Thursday, January 24, 2013

Feminist Friday: The Case Against Bella Swan

My good friend and fellow blogger, Rennay, suggested that I address the current trend of pathetic female characters in books. Ask and you shall receive, my dear...

The most blatant ones that come to mind are Bella Swan of Twilight, Anastasia Steel of Fifty Shades of Grey, and most recently, Beatrice "Tris" Prior of Divergent.

Let me preface this by saying that I am a huge Twilight fan (read all the books, seen all the movies...wasn't the final movie crazy???) Anyway.. I also read all of the Fifty Shades. While I thoroughly enjoyed them, I'm iffy about my final decisions on it. And I also enjoyed Divergent that I just recently finished. I think it's a wannabe Hunger Games, but worth the read. Meaning, I liked all of these novels, but, like Rennay, I had issues with the main characters. Allow me to explain...

Bella Swan. Ugh. First of all the name. Really? Could you make her sound any more pathetic right off the bat? I think I started to dispise her from the very first book when the author KEPT telling us how clumsy and uncoordianted she was. She straight up told us how pitiful she was in first person, so there was no denying it. The complete lack of confidence and self worth was appauling. But, of course, the most gorgeous guy around is conveniently attracted to her self deprecation (when is reality he just wants to suck her blood and kill her) and they fall instantly in love. Please.

And don't get me started on the Edward and Bella, "I love you so much but you couldn't possibly love me because I'm not worthy" back and forth bullsh*t. I mean one entire book was devoted to that nonsense.

Onto the next: Anastasia Steele. I could write an entire post about the ridiculousness of this book, but many of you out there, with varying opinions, have already done so. So I'll just mention how this is yet another character who starts the book off by saying how her roommate is so beautiful and outgoing and she is just gross, quiet, and awkward. But, ALAS, the most beautiful and richest man in the country thinks she is the most desirable woman he has ever met. Seeing a trend?

((I'm not the one calling these characters pathetic, peeps! They are laying it right out there on the table!!))

Finally, Tris of Divergent. I have some serious beef with Tris. Why? Because she is clearly smart, brave, caring, attractive, and determined. But it's like the entire book, after she has accomplished all of these amazing feats, she STILL thinks of herself as a scrawny, unworthy person.

It seems to be a common theme that these woman describe themselves as worthless, but everyone else thinks they are beautiful and talented (namely, the most eligible bachelor in town).

Can a sister get a main character who IS awesome (like the ones above), but actually sees it herself? Is that so wrong? Must she be in total denial for the book to be good? I'm not an expert on writing, so maybe that's just how it is?

Surprisingly, you know who I didn't have issues with? Katniss of the Hunger Games. She was badass and good at things like archery, but actually OWNED it. Tris could have really taken some hints from her.

I have no issues with characters having self doubt, especially when faced with some of the obstacles these characters are (vampires, werewolves, control-freak men, and a possessed army threatening the lives of the ones you love). But, most of them have outstanding qualities (which I know makes a good book), so while they might not belive in themselves all the time or even realize they have such strengths, do they HAVE to be overtly pathetic, self deprecating, and constantly tripping over their converse sneakers?? Can we pump a little bit of confidence into some of these ladies?

Please watch: Jessica Chastain's acceptance speech at the Golden Globes for Zero Dark Thirty. She recognizes the movie's writer for writing a "stong, capable, independant woman who stands on her own" and she also thanks her female director, Kathryn Bigelow, who she compares to her character as a "powerful, fearless woman who allows her expert work to stand before them.." You can watch the rest here:

I just think it's so great that she recognizes that this character broke traditional gender roles and in interviews talks about how she was honored to portray someone like this instead of the typical flippant female characters she plays. (By the way, this movie was awesome and you need to go see it. It is so suspenseful at the end, that you will literally be on the edge of your seat! And don't worry, the torture scenes aren't that bad.)

Have you all seen the movie, I Don't Know How She Does It, starring my all-time fav, Sarah Jessica Parker? I think that film is a very accurate portrayal and gives people and inside look at women who juggle "it all". She has a great job, a husband, and kids and tries to be the best employee, wife, mother, and friend all at the same time. I remember watching the scene where she is lying in bed, should be sleeping but is subconsciously going through her entire to-do list in her head. I remember thinking, "OMG I do that!" The movie shows what a struggle it is to excel in all of these areas and the main character is by no means perfect, but at least it shows that it's possible, and that woman can choose to play more than one role in their life.

I know there are MANY films and books out there with a powerhouse woman as the lead. But these aren't the ones going viral with our young female audience. I wish the ones featuring powerful women didn't always portray them as man-haters, or man-eaters, as it seems those are the media's only two options for powerful women. (Example: The Devil Wears Prada). I know extremes make for good characters and good writing. I get it. I just don't want all the young woman of today thinking they need to tear themselves down like Miss Bella Swan in hopes of bagging the handsome vampire. Or werewolf. Or whatever the next sexy non-human creature is.



  1. Okay, I love you.
    I just stumbled across your blog and found this post under your top posts and I am obsessed.
    It can be really hard these days to label yourself as a feminist without people scoffing at you, I love that you are just out there with it.
    I agree 100% about these books, I have always just hated Bella even though I read all the books. They way she relies on other people to validate herself always made me sick.
    And that Jessica Chastain Speech always makes me tear up.
    Sorry to rant, but I love your blog. I am very happy to be a new follower!!

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Your comment made my day! On my way over to your blog :)


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