Flaws of the ‘Flawless’: Bella Swan

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When I was a few years younger, I was very much invested in the young adult fiction series, The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer, much like many teens were. As a girl who was obsessed with books – from the Harry Potter series in my pre-teens to the Jacqueline Wilson books which brought real-life dilemmas and family matters to my attention – I was very much into Twilight.

I adored (and still do adore) the writing style of Meyer, and did have a certain fondness and fascination for the characters, though I am somewhat less fascinated by them now. However, Bella Swan was always on the fence between my usual passion and connection between myself and the main character of a book, and the irritation and head-shaking she continuously inflicted.

I have seen several articles before criticising Meyer’s lead female as being a ‘Mary-Sue’ – an idealised version of typical teenage outcasts or in the very least ‘ordinary’ characters. Bella is incredibly beautiful, though not at all vain; Bella is very smart, though doesn’t boast that she shares the same intellect as a man who’s age is around a hundred years old; Bella gets all kinds of positive attention, particularly from the boys, though does not accept any of it. In fact, in order for Bella Swan to be ‘relatable’ to the bookish teen audience the novel was aimed at, Bella is an outcast, who seems to actively avoid human contact – until she meets the godlike Edward Cullen.

Even then, this epitome of perfection seems to love this apparently ‘completely ordinary’ human, and she in turn becomes an even better character: she’s selfless! She would die for him! Everybody praise Bella Swan for not only being generally clever, beautiful and humble, but she also has suicidal tendencies to protect the man (or vampire) she loves!

Of course, Bella Swan isn’t a Mary Sue – though Meyer tried hard to make her into the girl every female aches to be, Bella has some critical flaws that make me pull a face similar to wandering onto a farm and inhaling manure whenever I see these issues (that being said, I do not think Bella is entirely fecal and I do still think The Twilight Saga is an excellent series of books to read).

Putting aside some of her flaws (including her attachment to her vampire bae Edward, which is a tad worrying considering the intensity – as a fellow 17 year old, I can’t understand how she got so attached to this individual who really isn’t that special, to be frank), one of the flaws that frequently bugs me is her disregard to her real family.

As the novels progress, her relationship with the Cullen coven also progresses, and she sees them more and more as her family, and vice versa. However, this makes me feel concerned for her real family -particularly her long-suffering father, Charlie. Though she does his cooking and cleaning, she barely spends time with him, which I’m sure, despite their mutual acknowledgement of being awkward, he would have enjoyed and appreciated. Instead, she continuously puts herself in the path of danger: chasing after a (very old) boy who could kill her or get her killed at any moment; riding motorcycles with no experience; getting on motorcycles that belong to a stranger; cliff-diving into water in a ‘recreational’ activity without supervision or guidance from much more experienced divers; rushing of to Italy while Charlie was at a funeral (which isn’t dangerous from her father’s perspective, but I think it was just damn rude of her). The disregard for his feelings is concerning, and though it is clear within the books that she cares, she doesn’t do Charlie many favours (if we look at most of the saga from his perspective).

There many other things to say about Twilight – criticisms of the characters themselves and their actions, particularly Edward Cullen – but I feel the saga redeems itself enough to keep from being entirely critical of Meyer’s work. Though Bella does not stick with me as a likeable character and frequently frustrates me, she is still an interesting read with an entertaining story to tell, and she does have her positives and amusing moments that I just personally tend to overlook; like, for example, Meyer’s clear exaggeration of heady young love channelled through the flawed ‘flawless’ Bella Swan.

The purpose of this post was for writing practice (not hating).

 

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