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Twilight is not only one of the most famous modern love stories, it's also one of the most bashed. A decade after the franchise was at the height of its popularity, Stephenie Meyer has resurrected the fandom with the release of Midnight Sun, a retelling of Twilight from Edward Cullen’s perspective. Since the story has returned, many fans have been faced with a popular debate: is Bella Swan a bad role model for its YA audience?
It's a complex argument. On the one hand, Bella trips so many times and is constantly being characterized as a delicate, breakable thing that Edward Cullen feels he must protect. But at the same time, she does score a ticket to immortality and becomes a powerful, badass vampire by the end of the series after falling in love and deciding to be with Edward on her own. Stephenie Meyer recently divulged her thoughts on the matter with these words:
There are people who think Bella is not like a great example for a young girl. And I think there are elements – yes, you should not get that caught up into a boy. If it's a fantasy creature that doesn’t really exist, go right ahead, you have my permission. If it's a normal human boy, yeah, take a step back, absolutely. Because this is a fantasy novel that is set in a world that isn’t real but at the same time I do think it's good for girls to be like ‘I can be sure of what I want and not be afraid of what I want.’
When the bestselling author was a guest on the Remember Twilight? Podcast, she addressed claims about Bella Swan by refuting the idea that she’s not a good influence on the predominantly teen audience. Her answer brings up an interesting point, because it's true the dynamic between her and Edward is not one of a typical high school couple. Meyer agreed that in the circumstance of your average high school boy, Bella would have gone too far, but in this instance, she was infatuated with a superhuman presence.
Then there’s the argument that the author didn’t set out to create a grounded or realistic romance through Edward and Bella’s love story, and therefore her actions neither should nor could be mirrored by readers anyway. It’s certainly an interesting take on the Twilight franchise that is often not brought to discussions about Bella.
On my own recent revisit of the Twilight movies that starred Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, as well as reading of Midnight Sun since the series initially caught my eye when I was in middle school, I did gain an added perspective about the franchise. Twilight centrally commentates on teen infatuation in a pretty clever way by taking it to extreme heights. I think it's an interesting way to process the common experience of having a crush at that age, Meyer certainly takes it to unrealistic levels of Bella learning he is a 100-year-old vampire. Additionally, Midnight Sun makes one appreciate Bella a lot more through Edward’s eyes.
Ten years later, I do think there are some inherent issues with the character of Bella Swan (especially in New Moon) and the fact that it’s told under the guise of fantasy doesn’t exactly cancel them out. But as Stephanie Meyer says, Bella’s experience is not supposed to be one copied in the real world, because that’s not where it intentionally exists and that’s clear to the reader.
And as Stephanie Meyer also said, Bella Swan certainly is aware of her actions and clear about what she wants throughout the Twilight saga, thus leaning into those decisions, despite pushback from Edward Cullen from the beginning. What do you think? Is Bella a bad role model? Vote in our poll below and stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more coming for the Twilight franchise.