Wednesday, September 12, 2012

One More Blog About Twilight

or  I Know, I Can't Believe We're Still Talking About It Either
by Bethany Maines

A friend of mine and I were comparing notes on the Twilight series, which she loved and I mildly enjoyed enough to make it through the first book and then wikipedia the plots of the others so I could find out what happened in the end.  Our discussion centered on the fact that much of the media portrays Bella as a passive, whiny person who contrasts poorly with the likes of Hermione, Buffy, Katniss or Leia.  My friend thought that since Bella didn’t have super powers that she would never compare well in any competition with Buffy et all.  I thought that while some of the media interpretation of her whininess is undeserved, that Bella, super powers or not, just isn’t much of a strong feminist role model.  The argument eventually concluded with, “Yeah, well, you know what’s feminist? Writing whatever you want and not having to censor yourself because feminists won’t like it.”  Oh, snap. Point and match. 

But I think there’s another reason that Bella isn’t an apples to apples comparison to Buffy, Hermione, or Leia.  Each of those three happened upon love while pursuing a greater cause.  They had epic events with some love.  But Bella flipped that around – she fell in love and then had a few epic events. And of those two scenario’s, which sounds more likely to happen to your average teenager?  I don’t wonder that Bella resonates with a generation ­– falling in love, getting depressed, getting back together, it’s all part and parcel of being a teen. 

But… I just don’t like the decisions that Bella made. As a kid I thought Eowyn (LoTR), Esther (Bible), and Leia (Star Wars) were awesome.  Smart, strong, sexy women with a rebellious streak and a thing for royalty (except for Leia, who of course, liked scruffy looking nerf herders).  My parents went out of their way to point out good role models because they wanted me to know that women could do whatever they wanted.  But what if I had wanted to be married at 18 to my on-again off-again boyfriend like Bella did?  That would not have gone over well with anyone in my family except for my really sexist grandmother. If my best friend in high-school had been Bella, I would have been fairly horrified at her decision making skills, and chalked it up to an a broken family and low self-esteem.

I know, I know, Twilight is just a fiction novel – not a how-to manual for life.  It’s a romantic story that features star-crossed true-love and a happy ending.  But if I ever have any offspring of the female persuasion I won’t be pointing out Bella; I’ll be pointing at Stephenie Meyer and saying, “Look how she wrote a book that touched the lives of millions of people – you can do that to!”  

Bethany Maines is the author of Bulletproof Mascara, Compact With the Devil and Supporting the Girls.  Catch up with her at or check out the new Carrie Mae youtube video.


  1. Loved the illustrations you chose, Bethany! Steven King had a good way of putting it--"Harry Potter is about a boy who goes through hell to fight evil and save the world. Twilight is about a girl who goes through hell to get a boyfriend." (I've loosely paraphrased him there.)

    The sad thing is to see the adult version in 50 Shades. In their readers' defense, though, both hook into some powerful mythology that's been working on women for millennia. The beauty and the beast story. He is and does terrible things, but she has such powerful love for him that she can change him into something good. this little fairy tale that's behind so much that's been written or portrayed through the centuries basically encourages women to stay with violent abusers. It's their fault, after all, that their love isn't strong enough to magically change him into someone good.

    1. I think the other problem with Beauty & the Beast (which I love and is one of my favorites, so please no one send me hate mail, I think about it because I love it so much) is that Beauty has only reflected power - she has power over the Beast, but if he decides she's not worthy of his love, poof, there goes her power and her safety.

      Also, I think, in Bella's defense, that it would be more accurate to say that she went through hell to create a family that will never, ever leave her. Which is something that resonates.

  2. Amen to Bethany, Linda, and Stephen King!

    Great blog!


  3. Bethany, you're so right about Beauty (and Bella, etc.) having only reflected power. Ah, but I spent my earlier life as a feminist running a university and community women's center, so I'd better leave this alone before I get on the soapbox and go on for days!

  4. None of us can change our partner--I've been trying for 61 years with no results. (ha ha) I actually enjoyed all the Twilight movies so far as entertainment, all except the childbirth scene which had to be the absolute worst in history. Hermione was indeed a different kind of heroine. And I did get married at 18, but still managed to do all the things I wanted to do and then some.