'86 Rabbit

A FANGirl's Forkstress of Solitude

Why Bella Isn’t Weak

All over the internet I run into articles complaining about Twilight, saying it sets a terrible example for young girls because the heroine, Bella Swan, is so weak. I was shocked when I first read this, and continue to be shocked that so many people seem to agree. So here’s me, going to bat for Bella.

The first thing we learned about Bella was that she was a survivor and she was inventive. She did not wallow in self-pity for having a flighty mom. She took over those aspects of life that Renee was not managing, even going so far as to look after Renee. This created a Bella who is wise beyond her years. When Renee remarried, she was able to look at the situation from a more adult point of view. She saw that Renee would be more miserable away from Phil than she herself would be in Forks for less than a year (until she was 18 and could live on her own), so she proposed the move and made the arrangements. Because of this take charge attitude and ability to rise to the top in a difficult situation, Bella had already lived a human adult life, in a way, so would not missing much in that regard by becoming vampire. She was not throwing away her life to be with her boyfriend forever. She had lived her life and paved the way to make her dreams come true on her own.

Maybe it was this take charge attitude that helped Bella to master her fears when she moved to Forks and found herself in actual danger. I watched the movie Bounce recently. In this movie it was said, “It’s not brave if you’re not scared.” Bella was brave. She always knew Edward could slip at any moment. Instead of thinking of her safety, she thought of what she wanted out of life and trusted in herself and Edward to get it. What she wanted was Edward, so she did what she could to make him as comfortable as possible. She fibbed, told him she was not afraid when she really was. She moved as one should move around a predator, which Renee remarked upon during their visit to Jacksonville. Also, Bella didn’t take Edward’s possessiveness and overreaction lightly. She went toe to toe with him. She knew what she wanted and went after it without taking no for an answer. On numerous occasions Bella stood up to whole Cullen family at once. They’re vampires. There wasn’t a thing she could do to make them do anything. Yet over and over they did it her way, such as when she came up with the plan to flee to Phoenix.

Speaking of Phoenix, this was just the first time Bella was willing to sacrifice herself to save her loved ones. Over the course of the saga she tried to save not just Edward, but all of the Cullens, the wolves, her friends, and her family. She went to James, very cleverly figuring out how to elude Alice and Jasper, their gifts being very tricky to get around. Later, she gave concert tickets to friends to make sure they would not be in town when the newborn army arrived. Bella used her wiles to keep Edward out of the battle, and tried the same on Jacob. She intended on pulling a Third Wife, causing herself harm to try to protect people with much greater physical strength. Mortal Bella had always been a Shield.

I think one of Bella’s greatest strengths lies in her smarts. Bella understood the greater good, understood team work. When all she wanted was to rip the Volturi apart with her own newborn hands, she understood the group would be better served if she hung back and used her shield. She suffered staying out of the fight and having her own personal bodyguard so that she could concentrate on shielding everyone. In the end it was her shield that prevented the fight. Many think that there not being a final battle was weak. I think that was some courageous writing. Anyone can fight. I think it takes much more strength to avoid a fight, even more to make peace–even if it is a strained peace.

The part that really clinched it for me though was when Bella found that she was pregnant. All through the saga Bella described Edward as a god. He was the only thing she was ever passionate about. Then on their honeymoon when she discovered she was pregnant she actually defied this god, finding herself passionate about  this baby she never realized she wanted. She was willing to fight to the death for her baby, going so far as to enlist the aid of Rosalie, the only vampire she knew who did not like her, knowing Rosalie would help her protect the child. This shows, once again, how Bella puts her natural ability to shield and her smarts to good use. Her actions created a stand-off within the Cullen family to give her the time she needed to carry the baby, and eventually win everyone over. Even through weeks of great physical pain, and through the emotional pain of seeing Edward so torn up, she stood by her decision to follow this maternal instinct.

Sure, you can say, “But all she can think about is Edward. He’s her whole life. That’s not healthy!” If she were a real girl, not being pulled by destiny to fall in love with a vampire and later become one herself, I would agree whole-heartedly. But the character of Bella is not a real girl, and she is being pulled by destiny. She is very much like a real girl in that she has flaws. And she is very much a positive role model for girls in that she realizes those flaws and does the best she can with them. Nobody is perfect in life. It is up to parents to teach this to children, to show their children how Bella might be a good person, but we should not want to be exactly like her; we should want to be our own person. Parents should teach their children to think for themselves and not follow heroes and heroines blindly.

In English class you learn that there are basically three types of storylines: Man vs Man, Man vs Nature, and Man vs Himself (Note: I think anything like Man vs Technology or Man vs Religion still really just boils down to these three). To insist that we create only paragons of virtue for our youth to read about removes one third of all possible storylines, storylines that I feel are the most important for kids to be reading. Don’t we want our kids to learn to recognize their flaws, as well as the flaws in others, and learn to deal with them? Isn’t this essentially what the whole arguement about super models and the self-esteem of our youth is all about? If we don’t want our kids to be bombarded with the fiction of perfection on magazine covers, in movies, and on TV, then why would we want our kids to be bombarded with the fiction of perfection in their fiction?

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April 17, 2009 - Posted by | Bella Swan, Breaking Dawn, Eclipse, Edward Cullen, Essays, New Moon, Stephenie Meyer, Twilight, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10 Comments »

  1. I totally agree with you, I am 33, so I have been thru life. When my daughter was reading these books (before I did) I just kept telling her that it was an obsessive love story and life was not like that. Then I read them all and changed my point. Bella seems weak at first, but she is really strong if you read all of the books and know her like we do. She is strong when she needs to be, but soft at the right times.
    I came from a family who showed no love, so I am NOT an emotional person at all…at least on the surface. I just can’t show anyone how I feel. My husband HATES this. I can not help it. I have a hard time not thinking that showing your emotions are weak. I am afraid that I am teaching my kids this coldness. I am not mean, I just don’t hug and kiss and cry (Of Course I do hug and kiss my kids, just not overly so).
    Bella is strong enough to show her emotions and strong enough to be “hard” when she has to. She knows what she wants and gets it. She takes what life has given her and turns it in to a GREAT LIFE! That is not bad. If only we all could adapt and think of others like her. If you can take your emotions and use them to your advantage, you are not weak. Bella is perfect! I do not hink Stepahnie Myer would have wrote about a weak girl. She is not going to give al lthese girls a negative role model.
    Kelly

    Comment by kelly | April 17, 2009 | Reply

  2. THANK YOU FOR THIS POST! I want to print it out and wear it on a T shirt, so the next person I run into who spouts, “Bella isn’t a feminist, Bella isn’t a good role model, blah blah…” I can just point, instead of having to actually argue.

    I don’t understand how people can say that about her, unless they haven’t read the books.

    Great post!

    Comment by jonettecullen | April 17, 2009 | Reply

  3. Well said! Although there were times when I found Bella to be exasperating or thought that she was a tad whiny or even manipulative, I don’t think the people who spend an inordinate amount of time explaining why they believe Bella is a wuss really have a leg to stand on.

    Comment by Snarkier Than You | April 18, 2009 | Reply

  4. Wow! Thank you all for posting, and thank you for the kind words.

    @Kelly I agree. Bella is soft when she can be and hard when she needs to be. And isn’t that the definition of strength, being able to adapt to the circumstances around you? Thanks for the input, and for sharing a bit about yourself.

    @Jonette WOW! I don’t think anyone ever wanted to print one of my rants on a t-shirt before. That’s high praise indeed!

    @STY Bella can def be exasperating. I mean not wanting to get married? To Edward?!? As for whiny and manipulative, all part of the aforementioned ‘feminine whiles’. Don’t judge. You know it’s true.

    Comment by '86 Rabbit | April 18, 2009 | Reply

  5. (Those who have not read Breaking Dawn: WARNING! There are spoilers ahead)

    After reading your essay, I agree with you that Bella is a good role model to kids as well as Twilight itself. I always thought of Stephenie Meyer as a genius and I say it again, “Stephenie Meyer is a genius!”

    I was so moved by what you said that Bella had the control even as a newborn to not start a fight and that she knew that if she did something bad, it would cause a lot of lives. And by what you said that it takes strength to learn to make peace and to prevent a fight and how you say she actually did prevent the fight.

    Wow… I’m so overwhelmed by how much I didn’t notice about Bella. I am kind of jealous of her in a way (I mean we all are. She’s got Edward) but not because of Edward but because she is so much maturer than I ever was and am today. I would love to be like her as you said that she IS a good role model because she handled every situation and took it into her own hands and didn’t back down. Bella always knew what she wanted and she was gonna get it.

    You also touched me in saying that she sacrificed herself for everyone that she loved and the parts of her doing that was in Eclipse mostly.

    Oh! Another thing that struct me was in a way you were saying that she had already lived her human life and she was so adult even in her years and she was destined to become a vampire in a way. She had lived her human life and so she was right to become a vampire. Edward was right, too. He thought out things on the subject of whether or not he was going to turn her into a vampire. He wanted her to fulfill her human life with her moments of going to prom, getting married and having sex and having a baby all while she was human. I think Edward gave her the greatest gift of all before she was to die and to be with him forever. Humans are very powerful creatures.

    Anyway, you deeply moved me with this and I support you still 100% and I deeply enjoy your opinions. Kudos!

    Comment by artisticphilosopher | April 20, 2009 | Reply

  6. I started this post months ago. If I only knew how many positive comments I would get…!

    Comment by '86 Rabbit | April 20, 2009 | Reply

  7. I loved this! thank you for writting this.. all i can say, is “Amen!”

    Comment by ArCasey | May 23, 2009 | Reply

  8. wow…that was deep…it really spoke to me…thank you for posting this

    Comment by kezzi93 | July 17, 2009 | Reply

  9. That was awesome! Honestly, I’m somewhat speechless at how well you defined and defended Bella. I’m 14 and I was just surfing the web and came across something on Sodahead.com that really agitated me. It was some stupid poll about who is better Ginny Weasley or Bella Cullen and I read about 50 (irritating) comments, all votes for Ginny. Most of them were generic, derogatory comments picking on Bella and claiming that she is weak and stupid. This really unsettled me because it’s obvious that all of these people haven’t read any of the books and know almost nothing about Bella except for what they saw in the Twilight movie. I find that ridiculous and completely annoying and I just wanted to say thanks for writing this! That expressed all of my jumbled feelings in one awesome, well-organized rant!

    Comment by Nina | August 25, 2009 | Reply

  10. Bull crap. Bella wallows in New moon and all for what a dead man? More over she disregards both her families safet, her own, Jacobs and The Cullens for her own selfish wants. As Meyer has blatantly stated, Bella is a likeness of Cassandra from Wuthering Heights. Cassandra was selfish (she said it herself) and cruel (more than in the literal sense) I’m sorry but only crazy middle aged women who live vicariously through this pile of rubbish or little fan girls too stupid to know any better believe Bella to be a role model. To the first poster – Bella doesnt take her life in to her hands and turn it in to a ‘GREAT LIFE’ she doesnt want a life at all hence the biting and the immortality?? Selfish, weak, boring and without concept of anything beyond her boyfriends aesthetically pleasing sparkly body. What a twat. The thing is the way all of you are justifying her ‘maturity’ (whaaat?) is hilarious – in the real world a girl like her would be ridiculed by people like you with worryingly simplistic ideals.

    What it boils down to people – a girl lays down for a guy and has a baby. All the while causing trouble for her ‘friends’ putting family in danger and petulantly behaving like the world was going to end because she didnt have her boyfriend. Well thank you ladies for setting back 100 years everything the suffragettes and enslaved women around the world have worked for back in their faces.

    Comment by Kes | November 15, 2010 | Reply


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