I recently read an article on Entertainment Weekly discussing the Twilight phenomena (see article here). The author posed the question: is the story of Bella Swan romantically nostalgic or a giant step backward for all female-kind? It got my attention, and I started thinking about my experience with the series and why I think I was so drawn to the story. Stephenie Meyer’s novels are not the sort of craze I would insist that you participate in. There are lots of better books out there–there are most certainly better movies out there. I personally devoured all four books in a two week time span, but I recognize that brooding vampire love is not for everyone and wouldn’t campaign that everyone I know read them the way that I insist all my friends read Pride and Prejudice and watch The Godfather Parts 1 & 2 (with director’s commentary). The fact that I had just lost my job also might have played a role in my desire to spend two weeks in my pajamas, locked in my room with teenage romance novels, but hey, we all have our coping devices.
The article raised an interesting question. Are women drawn to the relationship between Edward and Bella because it represents romance of a different age, calling back to the era of chivalry with knights on white horses rescuing damsels in distress? Or is it that the Twilight fans (myself included) are embracing an antiquated and weakened form of femininity in the character of Bella Swan. I will admit that by book three, Edward Cullen’s fierce possessiveness and constant need to protect his dame drove me a little crazy. As a reader (and a self-sufficient “independent” woman with admitted traces of a fear of commitment) , I felt a little suffocated. I remember thinking, “come on man, give a girl room to breathe! if she wants to visit her shirtless werewolf friend, that’s her prerogative.” But overall, their love story did win me over. I’m not ashamed to admit that by the end of book four I was quite prepared to turn in my feminist badge for a Team Edward t-shirt. I’m also not convinced that Bella is a weak character. Whiny and a bit melodramatic? Certainly. But not weak. She is a pretty strong protagonist, and I think her humanity can sometimes be confused for weakness. It isn’t until her problems reach past the realm of normal human dilemmas that she shows true vulnerability. And I think there is something appealing about the notion that the love between two people is so great that each party is willing to sacrifice their life to protect it. And I’ll also admit, the idea of a man doting on me and doing everything in his power to keep me safe–yeah I think I’d be alright with that. As long as he doesn’t sparkle in the sunlight, I think that might be too much.
Ladies, what do you think? Do you identify with Bella Swan or do you find her to be a weak, petulant brat who just needs to find her identity outside of the men in her life?
I apologize to my male readers who could not be less interested in this post. Don’t be too concerned about it though– I don’t spend all day pining for my very own Robert Pattinson. This is just a blog–nothing more, nothing less.