Can we stop with the Bella-bashing, already?
Let me be clear: I’ve read three of the four “Twilight” books, but I didn’t love them. As my Twi-Hard friends know, I’ve got some problems with the co-dependent romance at the heart of the series. In the books, Bella Swan’s internal monologue eventually annoyed me so much that I passed on reading “Breaking Dawn.”
But though I’m less than enamored with Stephanie Meyer’s series, I’m over the constant stream of Bella-is-a-bad-role-model commentary that followed the release of the “New Moon” movie. Yes, the series is hugely popular, particularly with young women. But why does a character in a work of paranormal fiction have to be a role model for anyone? As writer Scott Mendelson pointed out, pop culture is filled with fictional male characters who make sketchy choices, but no one ever says they’re bad for boys. Bruce Wayne lives a double life and keeps even his adopted sons at arm’s length. Yeah, that’s healthy.
The series actually presents a good opportunity for parents to read the books along with their kids and, you know, communicate. A 12-year-old doesn’t know that love and obsession aren’t interchangeable concepts, but a 37-year-old parent is, presumably, equipped to explain the difference. When Bella plunges into a black depression after Edward leaves her in “New Moon,” that’s a great time to discuss the pitfalls of completely losing yourself in a romance — though that is what first love is like — and the healing power of friendship, as shown through Bella’s relationship with Jacob. (Though my husband made me laugh out loud with his assessment of Bella/Jacob: “I’m so through with her. She got dude all revved up, and then she’s all, [whiny voice] ‘I’m in love with a vampire.’)
There are certainly moments when Bella displays brave and commendable behavior, like racing back to Phoenix to rescue her mom when she believes she’s in danger. And as many, many others have mentioned, it’s nice in this day and age to see a portrayal of a passionate relationship that doesn’t immediately lead to the sack.
Stephanie Meyer’s bank account is proof that her saga tapped into something powerful, and millions of readers clearly see something in her moody heroine. If anything, she may have captured the endless navel-gazing of a teenager in love a little too well. But I think my friend J. summed it up best: “Women are kidding themselves if they think, at 17, they wouldn’t have jumped at the chance to be boo’d up with a hot vampire or a ripped werewolf.”
So let’s lay off Bella, and while we’re at it, let’s give young female readers credit for being able to appreciate “Twilight” for what it is: an entertaining fantasy. (By the way, my sources tell me that, in the end, Bella finds her strength and saves everybody. Sounds like a good movie to me.)