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The Bella Effect

Posted: Sat Sep 18, 2010 6:42 pm
by Openhome
Recently, our blog ran yet another story on Twilight, and specifically Bella’s, effect on teens and our culture. The story quoted an MSNBC article on How the Twilight Saga affects teen minds. Needles to say, it was had some rather controversial ideas. Here is a snippet of the discussion:

Is Bella a good role model??
While teens might be turning the pages of Twilight for the plot and romance, other takeaways from the books may be having a lasting impact, too... Some critics have argued that Bella’s passivity, and the story’s abstinence-until-marriage message, are anti-feminist.
From MSNBC Article wrote:“If you look very, very clearly at what kind of values the ‘Twilight’ books propagate, these are very conservative values that do not in any way endorse independent thinking or personal development or a woman’s position as an independent creature,” Nikolajeva said. “That’s quite depressing.”

Okay, so we don’t really want to pick on MSNBC, but this is a serious topic with many strong opinions on each side. It is also a topic that we think deserves a place in the Lexicon where it can be discussed in an open and friendly manner.

Since it is probably one of the most hotly debated issues about Twilight, it also has the potential cause a great deal of conflict. To avoid that, the rules of the forum will be strictly enforced.
  • 1. Get Real! We are discussing the impact of a fictional book here. No one needs to attack the books or the author over this discussion.

    2. Keep all discussion on topic and respectful. Every one of us has their own views and has a right to those views. Respect the right for people to live their lives and choose their beliefs. I may not like what a person says, but I respect their right to say it.

    3. Be kind. Do not attack any person. You may disagree with their position, and are welcome to say so, but you may not hurt them personally. Personal attacks will be removed by the mods.

    4. Stay respectful of other viewpoints. We are discussing the social impact of a single book on many cultures. We have posters from all over the globe, and one person’s “norm” may not be another’s.

    5. Be willing to agree to disagree. There are no right answers to many of the questions this topic raises.

    6. Don’t be easily offended. Please do not allow your feelings to get hurt by what another person says. You may disagree with each other, but that doesn’t mean that they are attacking you or that you have attacked them. Often the tone that we read into a post isn’t the one that the writer intended.

Ping a mod if the discussion gets to hot. We will be watching this thread carefully and may step in as needed.

Re: The Bella Effect

Posted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 10:53 am
by VirginiaMay
From MSNBC Article wrote: “If you look very, very clearly at what kind of values the ‘Twilight’ books propagate, these are very conservative values that do not in any way endorse independent thinking or personal development or a woman’s position as an independent creature,” Nikolajeva said. “That’s quite depressing.”
Note: Edited quote attribution to the original source

**I have to admit that I haven't read this article yet, this first post is just my reaction to seeing the quote above.**

So... let me get this straight??? Conservative values do not endorse independent thinking, personal development, or women's independence?

That statement is depressing.

I'm an American, raised by conservative parents and educated in a liberal public education system. My whole life has been a barrage of conflicting messages about what it means to be a woman, how I should think, what I should feel, and what gives me value as a human being.

I highly resent blanket statements like the one above. I just do. I feel like breaking out into a little rendition of Leslie Gore's "You Don't Own Me" (or Joan Jett if you prefer... ;) ) when an opinion like that gets thrown about as if it's an indisputable fact.

If being independent to you means conforming to the Feminine Mystique, then good for you!

If being independent to you means shirking feminism to embrace less popular, but more traditional values, then good for you too!

Just a thought here, but is embracing the message of the post-modern mass media anymore independent than embracing the messages of more conservative viewpoints??

I find it ironic that the media make statements that devalue a huge number of women because they may not be the perceived majority. Since when is it independent to do what everybody else is doing, or to believe what the rest of the world tells you that you should believe?

I forgot to answer the actual question posted in this topic! OOPS! (Mods feel free to edit and repost this in the Women in the Media Topic. LOL!!)

As to whether or not Bella is a good role model for young women?

I'm not sure about that. Bella Swan was never meant to be a role model, in my opinion.

I think she was specifically designed to be perfect for a fictional vampire to fall in love with. I think Bella Swan only makes sense in a universe where sparkling vampires are real and her choices and decisions only make sense in light of her circumstances in that world. Just as a woman's choices in one culture may not be appropriate or admirable in another culture.

Re: The Bella Effect

Posted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 12:27 pm
by ringswraith
I'm in agreement with VirginiaMay on both counts:

First, the sentiment about how "conservative values" do not endorse "independent thinking" et al. I think she hit the nail on the head here, with her comment about how it could be seen to be "more independent" to "do what everyone else is doing." I'm surprised no one bothered to read that statement and question the author.

Second, the statement that Bella was never meant to be a role model. I believe Mrs. Meyer herself has said that, possibly on more than one occasion. She's meant to be someone the (mostly female) readers can identify with. That doesn't mean they should emulate her. As VirginiaMay put it, Bella did what she thought was right given the context of her situation- context which does not necessarily apply to real life.

Re: The Bella Effect

Posted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 1:45 pm
by twi_momof3girls
I read the article that was posted. I was a little shocked. As said before, Bella Swan is a FICTIONAL character. Taking what she does in the books and applying it seriously to a real life situation, to me, seems like there are more underlying issues. Maybe not with everyone, but some. I just feel like a lot of Bella's character is being blown extremely out of perportion. I'm not saying that I agree with everything she says or does in the books, but I'm not about rally a book burning to get my point across. It's a fictional series that started with a dream. I'm just as obsessed with the saga as a lot of other people are but rather than disecting every little detail of the books, I'm content with just sitting back, enjoying them, and losing myself in a FANTASY world for a bit.

Re: The Bella Effect

Posted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 2:55 pm
by Chernaudi
As I said, we can learn from Bella, but it's from the stand point of "it's one person's opinion" on how to act. I don't think that Stephenie really intended for Bella to be a serious role model. We can gain inspiration from her stongwilled-ness and independance and how being in love and cause good and bad. But we gotta remember that Bella's a fictional person--she's only a figment fo our imaginations put down on paper.

You can analyze the books to death, and there is no 100% right or wrong answer, as opinions differ from person to person because people have different values--no two people are exactly alike.

Like I said, Bella though out most of the series is human, and has human strengths and human shortcomings. However, I feel that from BD we can glean that women shouldn't force themselves to hold back just because their either women or "normal". Because "normal" is a realtive term that means different things to different people. I know that I drag this up a lot, but I think that Kristen Stewart (who plays Bella in the films, of course) is a good role moded because she epitimizes the "be yourself" mantra. She's gotten to where she is by being herself, and not molding herself to the mainstream "hot girl" image. In fact, I see a lot of Kristen in vampire Bella, though that probably is more coincidence and probably not intentional on Stephenie's part.

We can learn, we can discuss, but Twilight is fiction people. Fall back on your values and take what is given to you to form your own opinion, but at the same time, not take this too seriously.

Re: The Bella Effect

Posted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 3:19 pm
by Jazz Girl
While I do agree with all of you who say that Bella is a fictional character and, therefore, never meant to be a role model. But, the bottom line is, she's going to be examined as one. The arguments are going to be made and the assumptions pushed. To me, it's an easy way out to say, she's fictional, get over it. So, I want to go a little deeper.

I think one of the greatest ironies in all the discussion of Bella Swan as a role model is that she is so often called a poor role model because she is supposedly an anti feminist character, ie because she takes up and occupies what are considered traditioanlly feminine roles. She is the primary person responsible for cooking and cleaning in her home, she is the "mother-figure", and, when determining her future, she chooses to become a wife and mother rather than pursue higher education or any type of career. Now, let me begin my statement by saying I'm likely the most ardent feminists you will come across. I have, in fact been referred to as a man-hater (though I married a man and am helping to raise two boys) and a feminazi. That being said, calling Bella Swan antifeminist is beyond the pale of ridiculous.

There is no argument on Bella's roles in her home and her relationship. She cooks and cleans for Charlie. She mothered and raised Renee. She chose marriage and family over further academic accomplishment. None of that, EACTLY none of it, makes her anti feminist. The feminism I was raised with is all about choices. It is the ability to choose the path of your own life with the understanding that you can do anything, be anything you want, with nothing superficial like the designation of your chromosomes or the type of sex organs you have getting in the way. Any person can be anything. A girl can grow up to be President, can be a judge, can be a doctor, can be a nurse, can be a teacher, can be a stay-at-home parent. A boy can grow up to be President, can be a judge, can be a doctor, can be a nurse, can be a teacher, can be a stay-at-home-parent.

It doesn't matter whether we agree with the choices or not, whether they are lofty enough for what we want for that child, that person. It only matters that that child, that person, has the ability to choose freely and to their heart's desire. Bella's heart's desire was not university, was not a career of great acclaim. Her heart's desire was to be wife to Edward and mother to Renesmee. It was to be a part of the Cullen family. And, to that end, she made the choices that gave her what she wanted most in the world. Because we don't agree, because we think she should have wanted more, or wanted more for her, is immaterial and irrelevant. She chose her future, a future that could have been filled with a doctorate or a career of acclaim but did not because it was not what she wanted.

And, here's the most magical thing of all about Bella Swan Cullen. She can still have it all. We, as readers, get to see roughly 4 months after her wedding, 3 months after the birth of her child. How many of us wives and mothers have completed school after those events, gone back to school after those events, started a new career after those events, or accomplished even more great things AFTER those events? I did. My oldest son was born 18 months prior to my graduation from my undergrad program. I went on to earn a masters degree AFTER I got married and had a second child. And I have a very limited lifespan, 50 more years, if I'm lucky. Bella has FOREVER. She can literally earn a degree, every degree, in every subject if she wants. She could have a career if she wants. There is NOTHING stopping her. But, if she doesn't want it, if she chooses to dedicate herself to being the best wife and mother and daughter and compassionate vampire in the world, than her life is no less full, no less a loss than the millions of women's out there who do the same every day.

That she has and excercises those choices without regard for anything other than what she wants most, THAT makes her exactly the type of feminist role model I look for. To put it quite bluntly, it took a bigger set of cajones for her to dig her feet in and choose those "traditional roles" when EVERYONE around her, including and ESPECIALLY her partner not only wanted her but had the means to give her ANY other choice she could make. That is a true woman of strength.

Re: The Bella Effect

Posted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 3:51 pm
by Chernaudi
Jazz, saying that Bella is overly and overtly anti-feminist is beyond me, because she makes her decisions out of her own free will. I'm a man, so bear with me, but I intrpret feminism is a women fighting to have the same rights and opportunities open to them that men have. And to me, that means. above all else, determining what's right for them.

I don't feel it's a cop out to say that Bella's a fictionl character, but I do feel that even though we can learn from her and her decisions, she isn't a real person, and that's where we, as real people, we can interpret what he decisions mean and what we can get from them, as long as we don't take it too seriously. And what's what prompted the start of this topic with the MSNBC article to begin with. Someone had their opinion about Bella and perhaps took it too seriously. At the same time, we have to remember what I said, that no two people are exactly alike, in appearance, in DNA, and, most obviously, in values and virtues. You can have identical twins, but they can be polar opposites as far as personality.

I don't see Bella Swan as any more or less feminist as Melinda Sordino from Speak. Both were "normal" teenage tomboy girls, both had to deal with trauma in their lives (Bella being deserted by Edward and having the Volturi hounding her--first for being human and then because they wanted to force her to join to exploit her power--. and Melinda being assulted by Andy at the party in Speak), and both rose above it in their own ways. Those are the main paraells, though a lot of Kristen's fans will resist the comparision because a lot of them a biased against the Twilight films, which I'm not. Besides, at the end of BD, it seems that Bella is wearing the pants in her little family with Edward and Nessie, if not the whole Cullen clan. If that's not being feminist, I don't know what is.

If feminisim isn't being yourself and making your own decisions about you life, then I don't know what is.

Re: The Bella Effect

Posted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 5:11 pm
by VirginiaMay
So I finally read the article and the Lexicon commentary on it.

MSNBC was trying to get to the bottom of the Twilight phenomenon in general, if you ask me. I think that whoever contributed to the panel effort they put together already saw the pandemonium over Twilight as a negative thing and allowed that to influence their article.

So they want to say that Bella Swan has a negative effect on teenage girls. Hmmm... Well, we've seen that can be argued either way depending on an individual's underlying belief system and values. So- Since there is a man participating in this conversation, let's ask another, I think, just important a question. One I wonder why MSNBC didn't seem to be interested in asking.

How has Edward Cullen affected teenage girls and boys?? What influence does his character have on the readers of the Saga and why isn't the media having a heyday with that?
(Although, maybe they are and I just missed it. If so, I apologize. *shrugs*)

Re: The Bella Effect

Posted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 10:21 pm
by Openhome
This is such a good point, and one that I rarely hear argued at all!
VirginiaMay wrote:How has Edward Cullen affected teenage girls and boys?? What influence does his character have on the readers of the Saga and why isn't the media having a heyday with that?
(Although, maybe they are and I just missed it. If so, I apologize. *shrugs*)
No, other than complaining that he is an unrealistic character for females to fantasize about (honestly, I don't ever fantasize about reality because I have to live it!), the media seems to leave Edward alone. This drives me nuts!!

It's not that I think that Edward should be attacked as a character, it's that the media refuses to do it. Why? Why is it that we focus on the strengths or weaknesses of a female character and leave the males ones alone? Why aren't we worried about the character flaws in Harry Potter or Percy Jackson? Are we so focussed on women and wanting to get that image right that we simply forget to focus on the men?

Like Jazz-Girl, I am the mother of two boys, and I've thought it interesting that as far as I know, the discussion of good or bad role models for boys is rarely mentioned unless it is about the violence in movies and video games.


Re: The Bella Effect

Posted: Wed Sep 22, 2010 1:10 am
by ringswraith
Well, how many guys do you know read Twilight? What's the typical guys' guy's response to "Hey I think you should check this out?" as you hand them a black book with a red apple on it?

Exactly. The vast majority of readers here are female- males such as myself are quite in the minority. When you want to sensationalize, you aim for the largest demographic. :ugeek: