Why People Are Too Hard On Bella

I know, I know. Just bear with me, okay?

We've probably all heard the flack Bella (or really, Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series and creator of Bella's annoying character) has gotten for being an enabler in an abusive and/or controlling relationship, or for not being strong enough. For being too dependent on her man-vampire. I love the empowerment women are finally getting in our culture and society--right now is the best time in history to be a woman, and hopefully that only continues. It is due to this wonderful influence (and the tuning out of negative influences) I have come to know my own strength as a woman, as well as my own worth. That my feminism is strength.

But is it really so pathetic for Bella to be completely crushed when Edward leaves her in New Moon (the second book in the Twilight series, for anyone living under a rock)?

I read the Twilight series as the books were first released--before it was cool. I was a Twilight hipster. They were enjoyable reads to me, and I was a fan. Thanks to media overdoing it, I am sick to death of all things Twilight and can't stand the movies or the actors they got to play the characters. The rest--the fact that Meyer isn't the best writer, the plot holes, the cliches, and the creepy way Bella is so okay with her stalking, controlling boyfriend--were things I was willing to overlook when reading the books originally (back when I had time to read for leisurely enjoyment).

But something has always bothered me about the criticism she's received. In New Moon, Edward tells Bella he is leaving forever, he doesn't love her, and then he leaves her alone in the middle of the forest. The readers all knew, of course, that it was only to protect her, but Bella believed him. The fact that she believed him so easily is beside the point (and rather ridiculous/unbelievable). The point is, her reaction to him leaving her--the way she curled up into the fetal position on the forest floor and was nearly incapacitated by heartbreak--is understandable.

Yes, I said it.

I'd like to think I'm a strong woman. I might be afraid to admit it sometimes, but I know I am. I've been through a lot. I'm not the same person I was as a teen. If I had the same experience in my teen years as Bella did, honestly, I would have had the same reaction.

Even now, 15 years later, I want to have the same reaction. I am an adult, and have proven, to myself and others, time and time again that I am independent and strong. Yet I completely empathize with Bella. And she was a teenager, for crying out loud.

At risk of exposing my vulnerability, I'm gonna just go ahead and admit that if it wasn't for my kids--the three small beings for whom I'm responsible, and the three small beings who depend on me for everything, look up to me, and live for me--I would have recently found myself in the exact same state as Bella. Down to zoning every person out, never speaking, and allowing time to get eaten up by the consuming heartbreak. The hole, as Bella calls it.

But I can't. I'm a mother. That's not to say mothers can't fall apart--I have. I'm just saying that for me, my kids are the only people I'm living for anymore, and I have to be strong for them because they're all I have. In my mind, I have no choice. So even when I'm dying on the inside, and literally chanting inside my head, over and over again, that I can make it to the next minute, my exterior is trying with all of me to keep it together. For my kids.

Bella didn't have kids. She was a teenager. Cut her a little slack.

What is wrong with a woman being both independent and strong (what is strong, anyway?), yet still vulnerable enough to be ripped apart inside at the loss of love? So often now, love is looked at as a weak emotion; yet it's the strongest emotion in existence. The strongest people can be in love, and it doesn't weaken them. It's healthy to have another half, to have shared your heart and soul with another person--and normal to feel completely at loss if/when losing that love.

Love may be angering and not make any logical sense, but it is beautiful, healthy, and needed. Especially the true kind. Edward was Bella's heart, and whether or not we agree with their relationship patterns, she had shared more with him than with any other soul; he was her soulmate. He was the only soul to ever connect to her that way.

Think about that.

So when he walked out of her life, taking her heart with her, naturally, she was a shell--someone who had to completely relearn who she could be without that person, someone who had to allow herself to mourn.

I will never feel weak in admitting I need the love of a man. No one should feel weak in admitting and recognizing that they need the love of anyone. It's human. So we should cut ourselves (and Bella) some slack when mourning whatever it is we are mourning. Embrace the grieving process, because it's the only way you'll make it through. Notice how in New Moon (and any other successful story) the story doesn't spend a lot of time while Bella is grieving. It jumps from month to month, season to season. Probably because that passing of time--the relentless waiting for things to feel better--is not only the slowest part, but the most difficult and grueling. We wish our lives could skip ahead in time like they do through those grueling parts in stories. No one wants to endure that hell in books and movies; we especially don't want to endure it in our own lives.

But unfortunately, there's no way around that (if there is, someone better call me). There's no way around the empty ache, the wondering what you did wrong, the hours and days of self-blame and regret, the millions of milliseconds wondering what in God's name happened, what you could have done to prevent it, and how you could have been so foolish and blind. There's no way around the anger, the hurt, the missing. When you grieve--whatever or whomever you're grieving--all this endless shit is necessary.

So let's just let Bella grieve without calling her weak, desperate, dependent, or pathetic. Grieving, whether we like to think so or not, is pathetic. Pathetically human. Though she does need to see a therapist for some of her other issues, the way she grieves and mourns for Edward isn't one of them.


Nicki Elson said…
I had to come over to read this one - I have such a love/hate relationship w/ the Twilight series, for many of the reasons you state here.

You have an excellent point about her only being a teenager. More than that, what's swayed me to cut the girl some slack is what you say about the very special relationship she had with Edward. Most of us will never know that strong of a love - mostly because we're (*ahem* I'm) afraid to love like that. It would indeed be devastating to lose it.

I'm all for falling apart when circumstances call for it. Sometimes it's only after crumbling to our knees that we tap into our true strength. Your children are your angels. Let them carry you on their wings until you're ready to stand by yourself again - and you WILL be, probably sooner than you think.
Lorana said…
I think her reaction was totally appropriate.
One: They had such a deep spiritual connection; loss of that magnitude can leave you breathless and incapacitated. Two: As a writer, SM was nearly bringing you in to Bella's emotional state, so that you could "feel" with/for the character. Three: Bella's a teenager for crying out loud!! They are emotionally immature and dramatic!

I feel the same way about the movies and hype; totally ruined the books for me :(
Lorana said…
** Merely, not nearly

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