“Twilight” rant 15: it’s all about Bella

by Jasper on July 27, 2009

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Lately I’ve been looking at some of the fun home videos of other Twilight ranters as well as some of the written comments that people have been making about the series. A lot of this stuff seems to be complaints about the crazy fans, complaints that Steph has totally cashed in on the whole series, moaning that the series doesn’t offer good advice for kids or that the writing has stylistic problems and therefore is not worth reading. I think that these other writers are funny, particularly for the last comment. How can you complain that all of the books after the first, “Twilight,” are badly written and boring and have any credibility when it’s obvious that you’ve read them all completely and in great detail?!?

sometimes Bella does seem hard to love

sometimes Bella does seem hard to love

I do agree with that one ranter, nuttymadam3575. She attacks some of the others who bash down “Breaking Dawn.” She’s right, the book is unexpected but it’s also pretty cool. As to issues related to sexism, appropriate messages for younger people and Steph’s financial empire, I’ve already written about those elsewhere. But in summary, I’ll say that I believe that these concerns are misplaced. About the other fans, I could care less what they’re doing, so long as they keep reading what I’m writing about the series.

One of these video ranters, Rachel, is very intriguing. She goes by basketcase23 on U-tube where she narrates a series of at least four videos called straightforwardly enough: Twilight Rant, New Moon Rant, Eclipse Rant and Breaking Dawn Rant. (Originally I had links to these videos but in March 2011 they were removed from U-tube. Sorry that you cannot seem them as they were classic.) Basically she tells the plot of each book over about ten minutes apiece while making a lot of commentary. It’s especially delightful in the “Eclipse” version when she uses little plastic action figures to represent the various characters. Rachel is like some of the other critics in that she trashes the books while showing acute awareness of their content and nuances. That makes me think that she’s just saying these things to be melodramatic. I have the feeling that she’s very into it, just like me.

My point in bringing this up though is that I noticed that throughout her comments, basketcase23 is persistently down on Bella though more erratic in her negativity towards other characters. Occasionally she’ll criticize Edward (objectifying him here with, “Edward’s sperm’s good. Makes good babies”) or Rosalie (“I don’t like Rosalie”) or maybe some of the others too (“Jacob puts the moves on Bella and that’s date rape and date rape is wrong”), but pretty much the whole time “it’s all about Bella.” “Well, that was ‘Twilight’ in a nutshell. It sucked, sucked, sucked. It did not swallow but it sucked.” “New Moon is worse because it’s all about Bella!” “Bella’s just not worth the trouble. Just punch her in the face and she’s done.” “Renesme is super intelligent which I don’t get because she’s Bella’s daughter.” What’s all of this Bella hating about?

Do people out there in the Twilight Universe really think that Bells is a pathetic wimp?

Well, she is a klutz. And compared to other kids, let alone the werewolves and the vamps, she’s not particularly athletic. I admire her for trying things, though. She did learn to ride a motorbike for instance. That takes some dexterity and strength. She also managed to successfully cliff dive, something that I’m sure that I would never do. What I like about her is that she’s so stoic in the face of constantly getting hurt. In every book, she either trips, breaks her bones, cuts herself, falls off stuff, gets attacked or what have you. For the most part, she hardly complains, is more concerned with others being upset and she even refuses more analgesia in the hospital. After the very painful transformation into a vampire, she cheerily tells Carlisle that it wasn’t that bad, clearly downplaying the sheer agony. Not everyone could be that tough.

I don’t have the feeling that Rachel is talking about the physical side when she calls Bella “stupid” and keeps having her Edward telling B to just “shut up!” It’s her emotional state that’s the “problem.” It is true that she’s head-over-heels for Edward and that probably does affect her judgment here and there. I get the sense that it’s mutual. Eddie seems to act like a fool in love a lot too. Naturally there’s a bunch of squishy feelings that get expressed throughout their romance. That seems kind of normal though could be tiresome to others, particularly if you’re inexperienced with these feelings yourselves, as I imagine a lot of the fan base might be because they’re very young.

Rachel seems more intent on bashing Bells down not so much for that, either, as for the ambivalence and inconstancy of her moods, expressions and decisions. In “Eclipse” Rachel’s Rosalie tells Bella, “You’re not pretty. You’re whiny; very, very whiny.” Bella is “so stupid” to get herself “in this situation” with James. When describing Bella’s anguish with the loss of Edward in book 2, Rachel rolls on the floor in mock despair, clearly dismissing the very idea that B could be upset. “Bella…she’s the paragon of self control in every aspect of the book…not!”

I get it that B’s changeable. But in her defense, look at her background. Her parents split up shortly after she was born. B must have heard endlessly from Renee about the dangers of romantic relationships as her mother licked her emotional wounds over her failed marriage to Charlie. And not only that: Bells was subjected to the ongoing chaos of her mother’s absurd life and regular dalliances. No wonder she skips town as soon as Renee is in the semblance of a stable relationship!

Her father is really not better though for the opposite reason: he’s too emotionally withdrawn. Charlie takes a radical hands-off approach to parenting possibly bordering on neglect. But look at it from his perspective for a moment. Bella is already 17 years old when she shows up on his doorstep, so virtually a woman; and he’s had no experience until just then of being a father aside from brief summertime visits which are more like vacations than parenting.

In any event, neither parent has properly prepared Bella for the emotional whirlwind that she enters in Forks. I’m not trying to blame them. They’ve tried their best. It’s simply that people learn from what they observe around them, and Bells has learned some unusual ways of coping with things. As a result, at times she can seem a bit wishy-washy. There are numerous examples of this but I‘ll just mention a few.

First, she recognizes right away that Jacob is more fond of her than she is of him, yet she seems to selectively tune into this and almost encourage his attachment with mixed messages until the final resolution in “Breaking Dawn.” This leads to the much talked about ‘Edward versus Jacob’ plotline in the novels. Why does she allow this very awkward state of affairs to continue? I think that it’s quite simple really. Bella is used to loving two very different people, with almost opposite temperaments, who have an intense though somewhat antagonistic relationship with one-another: her parents, Renee and Charlie. This Jacob/Edward thing is very similar.

I’ve wondered about Bella’s easy acceptance of Edward’s abrupt departure at the start of “New Moon” and her difficulty at the end of that novel in recognizing on the plane trip home from Italy that he was back in her life to stay. Rachel noticed this peculiarity as well. But why?!? Well, isn’t this sort of like her parents? Charlie is always off at work or fishing. Renee is always doing her various and sundry hobbies. Both abandon Bella on a whim and a moments notice. How could she expect Edward and his crew to be any different? And if experience is her guide, then just because he returns with her to Forks at the end doesn’t mean that he won’t up and vanish later.

The third somewhat persistent Bella criticism that comes up a lot throughout the series is her tendency to apologize to others, particularly Eddie and Jake, and focus on their feelings while ignoring her own when she’s placed in dangerous situations by them. Sometimes this can be quite witty: for example when Ed invites her to meet his family for the first time. Instead of being alarmed by entering a house of vampires, she’s more concerned about whether or not they’ll like her. More disturbingly, in “Eclipse” to hold onto Jacob just a bit longer, she consents to kiss him though it’s clear that he’s blackmailing her with his own threats of suicide via newborn murder. This certainly is risky business with a jealous vamp boyfriend hanging around the campsite. Shockingly, she feels bad that Jake’s upset. Instead she should probably be outraged by the whole thing. It happens everywhere in the series so two instances of it should suffice.

What does this pattern mean? Steph has already set the stage for the answer. Bells has been raised to be a parental figure to her wacky parents. Parents frequently take on the feelings and problems of their charges in an attempt to help instead of expressing their own anger and frustration with the problem situations. Of course, Bella takes on a parenting role with Edward and Jacob. That’s how she’s most comfortable. Maybe it’s not appropriate, but it does make sense. In fact, I would say that’s a very important role that Charlie, Renee, Carlisle and Esme could learn more about.

Finally, on-line critics seem outraged that Bella gets married, has sex and a child, all while quite young. Rachel even refers to B’s first sexual encounter with Edward on their honeymoon in Brazil as “date rape.” I really cannot agree. Bella and Edward were nervous it’s true. But both were consenting adults and married to one-another at the time. Neither of them had any sexual experience so of course it was hard to predict what would happen. That’s hardly rape in my book.

I touched on the saccharine yet satisfying series ‘happy ending’ last week but it seems relevant here. To me this criticism appears to be the opposite one of Bella as a spineless, dithering wet blanket like we were just saying. Bells pulls her shit together by the series close as all classic romantic heroines do. She becomes more decisive; she sticks to her decisions when tested; she rises above her circumstances and ultimately prevails. Bella achieves what few of us ever do: she moves beyond the limits imposed on her by her upbringing.

I think that B is made of tougher stuff than most folks give her credit for. Sure, she messes around for a while and she is a bit silly about some things. But she really manages well especially given her limited role models. I applaud her!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Deby Wozniak November 25, 2009 at 12:42 am

OK nuttymadam.whatever is a little emotional and scary (just saw her Youtube). It’s a freaking book series people. I personally would have ended it differently, but can’t change it now. What’s done is done.

Deby Wozniak November 25, 2009 at 12:45 am

OK she’s a freak

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