First off, I read Twilight by Stephenie Meyer mostly out of curiosity. I had no less then seven friends begging me to give them a chance (two guys even), and I eventually caved in. Now getting past the fact Bella Swan to me was nothing more then a wish-fulfillment for the author (how else does such a 'plain' girl end up with five boys lusting after her?) and the plot itself was slightly ridiculous and cheesy... I am willing to admit that I did enjoy some aspects of the novel. For one, Meyer's take on vampires was certainly new and intriguing, and as much as it repulsed me at times, the Edward-Bella relationship appealed to my thirteen year old inner girl in a way that I'm sure a Palahniuk novel never will.
Nevertheless, I was slightly surprised that there were two more books in the series, with another one on the way this summer. Now call it insanity or boredom, or most likely a mixture of both, but I decided to take a chance on New Moon and Eclipse. Big mistake.
Now as I previously stated, I never saw Bella as much more then a wish-fullfiment Mary Sue (her biggest weakness is being clumsy and self concsious - despite the already mentioned legion of lusters), but to say I hated her would have been an overstatement. However, about fifty pages into New Moon I can say with the upmost confidence that never has a protagonist rubbed me in such a wrong way. Not only did I fight the urge to hurl the book out the window (I would have, but it wasn't my book) but I honestly couldn't believe that Meyer would turn Bella into such a whiny, pathetic excuse of a character. The minute her precious Edward leaves her, poor Bella's world falls apart. She literally goes into a self-described 'zombie' mode. Not to mention she partakes in dangerous activities in order to hear her precious lovers voice in her head... And yes, I've heard the 'it's not just her boyfriend, it's her soulmate' argument many times before as to why she so dramatically fell apart. The fact of the matter is, all Bella seems to know is how to love Edward - and how is that even close to a strong female protagonist?
So after New Moon, I can't even understand what possessed me to pick up Eclipse other then to watch the trainwreck keep on rolling. And in that respect, I certainly wasn't disappointed. It became a battle for plain, ol' Bella's heart between an overprotective vampire god, and a forceful werewolf best friend. Needless to say, my gag reflexes are in tip-top condition. And while most Meyer fans were torn between Edward and Jacob, I was wondering how on earth this series had managed to become so popular...
And call me a sadist, because I'm apparently addicted to pain, but I found a copy of Breaking Dawn online, and I just had to know how it all ended. And Meyer certainly went out blazing, Bella and Edward finally do the horizontal shuffle, she gets knocked up (vampire and sperm, really?), the baby tears it's way out of Bella's body in a surprisingly gruesome birth scene (with Edward performing a c-section via his teeth)... but no need to panic! Meyer finds a way of tying everything up nice and neatly. Edward saves Bella after the birth by turning her into the most powerful, self-controlled, beautiful Mary Sue I've ever read. Poor old Jacob imprints on Bella's kid Reneesme (yes, that is her name), and Bella manages to scare off the closest thing to vampire royalty/police with her superpowers. Everyone lives happily ever after. Forever.
I'm actually surprised Meyer's editor even let her get away with that last book. But as they say, 'Money makes the world go around, the world go around...'
So back to the original discussion, is Bella a good role model for young woman?
Yes, I am aware the story is fictional. And yes, I'm sure Meyer never set out with the intent of making Bella into a role model for a generation of a young woman. However, the fact of the matter is that whenever someone or something receives as much attention as the Twilight Sage has... once you're in the spotlight, people are watching you. So is Bella a role model? She certainly is in that position. Is she a good one? That would be a resounding no. Not to say the novels themselves are entirely anti-feminist (Bella did make her own choices essentially, no matter how ridiculous they were to most of us), but the idea that the sole purpose that Bella has in her life is to love Edward, and the her world revolves around him... that is unnerving. Did anyone else notice not a single mention was made about the loss of her human life? Her friends? College? Nope, as long as she has her Edward, she's set.
I will say however, being a teenager that I firmly believe we have our own brains. To say that everyone who reads these books is going to turn into a Bella, or adopt some of her morals is rather ridiculous. Not to say that it isn't possible, of course. There are thousands of girls who willingly admit to being in love with fictional characters. However, reality always finds a way to bite back, so I wouldn't be to worried. These books are meant to be entertaining, as mind-numbing as they are.
I'd say that as much as Twilight may have appealed to my inner thirteen year old girl, the books that followed definitely had her scrambling to find a copy of Pride and Prejudice - romance done right.