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?