Updated: Sep 9, 2022
Let me begin with the following statement: I am not a Stephenie Meyer fan.
Unfortunately, as a tween, I found myself in the “not like other girls” camp (Yeesh, I know.). I was staunchly against all popular media marketed toward the 11-14 year old girl demographic: One Direction, floral lunchkits, and especially The Twilight Saga.
Now that I’m a grown person, I recognize that this particular phase was a symptom of internalized misogyny and stemmed from a need to actively validate myself as a human being in a patriarchal society that stipulates that women are not people. I now allow myself to freely enjoy Harry Styles, flowers, and whirlwind love stories when I’m in the mood for them. However, I still maintain that Twilight is drivel—not because it’s a romance marketed for adolescent girls, but because it’s bad.
Even leaving behind the incredible pacing problems and the fact that Meyer clearly doesn’t know how to create or relieve conflict in a story with any degree of skill or competence, there are so many aspects of the saga that are just, for lack of a better term, cringe-y. Aside from the fact that it’s essentially a bodice-ripper with (almost) no bodice-ripping, it is rife with all sorts of other conservative, abusive, pedophilic, and incestuous implications—Edward is a gaslighting whiner whose greatest fear is premarital sex, and I’m sorry, but I will NEVER be over the fact that in order to resolve a love triangle, Meyer’s thought was, “Ah yes, of course! I’ll make the second love interest fall in love with the heroine’s newborn child!” I mean, dear God, it’s almost Freudian.
However, the thing that infuriates me the most about Twilight, is the fact that it could’ve been great! Do you know how I know that? Because when I finally sat down and gave Twilight the chance I didn’t give it in middle school, there was one thing keeping me hanging onto the story: Bella (And not just because Kristen Stewart is gorgeous.).
Don’t get me wrong! Bella, like most other aspects of Twilight, is deeply flawed, and to put it lightly, possibly the least interesting character in the series. There were so many times when reading the first book—which, if you haven’t, is essentially 500 pages of Bella monologuing about Edward’s khakis and how much she hates the rain—that I was compelled to fling the thing across the room out of sheer mind-numbing boredom. Yet, I found myself more compelled by Bella, angsty and bratty as she is, because she really was different from any other hero I’d ever read before. There are several types of literary heroes; as best as I can tell, Bella is not an epic hero (no noble birth) nor a tragic hero (yes happy ending), but a “classical hero”.
A classical hero, also known as a romantic hero, is an everyday person that possesses a great talent or quality that distinguishes them from ordinary people.
Bella is indeed an everyday human who gets caught up in the world of the supernatural due to a unique ability—her innate imperviousness to most types of vampire mind tricks, which is why Edward cannot read her mind. This on its own is pretty cool; Twilight is a world where vampires’ superpowers are drawn from the traits they possessed as humans, like perceptiveness or charisma, which manifest in the ability to read thoughts or manipulate emotions, making them exceptional predators—and Bella can just resist that. However, what really struck me about Bella is that as much as she does fit the bill of a hero, she also defies so many of the characteristics we’ve come to associate with one.
As a teenager, she is primarily an extremely selfish being, and she’s not particularly brave or great at defending herself. Her goal is not to save masses or create a better world, it’s to get exactly what she wants: immortality and a really hot boyfriend. This means that at times, Bella is not necessarily the most lovable hero, or even very suited to being one at all.
To be honest, I fell in love with this concept: A hero who wasn’t infallible or even close to perfect. A hero that had cracks and flaws and, at times, was a genuinely a not-great person. I was especially enamored with the idea that a hero like this could be a teenage girl, who are, as a rule, usually subject to making themselves as lovable or as competent as possible just to get by in the world. I kept reading Twilight in the hopes that Bella would fully step into that role: a normal person, a selfish teenage girl, and a hero all at once.
This is the most frustrating thing about Stephenie Meyer: she stumbles upon these diamond mines of literary possibilities, and then instead of developing them, gives us two pages dedicated to Bella cooking dinner or staring into Edward Cullen’s “ochre eyes”.
But then again…
She’s not like other authors.
About the author: I'm Briana Gonzalez, word nerd and card-carrying theatre kid. Writing is just a more accessible form of talking, so it's no wonder I can't stop doing it. Check out my lit blog on Instagram @what_that_book_do!