By now there are two distinct camps when it comes to Twilight: the lovers and the haters. There is hardly an in-between zone; readers either adore the star-crossed human and vampire lovers or they actively loath it all. While the hate it received at the time the movies came out was rather excessive, valid criticism has always been there.
Among the issues with the story was Bella Swan’s lack of agency at times, and the criticism that she’s a bad role model. However, author Stephenie Meyer has a small rebuttal to that claim.
Bella Swan’s character has been criticized since the books came out in 2005
Bella Swan is very close to being a self-insert character in the first book because she is a bit plain. She has traits and some clever lines, but the bulk of the story’’s intrigue comes from her love story with Edward Cullen, the 100+-year-old teen vampire. Now, that’s the main concept of the novel and what creates the most conflict, so this makes sense. But Bella isn’t that special.
Now, as the series goes on, fans tend to like her more and more. But especially in the first two books, she has been criticized as being a bad role model. In Twilight, Bella is thrown into this fantastical world of vampires, and in comparison can come off as weak. But it’s New Moon where her dependence on Edward is in full focus. The way she loses herself after he leaves her is hardly a rallying cry for female empowerment.
What’s really interesting is that in Midnight Sun, which came out in August, the reader gets a better look at Bella through Edward’s eyes. She takes on more of a personality, has a lot more redeeming qualities, and is just overall more intriguing. It’s a bit sad how Bella sees herself, but that in itself is relatable enough.
But Stephenie Meyer finds that Bella’s determination to get what she wants is admirable
But before Midnight Sun came out, there was still that criticism about her being a bad role model. That she didn’t really offer up a lot of good inspiration for girls and women reading the books.
During an appearance on the Remember Twilight? Podcast, Meyer did touch on that and noted that Bella’s extreme circumstances definitely impacted her choices and character.
“There are people who think Bella is not like a great example for a young girl. And I think there are elements – yes, you should not get that caught up into a boy,” Meyer conceded. “If it’s a fantasy creature that doesn’t really exist, go right ahead, you have my permission. If it’s a normal human boy, yeah, take a step back, absolutely.”
Again, Meyer noted “this is a fantasy novel” in a fake world, according to CinemaBlend. But even in this weird, impossible world, Bella has one redeeming quality.
“I do think it’s good for girls to be like ‘I can be sure of what I want and not be afraid of what I want,’” Meyer said about Bella’s determination to follow through on her love for Edward. Even if he had other ideas at times.
It’s important to note why Bella is the way she is, and that’s due to poor parenting
Another aspect of Bella’s life that Midnight Sun pointed out was her upbringing with her mother Renée. Since it is all from Edward’s point of view this time, readers can get an unbiased look at her mother. How Bella is oh so devoted to her, but that having her as a parent really messed Bella up.
“Bella is so biased in favor of her mother that she doesn’t ever put it into a dark, light… she always sees the best in her mom,” Meyer said on the podcast episode, which aired on Aug. 22. “But it’s all there, who Renée is. And it’s not like Renée is mean, or intends to be cruel, it’s all unintentional. And it’s just how she is. But how she is, is not a good mom.”
The original books from Bella’s perspective did touch on Renée’s “hair-brained” behavior. But being able to see it from Edward’s view, and it’s even more clear how much Bella had to grow up at such a young age. She never put herself first and never had that solid foundation with a parent. Nor was she ever her mother’s center of attention.
So when Edward comes in and really gives her a chance to be protected, to be cared for, it takes Bella by surprise. Not to mention, Edward is one of the first people to really try to get to know her. Her mother always saw Bella as an “open book” but only because she never got the chance to really dig into who Bella was. And even though Meyer doesn’t see Bella as a “bad role model,” per se, she does note that there are reasons as to why Bella’s story goes the way it does.
“I don’t think that anybody ends up like Bella if they have a really good mom.”