What can only be described as A Tirade By Me That I Will Probably Regret Posting

Okay, that’s it. That’s all I can stand, and I can’t stand no more. I have had up to HERE with all the Stephenie-Meyer Bella-haters.

I was already mulling over the content of this post in my head a few days ago. Then this morning, as I was reading Louise Rennison’s Knocked Out by My Nunga-Nungas on the train, it occurred to me: Bella – thus, Stephenie Meyer – has become nothing but a scapegoat. Why now? Why this one series? I mean, if we’re going to go there, let’s go there:

Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicholson (nothing but makeup and boys, people)
Gossip Girls (have you seeeen those billboards for the show in Times Square?!)
Sweet Valley High
The Luxe/Rumors
Many of Sarah Dessen’s characters
Mia Thermopolis of The Princess Diaries
Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman
Nick and Norah/Naomi and Ely

Hardly any of the characters listed are poster children for the feminist movement, either they’re single-mindedly boy-crazy…or they’re catty and bitchy…or they’re giggly and vapid. For every Kiki Strike or Anne Shirley, there are at least 3 books that one can claim feature not-as-strong female heroines. But I haven’t seen the books above blasted all over the blogosphere: heck, Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging got a Printz Honor! The AskCosmo books are on the Quick Picks list!

But the posts in the kidlitosphere on the Twilight series (or, fittingly, called "saga") are just getting mean. And personal. If anyone is treating the series as if the characters were real, breathing people…it’s the haters. You do realize that Bella is a caricature, right? That she doesn’t represent the state of women and feminism today? That just because so many tweens, teens, and adults (yep, me) love the stories doesn’t mean that they themselves are vapid and devoid of taste, right? Because that’s the vibe out there and it’s often getting vicious. I hate the moment when I’m at a publisher’s event or a conference and Twilight comes up because, inevitably, I’ll be told that the fans of the series have no taste in young adult literature and Bella is the most vapid, most helpless, stupidest female character to be written into YA. Wow. Really?

The character of Bella aside and addressing the series, I believe Stephenie Meyer is an amazing writer. Anyone that can create that much sexual tension, make me blush from head to toe on the subway, but never write in anything more than a kiss? Well, she has my vote for being a damn good storyteller.

Lastly, (and I realize that I’m probably reading a lot more into this but…) I do feel that all this Bella-hate is a tad misogynistic. I’ve never encountered a book with a male protagonist where everyone has picked apart and argued about his behavior and personality to this degree. Let’s talk about Edward’s stupid tendency to totally shut down and give Bella the silent treatment like the sullen child he is. Let’s talk about Jacob’s out-of-control temper and, again, how he tends to pout and give Bella the silent treatment. Nope, I haven’t heard much ranting about that.

Better yet, let’s talk about that other #1 bestseller, Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Greg revels in his boyness: he and his friends are disgusting and immature and everything we love to hate about boys. Are we totally out to destroy him? Are we analyzing him to death? No? Well, of course not. Because, you know, he’s just being a boy. We’re doing Greg and Bella both a huge disservice. By ignoring Greg entirely (minus the starred reviews), we’re once again discounting boys as "just being boys". By being out to destroy Bella, we’re not recognizing that, in most females, there is a certain amount of Bella’s character. We do want to swoon, we do want to fall in love, we do want to surrender…we do want two passionate and beautiful men fighting over us. By conveying to tween/teen girls that this isn’t okay – and judging them for having those feelings – we’re holding them to a standard that is impossible to uphold every minute of every day.

And by “tween/teen girls” am I also referring to the grown women, like myself, who are totally in love with the series as well? Of course I am.

Eat, drink, and stop judging other peoples’ reading choices.


Erin said...

This is a very good post. :) I'm not much of a Twilight fan, but not because I don't like Bella, just because I like the books but don't love 'em. (Well, I loved New Moon. But ya know why? Cause I could relate to Bella in it. Yeah. So when people hate her, I'm just like, do you really remember what it can be like to be a 17 year old filled with hormones??)

Beckyb said...

Applause from over here - I TOTALLY agree - what is up with that!?!?! LOVE The books myself and yes, I read a Gossip Girl and nearly had a heart attack - and THIS is what our teens are reading....sad.

Anonymous said...

So I have all kinds of things to say, but most of those Laura has already said very very well. My big problem with the haters is the whole judging-people-by-what-they-read phenom. Do you know who else believes that they can make assumptions about people based on what they read. THE GOVERNMENT. Yep, that's why the Patriot Act wants to look at your library circulation record. C'mon guys, let's not be those people.