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Part I Bella

First before you read this I think you should know a little about me.
I love these books/movies the same way I loved Xena the Warrior Princess, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, X-Files, Star Wars, Star Trek, Dark Angel, Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Lord of the Rings, Sailor Moon, Pushing Daisies, Chicago, The Midsts of Avalon, The Handmaid's Tale, Frankenstein, Pride and Prejudice, The Wondrous life of Oscar Wao, Watchmen, The Golden Notebook, Silk, Harry Potter, Amelie, I Robot, From The Earth To The Moon...

Well I'm actually the kind of person that tries to find the good in everything so I like almost everything so the list would be shorter if I were to list the things I don't like.

I'm also a writer and I like to analyze the things I like and feel passionate about whether I love them or not. So when I entered the world of forums and Internet to look for more info about Twilight I was shocked to see all the extreme reactions that surround the series.

So my first thought was to find out why. I won't talk about the literary style which I have a lot of things I didn't like, but the first rule of writing is to write the truth, whatever that truth is, and that the words let the truth come to live in the story and I think at least in that respect the story was written in a successful way. The truth is there and the story is alive. And for me the story it what matters.

I also happen to be a woman.
I decide to define myself as a sentient being and what makes me happy as it, and after that comes my gender.
It hasn't always been like that, I started life trying to fit my gender role according to how my social network expected me to be and after I became a teen I became an extreme feminist. Neither options made me happy so I reached this compromise with myself around my late 20's and it works!
I do what it pleases me and hurts no one or what I believe is the best. The gender is an important part of me but doesn't define me. I'm married to a wonderful man (that hates Twilight BTW) but I love him as a person first and then I enjoy him as a man as well.
So I consider myself anti-sexism if I have to say something. I do not like labels because labeling oneself almost always means rejecting others' POVs and I don't do that. I try to have my place in the world without thinking that others should do the same and accepting the others ones, as long and they don't hurt others to achieve their own happiness.

Now that you know a bit about me, you can decide to stop reading and use your time for something more productive or read what I have to say. Just wanted to give you the choice I never had. (Lestat quote).

Bella Swan. Classic heroine.

Well let's start with the center around which everything revolves in Twilight: Isabella Marie Swan.

Bella starts this journey from being plain, average teenage girl to become an immortal, beautiful vampire with a classic monomyth act. She leaves her home to enter a new special world. If you check Joseph Campell Hero's journey and Maureen Murdock: Heroine's journey this is the same setting used for several classic heroes.
Since all of you know the rest of how the story go.I would just say we are seeing an archetype that has been used for over 5,000 years or maybe more to tale stories. It's no surprise that Bella's journey ended up being so compelling; she has the power of myth behind her, a myth used on thousands of heroes before her. Pysche, Perseo, Belle, Luke Skywalker....

What sets her apart from most heroes is that Bella fits another role in the story. One that is most controversial in this time and day. She is the damsel in constant danger.

Stephenie Meyer's world is one where humans are powerless so Bella being human for a big part of the story renders her in perpetual need of rescue.
Now this doesn't mean that she is there just to get tied to the train's path and scream for the hero to save her. She is actively participating in the saving, whether placing input in the plan, or changing the plan completely or risking her life to save her loved ones or using her instincts. But it is important to note that Bella's fragility is not a chosen weakness because she is female.
In the story a lot of female vampires and one werewolf are as powerful and even more powerful than men.

It also doesn't mean that Bella feels like it's a role she must fulfill forever, she doesn't limit herself. Her longing for Edward is indeed love but is also the yearning to become an effective protector, he didn't need her to become a vampire to continue loving her for as long as she lived, but she was not satisfied with only that, she chose to leave behind the skin of a Damsel in distress and be able to stop being vulnerable to the new special world she just encountered and that she knows now she can't break unless she transforms herself.
She wanted to be Superman too, like she stated in the first book.
Now there is another role that Bella fits, that also adds to the success.
Bella is a rebel.

The modern setting of the story gives us a set of expected attitudes from a woman of Bella's age. Any 17 year old is part of a social group (whether a nerd, a cheerleader, an athlete...), they are picking a lot of extracurricular activities to prepare for the future, they are thinking on what careers they are going to take, their parents supervise their activities, they are evaluating what kind of guys they must be dating and try to make sure not to get with someone that might hurt them both physically and emotionally, they need to control their sexuality to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies, false expectations and STDs, they are dieting to look healthy they are on constant pressure from everyone.

By contrast, Bella is laid back, lives in the moment, is not obsessed with her future or career, she doesn't enjoy conflicts or fights, once she makes up her mind she sticks to her decision no matter what, she doesn't ask permission from her parents to make her plans, she doesn't have specific hobbies but does whatever she finds entertaining at the moment, without schedules: whether cooking, shopping, visiting the beach or a friend. She lets an unknown man into her life only using her instincts, trusts him and allows him to enter her bedroom every night without the consent of her father, she abandons herself to her feelings towards him without reservations, boundaries or regrets. She lets a man become her priority/center in life. Which is possibly one of the most dangerous thing for a woman to do.

She is completely going against society's proper behavior of the modern woman.

That is just one of the reasons, IMO, that makes her story appealing to girls and women around the world. In this modern world with a lot of pressures from the moment they are born the idea of "what if I stopped worrying and only followed my instincts instead of my brain or what my social group want me to do?" It is a very attractive question one could play with.

That is also IMO the reason a lot of people hate her journey, because after she does almost everything a woman shouldn't do she gets away with it. Edward carries her to a family that loves her and accepts her, where there is luxury, and a rich tradition, surrounded by a stimulating environment of arts, adventures and history, with all the time in the world to pursue what she likes and pleasures of all kinds.

When in normal Real Life a woman with Bella's behavior might end up pregnant, killed, barefoot and in the kitchen, with a STD, as an unwanted single mother, in a loveless/bad marriage or with a string of failed relationships, depressed, or/and penniless.

The slap on the face of how our society works now is a big part of why a lot of people like these books and why a lot of people hate them with a fire of two thousand suns and the fear that some young women that adore this series would end up trying to imitate Bella's behavior, or that grown women get carried away from this fantasy and fall on the same trap.

I will talk about this when we discuss books and how they have affected people in subsequent posts. But we are done for the moment.