Originally, this article was supposed to be the next installment in the internet battle between Buffy The Vampire Slayer
. There are countless videos online of Buffy taking on Edward, Buffy besting Bella, etc. Meanwhile, there are academics furiously typing away at feminist critiques of this battle. And many on team "Buffy" are ferociously against the poorly written "Twilight" narrative.
However, it isn't about just "Buffy" and "Twilight;" it really has become everything in literature and film relating to vampires and fantasy versus this one text. And, what we found quite staggering after watching some pivotal "Buffy" episodes, some "Angel
" episodes, re-watching some "True Blood
," and re-reading "Harry Potter
" for the upcoming film, there are more Bella-esque characters than on the surface.
The problem that many have with "Twilight" is that it is a poor representation of a role model for young girls. Bella is a very passive character. Her motivations are purely driven towards coupling with Edward. From the start she does not mind losing herself, and her humanity, to be with him. Defining oneself through such an unhealthy connection is the antithesis of feminism and against what the Girl Power wave the 1990s fought against.
Supporting Characters On "Buffy" Make Their Own Choices
So how did this complete 180 from Buffy to Bella happen? It really didn't. Buffy isn't forced into the stringently old religious tradition of no sex before marriage like Bella, she is just stronger and more active than Bella. In the end, there was no choice for Buffy in any of her actions, as she was the "chosen one," the slayer. She had to adapt with the aid of a male "watcher," a core group of friends, and two vampire boyfriends to stay alive. And in the end, it was Spike, a male vampire, who was needed to save the day. Is this bad? Not necessarily. However, it does mean that there really isn't a huge difference between Bella and Buffy. Granted, this battle isn't over yet.
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There are far stronger and more active and independent female characters in the Buffyverse, as well as recent popular fiction. Throughout "Buffy" and "Angel" the character Cordelia grows from a stereotypical, vain, cheerleader into a strong woman who continues to fight against evil without being truly born or forced into it. While she does gain supernatural powers, her choices are what define her and what make her a more positive figure than Buffy. Anya and Faith are two other female characters who must struggle against their own backgrounds to end up where they do, as women who right the wrongs of their pasts. Tara, while a short-lived supporting character, also fought a battle that was not her own. And, without Tara, Willow would never have been the person she became by the end of the television series.
Females In "Harry Potter" Fight The Good Fight
"Harry Potter" also brings with it some of the most powerful women in recent literature, and certainly in the genre of children's novels, where women are typically either demonized or infantilized. Also, without "Harry Potter's" success, "Twilight" might never have existed.
Within "Potter" there lies a range of female characters, from powerful to weak. The strongest examples of women are Lily Potter, Hermione Granger, Mrs. Weasley, Nymphadora Tonks, and Luna Lovegood. However, for every Mrs. Weasley there is a Mrs. Malfoy, for every Luna there is a Cho, every Tonks a Bellatrix, and so on. These women are tortured mentally and physically throughout the novels and come out better for it, still fighting the good fight. Lily and Tonks both give their lives for the cause, and for argument's sake, so does Bellatrix.
Out of all of these characters the best example, and the true antithesis of Bella, is Luna. While she isn't as pragmatic as Hermione, she also enters the fight and joins Dumbledore's Army even though she was ostracized in school and certainly not in the popular Potter group of friends (at least until "Order of the Phoenix"). After being kidnapped, tortured, and held prisoner, she never gives information on her father or Dumbledore. She also survives to personally duel with Bellatrix. Her life doesn't depend on crushes, or merely acting to gain the look of a boy she likes. Luna is in it for the cause.
Sookie Of "True Blood" Is Strong & Independent
Even though Luna is a shining example for young readers, a more mature example is still necessary. One can find her in Charlene Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels. Sookie is perhaps one of the strongest examples of a female character in literature, and one of a handful on television today. The HBO series "True Blood," which closely follows the novels, gives Sookie's character a fair, non-objectified, representation. Sookie is a quick witted, sharp Southern 20-something woman living in Bon Temps, Lousiana, in a world where vampires have been "outed." While she becomes romantically involved with a vampire, she doesn't follow his every desire and strikes out when vampires believe she is Bill Compton's "human." With lines like, "You cannot check me out like a library book!", Sookie is her own woman and will protect her family and loved ones no matter what. "True Blood" also takes the novels a step further, fleshing out the character of Tara Thorton, Sookie's best friend. By adding Tara as a strong supporting character, the show strengthens the representation of young women, as Tara matches Sookie's wit and intelligence.
So while Bella and "Twilight" as a whole is not the best example of fiction or of female characters, it is at least somewhat more tolerable placed within the context of the narratives mentioned above. In a perfect world, Twilighters will grow up to read Sookie Stackhouse and learn that there is more to life than living purely for a vampire and the patriarchal path of the traditional female role.
Image © Home Box Office
Story by Sarah Lafferty
Starpulse contributing writer
Follow Sarah on twitter at starbuckscout