just a bitch or a slut who is tormenting Bella and/or trying to screw Edward. I've always wanted to say, "She's just a normal teenage girl. She's not like Bella, who is supposedly wise beyond her years and has 'Oh no! I don't want boys to like me and be nice to me and pay attention to me!' attitude--she LIKES attention and doesn't have any use for a person that she tried to befriend (ulterior motives aside) until Bella dropped off the face of the planet when Edward left. She's a normal human being, which is sort of boring but not slutty or malicious." I'm glad to see there are fics where that's shown & that someone else holds a similar view to mine. :D


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