Ever since finishing the series in eighth grade, a lot of things have become clear to me that I missed when I was 13. Twilight is not the only book or movie that depicts a dependent, whiny teenage girl desperate for a man’s love, but because of its widespread popularity, it reaches a greater audience than any similar story before. What first opened my eyes to what a bad role model Bella is was when I read The Hunger Games in tenth grade. Katniss, despite her flaws, was an independent, strong, intelligent female character who sacrificed everything to protect her sister, and even pushed love aside so she could escape the Games alive. I adored and admired Katniss and when comparing her to Bella, I realized how much I actually disliked the “tormented” protagonist.
Bella moves from a town she loves to a town she hates. When she gets there, she wastes no time complaining about everything. Bella is given attention from her family, the girls she meets at school, and all the boys who are strangely obsessed with her from the first day she arrives, but nothing satisfies her. Bella sacrifices a lot of things . . . but for what? Not to save her family. Not to make close, life-long friendships with these people who care for her. Instead, it’s for a 100-year-old man who watches her while she sleeps. We are giving young girls the wrong idea about what a man should be and what girls should do to “earn” his love. When Edward leaves Bella, she locks herself in her room for months and falls into a depressed state. Instead of telling girls to be strong and move on from the breakup, or a man who would never leave them or hurt them, we are telling them that it’s okay to cut off all ties with reality and mope because a guy you have been dating for a few months left you.
And then I read Harry Potter. When Ron left Hermione, Hermione didn’t fall apart and give up—she stayed by Harry and continued to help him on his quest. When Harry and Ginny were in the midst of war, Ginny did not weep herself silly because the man she loves could die; she stood by her friends and family and defended her school. When Katniss thought Peeta may be dead, she didn’t give up because she had nothing left to live for, she moved on so she could return to her family. Bella, on the other hand, wanted her parents to think she was dead after (SPOILER ALERT) she was turned into a vampire and gave birth. Instead of lying to them or even attempting to tell them the truth, she was content with them believing she had died. Ultimately, Bella is the epitome of what female heroines should not strive to be. She is selfish and has little respect for herself. She believes she is nothing without the love of a man. She places herself in dangerous, stupid situations just so she could “hear Edward’s voice” again. What are the overarching morals and lessons to be learned?