A friend recently sent me this funny U-tube video of Edward Cullen trying to court Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Naturally she’s completely turned off and ends up “slaying” him by the end. Apparently she didn’t like his stalker tendencies.
I agree with the Multiply writers about that: Edward’s whole stalker business is pretty creepy. Bella doesn’t seem to mind though. In fact, if I were to guess, I think that it sort of turns her on. Weird, but Bells is strange.
For one, I’m at a loss about her low self-esteem! She’s obviously a good student; she gets along well with her eccentric parents; she knows how to take care of herself; and of course, she’s a guy magnet. It’s odd how she doesn’t notice these things about herself.
The guy issue is the one that has preoccupied everyone reading, reading about or commenting on the “Twilight” series, so let’s revisit the evidence. In the first few days of school, normally a horrible experience for all shy teenagers, particularly when entering mid-year, Bella manages to get Mike, Tyler, Eric, Edward and lest we forget, Jacob, awfully interested. She complains sweetly that “I had no practice dealing with overly friendly boys.” Well, she’s getting total immersion at Forks High! Really though, what in the world does she mean when she exclaims later to Edward “Well, look at me…I’m absolutely ordinary[?]” I don’t think so. And I’m not just talking about the beauty behind the face to paraphrase Bella herself in another context (though she obviously has that in spades.)
Personally I think that sexuality can be pretty confusing for everyone. And this girl comes from a sort of sheltered background if I’m reading between the lines properly. I remember when I was a teen that this sex and guy stuff could really freak me out. Why not Bells, too? It doesn’t seem very fair, or particularly accurate, to reduce her to a mere “object of desire” as those other commentators do. To me, she seems a bit more complex than all that. And why not look at Edward in the same light? Sure, he’s wickedly strong and dangerous but don’t we all have the potential for that with the “right” motivation and weapons? Bella makes the point herself when she protests that she doesn’t “like double standards.” Failing to see how Edward gets objectified by B and all of the other girls in school while harping on how B is by E seems just as egregious to me. Ooo, Edward is so angelic, like a model, impossibly beautiful; you name it, the list is endless. That’s a lot of pressure to tack onto anyone, including a guy.
But you know what? I don’t care. Being in high school and falling in love are both irrational emotional experiences. It seems so… real the way Bells and Eddie idealize one another. Why make a huge production out of it? It’s completely over the top but that’s just how kids are. Show a little compassion!
I want to believe that Bella and Edward are really in love. Don’t you? Isn’t the story much more satisfying if you do? Yes, yes, you can reduce Bells to just someone that’s completely controlled by Edward. I get it. But why would you? That ruins the fun. The social implications might be appalling, yet maybe not. But whatever!!! This is still entertainment, no? Or is it a self-help book? The mere fact that so many folks bought into the fantasy must say something!
Probably something that disturbs you.
Other ranters on Multiply go on and on about Steph in their column, complaining that Bells is just a personification of Lady M herself. I’m not so sure about that. Maybe Steph over-identifies with Ms. Swan, but isn’t that the whole appeal of this story? Bella is just vaguely described enough and she’s “ordinary” enough that most interested readers can identify with her on some level. Steph is only human, like the rest of us. Perhaps she could have written something that is more morally uplifting that promotes individual liberation or whatever, but why should she? This series is awfully successful as is; the writer seems to have enjoyed the experience and her numerous fans suggest that they did too. We’re not in Venezuela, after all. Good for her for cashing in on the American dream! And of course Steph’s tripped up in Edward’s charm! After all, isn’t that why the series is such a phenomenal success? Almost everyone gets hooked. How can you really know what she thinks anyway? Are you her mother or her psychotherapist? Maybe the book should come with a warning label like on cigarette cartons and wine bottles? It could say something like, “Read with caution: not everything in here is PC.”
These same critics bash down Edward for his ultra-white skin, “mood ring” pupils [by the way, very cool description!] and dark circles under his eyes, claiming that he’s not attractive at all. Why would Bella be drawn to such a freak? Well, I have wondered about the racial implications of her attraction to Edward, but that’s elsewhere. Don’t they say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and taste is subjective? (Just who are ‘they,’ anyway?) Really, haven’t any of you ever fallen for someone that your friends and relatives didn’t find that appealing? Come on, you know that you have!
And that’s my point with Bella and her self-image issues. It seems very clear that if you just “objectively” look at the facts that Bells has a lot going for her. Just because she doesn’t recognize that right away doesn’t necessarily mean anything. It simply takes some of us longer than others to get the hang of it. I believe Jasper when he tells her on their flight from James to Phoenix, “You’re wrong you know… you are worth it.” The rest of the series is the process of her discovering this one marvelous, simple fact.
You quote readers and fans that complain bitterly about the last book, “Breaking Dawn.” They didn’t like the fact that B and E finally had sex you say. What is more striking to me is your dismissal of Bella as “a traditional–and boring–teenaged mom.” Who’s objectifying whom now? Bella didn’t seem that unhappy about the arrangement. I agree that that would have bored me witless, but it can work for some. So what’s the problem? She made a choice; one that you didn’t like. Isn’t that the whole point?
Let’s look at the bigger picture for just a sec now. Bella is an inexperienced girl entering high school in an alien town to help her mother out. Already that’s weird. When’s the last time any of your teen girls wanted to be big helps around the house? Plus she’s shy, doesn’t have experience with boys and has not dated before. Her parents split eons ago and she’s an only child used to taking care of them. Suddenly she’s confronted by a guy that she finds shockingly attractive. Not only that, he takes an interest in her. And she discovers that he has some shameful secret that he’s appalled by, a secret that she eventually learns and doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, it brings them even closer together. And he has this amazing family. (I’d love to have Alice alone as a family member. Can you imagine? No financial worries and always getting the weather and your clothes perfectly right? Heaven on Earth!) They’re very nice to her too, after a few bumps in the road with Rosalie. Maybe that’s only the vamps being self serving because she accepts them as they are, but so what?
Bella comes from this messed up family but remains steadfastly family oriented. Her parents are nice and all but totally don’t get her and they seem checked out in their own little worlds most of the time. When you really look at the Cullen/Hales, what do you see? They are this big, close-knit family; all with good looking, studious, very well meaning relatives. Why wouldn’t she be into it? Alone she finds Edward to be mind-stoppingly sexy. And the others give her something that she’s never had before: loving involved sibs and parents. Wouldn’t anyone go wild over the combination?
Yes, it’s a bit pedestrian. Though isn’t that what everyone is secretly after: unconditional love, all in the context of financial freedom, eternal youth and, of course wild sex with a ridiculous hottie while having the dignity of parenting the next generation.
Bella is beautiful. And she’s smart. What a weird combination!