Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Why Bella Swan Is Kind of A Bad Ass Heroine by Megan Crane

I wouldn't call myself a huge Twilight fan.

I didn't like the first book.  I read the other three just to see what the fuss was about, and ended up loving Jacob the most and only tolerating Bella and Edward.  I had no desire to see the movie--and was ultimately dragged to a showing by a friend who insisted I'd love it.

He was right.  I loved it so much I saw it ten times in the theater.  I saw New Moon on opening night, the next two in opening week, I'm pretty sure.

And just last week, I went to the Twilight Marathon, which means I watched all five movies back to back in a theater with a motley crew of other fans, most of us wearing some or other item of Twilight swag (t-shirts, jewelry; I wore a Forks High School sweatshirt I have no memory of buying--did I block the purchase out of shame?  Was it a gift?  Who knows?), and all of us prepared to spend twelve hours in a theater submerged in all things Twilight.

Twilight Saga Marathon poster

I had a great time.  I loved every minute of it.  But I still wouldn't call myself a huge Twilight fan, despite the evidence.

It's the Bella thing.

We all know how easy it is to hate Bella, don't we?  Isn't that the major problem people have with the series?*  She's so passive!  She goes catatonic when Edward leaves!  She has no identity!  She's a blank slate onto which readers paste their own sentimental fantasies...  Etc, etc.  I'm certainly guilty of thinking these things.

But the thing is--they're not true.  Think about it.

The friend who dragged me to the theater to see Twilight in the first place also told me this: Bella gets every single thing she wants.  And he's absolutely right.  She does.

She isn't a passive character wafting about on the whims of others, bending to everyone else's will.  She wants Edward, she gets him.  She wants to provoke the Cullens to return, she does.  She wants Jacob in her life on her terms, she gets him there.  She wants that baby, she has it.  She wants to become a vampire, she does.  She doesn't want to be like a wild animal with the initial bloodlust, she isn't.  She wants to sort of tell her father what's up so she doesn't have to disappear on him--she gets that, too.  The only thing I can think of that she doesn't get that she wants is premarital sex with Edward, and it isn't like she doesn't want to marry him, she just doesn't want to be seen as a teenaged bride.  Meanwhile, she's the sexual aggressor in their relationship, which is something you don't often see in a teenaged heroine, because they rarely have the confidence.  But Bella does.  How is that not bad ass?  She knows what she wants.  She gets what she wants.  And while she might be sorry that her single-mindedness hurts others--most notably, her father and Jacob--she's not sorry enough to stop, and she's not afraid to go forward even when Edward himself is against her.

My point is, she's not really that passive.  She just maybe makes different choices than we would and then she pursues them stubbornly and with clear focus.  I'm not sure why that makes her a terrible role model for girls.  I was a mess at eighteen with no goals or focus whatsoever, but that doesn't mean every eighteen year old is that way.  Some eighteen year olds marry, have kids, and are all grown up pretty much then and there, while others (who shall remain nameless) are idiots who waft about in college being deeply stupid and then waste their twenties being even more stupid, before deciding to act like adults in, maybe, their thirties.  Bella is obviously in the former group.  And I think that's pretty bad ass.  And I think that if you have a bad ass kid who knows what she wants, that's a good thing.  Maybe even a kind of role model.

And I also think you should watch all five Twilight movies, but maybe not all at once.

Edward, *I know, I know--the other major complaint is that Edward is a creepy stalker 108 year old vampire who preys on a high school girl...  I guess I think that's par for the course in a vampire story.  I feel like if that's going to bother you, you shouldn't read/watch a vampire story.  It would be like reading a historical romance and complaining that none of the characters were adequately bathed and didn't they SMELL?  There is a certain level of disbelief you have to suspend, is all.  Vampires are creepy stalkers.  Angel lurked.  "Moon Over Bourbon Street" is a vampire stalker's anthem.  That's what they do.  I read Anne McCaffrey's Pern series when I was at an impressionable age, and I REALLY wanted to impress a dragon or, failing that, a fire lizard.  I thought about that a lot.  But I didn't run off and fling myself a komodo dragon to see if I could develop a telepathic link with one.  I just daydreamed.

Megan Crane is the author of twenty-seven books at last count, some of them written under the name Caitlin Crews, but none of them involving vampires, sadly.  She has fannish tendencies, as you now know, and really, Twilight isn't even high on the list.  IMAGINE.  You should hear her wax rhapsodic about Buffy.  You can find out more about her at, where you can also check out her latest novel ONCE MORE WITH FEELING (Buffy fans: yes, but still, no vampires) which will be out in the UK on December 6.  


  1. Megan, this is why I love you so much. A very thoughtful post about-- of all things!-- Bella Swan. I hate her, too. I'll have to reconsider now, based on your arguments, but I did have to stop reading after the second book. It was just so anti-feminist to me (and I'm not even a feminist!!) how she just always waited around for someone to rescue her. I was like, rescue yourself, girl!!

    Now, if you wanna talk badass heroine, I could go on all day about Elena Gilbert....

  2. All right, you've got me thinking. I stopped at the first book. Bella drove me insane. I did feel like she was a blank slate waiting for Edward to do something. But maybe she had a plan after all. ;) Still not reading the books though. But maybe the movies now....

  3. I have the movies backed up ready for watching. I've avoided the whole 'Twilight' gig until now. Your compelling account has me sliding faster toward the dark side!
    Thanks for this, Megan.

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed Twilight, I guess I'm just one of about 80MM or so :-). Love your blog post about it!

  5. I think you're kind to bestow so much depth to Bella! That is the sign of a very creative mind!

  6. Great blog. I love Bella. I love Edward. I have problems. :-) Love.

  7. I not only read the Twilight series; I re-read it. The way I figure it, Meyer must have hit some trigger within us to sell a gazillion copies. And, as a writer, I think that's worth pondering.

  8. Okay, Okay, I concede. I too was a Bella hater-girl needs a backbone! But I get your point. And you're right-she does get everything she wants. And I agree with Christina, Stephanie Meyer certainly did something right! And I'm excited to hear about your books-Amazon here I come!