After finishing Veronica Roth's Divergent, my best friend, Erika, and I started talking and comparing various young adult heroines, and it really got me thinking. Let’s compare the literary heroines Hermione Granger (The Harry Potter Series), Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games Trilogy), Tris Prior (Divergent) and Clary Fray (The Mortal Instruments) to Bella Swan (The Twilight Saga) – and in this case I use the term “heroine” loosely.
Honestly, I’ve never thought Bella Swan was a good role model for girls, but it wasn't until recently, after reading some other young adult series, that I am coming to find just how bad a role model she really is! This is not the kind of "heroine" you want your young daughter to emulate. Yes, I admit I read (and enjoyed) the Twilight Saga, but as fluff - something light you read between serious books. Besides, I am not an impressionable young girl; I am old enough and smart enough to take it all with a grain of salt and not put Bella Swan on a pedestal. Is Twilight the best series I’ve ever read? Absolutely not! Is it my favourite young adult series? Heck no! Bella and Edward aren’t even my favourite characters – Alice and Jasper are (their story would have made a much better romance than Twilight). If we’re being honest, Twilight is not brilliantly written, the characters don’t have much depth and the “epic” conclusion is just a lot of tension leading up to a fight that never happens; but I digress - This is not about the merits of Twilight, but of Bella Swan.
My biggest issue with Bella, however, is the whole I’ll-die-if-he-leaves-me-complex. Seriously. I get that you love the guy, but jeez woman, no man is your be all and end all! Hermione loves Ron, Clary loves Jace, Tris loves Tobias, Katniss loves Peeta (maybe even more than you love your precious Edward) – but when something happens to pull them apart, these girls toughen up and keep on fighting! They don’t let themselves deteriorate into a comatose state and they don’t let their depression keep them from living.
Also, may I point out that Bella is the only one of these heroines determined to have sex, and the Twilight Saga is (to the best of my knowledge) the only one of the series containing sexual content of this nature (There is none of that to be found in Harry Potter or The Hunger Games; I am not completely up to date on the Mortal Instruments or the Divergent series just yet, so I don’t know how that progresses). While the other heroines are obviously attracted to their men and kissing is not uncommon, Bella keeps trying to jump Edward’s bones to the point that he literally has to fight her off, and actually exhaust her in other ways so that she won’t have the energy to try to seduce him! This girl literally only has sex on the brain for quite some time (Granted, she’s married when they actually get that far and Meyer gets some credit for at least not promoting premarital sex, but that’s not my point).
Let's compare Bella and Edward's romance with Hermione and Ron's. It takes seven years of building trust and friendship before Ron and Hermione actually kiss. True, at this point they are roughly the same age as Bella and Edward when they first kiss (not counting his vampire years) and it is natural for teenagers to kiss, but while Ron and Hermione get to know each other first it doesn't take Edward and Bella very long to start locking lips, does it? I much prefer Rowling's approach in portraying her characters building a strong foundation on friendship before becoming romantic (even though they were very clearly in love from The Goblet of Fire onwards). Bella and Edward waste no time in getting physical, and for impressionable young girls reading these stories, Hermione's character is a much better role model in this regard (as well as others).
|Ron and Hermione's romance vs Edward and Bella's romance|
Hermione teaches young girls that education is important and that being smart is okay even if it makes you a social outcast, but that being a good person and a good friend is even more important. She also proves that you can love a guy without being more than friends, and that you don't need to be in a relationship to be complete. Clary teaches young girls that it is important to embrace who you are even if it scares you. Tris teaches young girls that it is okay to embrace your destiny even if others don’t understand, and that you don’t have to hurt others to get to the top. Katniss teaches young girls that people have an obligation to stand up for the weak, that protecting others is more important than self-preservation and that independence and self-sufficiency is more important than romance. Bella teaches young girls that you can’t be someone without a man and that you need a man to be happy.
Hermione Granger is smart, brave and humble. Katniss Everdeen is a protector of the weak. Clary Fray is fearless. Tris Prior is dauntless. So we’ve got the girl who helped defeat the dark lord and bring order to the wizarding world, the girl who started the rebellion to empower the oppressed, the girl who embraces her shadowhunter roots and kicks some demon butt, the girl who thwarted a hostile takeover and restored mental freedom… and the girl who got pregnant.
Literary heroines… I know which ones I would like for my niece to look up to.
(Hint: not Bella)
|Correction: Harry's life would have been very SHORT if Hermione didn't read|