Stephanie Meyer’s, Twilight.
I can already hear the groaning lol.
If you’re not a Twilight fan, no hard feelings. You can stop reading now and I won’t hold it against you. I also promise my next post won’t be vampire related so no need to avoid reading my posts in the future 🙂
For those of you who are a fan: HI!
I first read Meyer’s debut novel back when she was still in the process of finishing the fourth book of the series, Breaking Dawn. I was in middle school and, goodness, that was forever ago! I’ve read the books multiple times over the years and have watched all of the movies (even though we all know the books are better) but I can’t remember the last time I’ve read them before now. It’s been at least three years (maybe around the time I moved home after graduating from college) but I think it might have been even longer than that? Maybe even back when I was still in high school? Although that seems like too much time since…
ANYWAYS, I read the first book again and, it’s official: I still like it!
A lot of people express their distaste towards Meyer’s famous series but the truth of the matter is: the Twilight Saga is famous. Whether you claim to be a fan or not, the series was a hit phenomenon selling over 25 million copies worldwide and had stayed on the bestsellers’ list for a combined 143 weeks. If that’s not enough to convince someone of its success, then maybe the fact that it was adapted into movies that grossed — let’s just say A LOT of revenue — on top of the mountain of money the novels had already made, should do a fair amount of convincing. Unless you think millions of dollars isn’t anything to get worked up over, by most accounts, that would qualify the series as more than adequately famous. Besides, even if you don’t like Twilight, you still know about it — enough to argue it’s validity, at least — and that puts you into one of two categories:
Sorry about your luck lol.
I think most people’s distaste stems from Bella, the human protagonist, who many comment on being too dull of a character and one who’s too invested in her high school boyfriend who happens to be a 100 something year old vampire. The main example being when she completely shuts down when Edward — her vampire boyfriend — breaks up with her (granted, this happens in the second book of the series but everyone knows about all of this by now). To be fair, I understand the negative response to an extent. Crying in the woods for hours after being dumped and shutting down from the rest of your life for months afterwards is beyond ridiculous – vampire breakup or not. I won’t defend Bella and say these were her shiniest of moments but I also don’t think it’s fair to base one’s entire opinion of a character or book series on a single moment either.
[Bare with me here as I explain]
The most common grievance about the series seems to be how people don’t believe Bella to be a good a role model and, therefor, no woman should aspire to be like her. I AGREE: no woman should be so tied to a man that she breaks down crying in the middle of the woods and basically acts like a zombie for months after her relationship ends. However, this is only one particular part of the series and to judge our opinion on this one instance would mean that we were judging the books off of the assumption that Meyers wrote a character for the sole purpose of being a role model.
Let me just say, I don’t think writing for the sole purpose of creating a literary role model was Meyer’s intention. Her goal was to simply tell a story of a seventeen year old girl and a boy who had been seventeen for “Awhile.” (If you know, you know).
In one of her interviews, Meyers tells about how Twilight was inspired by a dream she had of a young couple talking in a meadow and how she woke up wanting to know what they might have been discussing. Besides that, I haven’t heard or read much else about what Stephanie Meyer’s intent was for the characters in her series. My guess is that she didn’t intend for much specifically except to write a story for readers to enjoy. And in addition to that, while there are many who don’t believe she made Bella to be inspirational, intended or not, I do believe Meyers wrote a character many of us can relate to OR would have been able to relate to at one point in our lives. If nothing else, when Bella acted the way she did after her breakup, it wasn’t a whole lot different than how many of us acted the first time our hearts were broken.
The main reason I think we’re so harsh in our judgement of Bella is because we have so many other great literary female role models in our generation‘s literature. We’ve grown up reading about Hermione in Harry Potter, Katniss in The Hunger Games, and Tris in Divergent. And thank goodness for that because these fictional women are obviously incredibly AWESOME! But I don’t think Twilight and these other series fall into the same genre and, as such, cannot be fairly compared.
The difference between Twilight and all of the other novels is that the world of Twilight is pretty normal (at least as normal as a world with vampires and werewolves can be). Unlike the other book series, Twilight isn’t some highly fractured dystopia or a world in the middle of a magical war between good and evil. There is no worldly chaos ensuing, only struggles that occur in Bella’s life specifically. Everyone else remains largely oblivious to the supernatural happenings them.
Once the Cullens leave, that’s kind of it in terms of Bella’s world news. The town of Forks returns to the sleepy town it has always appeared to be and there isn’t any other great imminent danger (at least, not yet) or world crisis going on that Bella has to remain strong for in order to survive. Besides the vampire bit, she’s been dumped by the love of her life and is now left heartbroken. Yes, crying in the woods and shutting down is overly dramatic but, honestly, what teenager isn’t dramatic? Between all of the hormones and first loves and everything else going on, their reactions tend to be a little theatrical. I think if we all took a moment to look back on our teenage years, we would remember a reaction or two of our own that was definitely cringeworthy and a bit ridiculous.
When I think about it, I don’t think any of the other main characters from the other novels I mentioned experienced a break up with the person they loved. Sure, Harry Potter and Cho Chang stopped dating but they hadn’t been in love. Same with Hermione Granter and Victor Krum. Ron Weasely and Hermione did have their fight in the final book that made Ron leave but they hadn’t been dating at that time and they had other things to focus on so I’d say their situations was different from that of Bella’s and Edward’s. In the Divergent series, there wasn’t a breakup. (Spoiler ahead!) Tris did die (which SUCKED) but we didn’t get to see Four’s initial reaction, only him a few months after the Tris’s death. Being how different these situations were, I don’t think they are comparable to Bella because we don’t see any of the other characters experience this particular life event.
ACTUALLY, in The Hunger Games, when Peeta had been taken, Katniss did have her own emotional breakdown that included hiding away from everyone and cramming herself into tiny spaces. Granted, Peeta had been kidnapped by the Capital so his life was in danger, but my point is she behaved similarly to Bella in a way that we can argue isn’t very admirable but it is understandable!
Just like breaking down as a teenager after being dumped by your first love (sort of is). Look, I’m not saying my argument is perfect. All I’m saying is Stephenie Meyers and Bella may deserve a little more credit.
Back to Bella.
I think Bella brings a healthy dose of relatability back to us. As much as I want to be as intelligent as Hermione, or brave as Katniss, or as bold as Tris, sometimes I can only be average. I’m human, and sometimes as humans, we break down.
And then, little by little, we get back up.
And so did Bella.
Besides the first half of New Moon, there are plenty of other aspects of Bella that I think qualify her as a strong female character (even without magical abilities, archery skills, or being “Divergent” (again, proving a point, not roasting any other books or characters because I truly love them all)). For instance:
-Bella ran away from her dad in Forks to keep him safe from a sadistic vampire named James.
-Bella chose to go directly to James – even though she knows it means he will kill her – in order to save her mother from him.
-Bella was willing herself to keep quiet when Victoria, another crazed vampire, decided to kill her in the hopes she would do it quickly and leave Bella’s father alone.
-Bella confronts a group of guys (who turn out to be werewolves), when she thinks they’re threatening her friend, Jacob.
-Bella offers her life as a replacement for Edward’s in order to keep the Volturi from killing him.
-Bella cuts herself with a rock to distract hungry vampires and is willing to sacrifice herself in order to save those whom she cares about.
-Bella commits to a pregnancy she knows will kill her because she’d rather her child live than herself.
Sure, Bella might do some pretty idiotic and questionable things on occasion BUT I think she deserves more credit for the fact that she more often is willing to sacrifice herself in order to save the people she cares about. And, while I am fully aware that all of this is fiction, I do think the fact that Bella is a human surrounded primarily by the supernaturally superior says a lot about her character. Just because she is the weakest link, doesn’t mean she doesn’t do her part to help.
In terms of the other fictional literary worlds, everyone is on significantly more level ground with those around them than Bella is with those around her.
That’s all I’m saying.
I love all of these female leads! Without Hermione, there is no way could Harry have beaten Voldemort, and the worlds of Katniss and Tris would have been far worse places if not for them and everything they sacrificed (Tris gave her life to her cause!). I’m not taking anything away from them by defending Bella. All I’m doing is giving Bella and Stephanie Meyers the props they seem to be frequently denied. In my opinion, Meyers created a well-rounded, relatable, and human character.
Don’t get me wrong, I wish I could be even half as smart as Hermione, half as daring as Tris, and half as strong as Katniss. But I would also be proud to be as half as brave as Bella. In some cases, maybe I could rise to the occasion. If it means protecting my family, I know that I would at least try. But whether I was or wasn’t, I would hate to be judged solely on my bad days and never given credit for my good.
Honestly, what’s the harm in crying everyone once in a while? The world can get a little tough and, every now and then, it really does help to let it all out!
So bring on the comments and let me know what you think! I’m ready for them.