If You've Only Seen the Twilight Movies, You Have the Wrong Impression of Bella Swan

Like most people who owned Team Edward shirts in 2009, I remember the Twilight novels for the cringey dialogue, the iconic love triangle, and the hand-wringing over its supposedly anti-feminist protagonist, Bella Swan. But when I recently revisited the saga to prepare for Midnight Sun, I came to an interesting conclusion: the way Stephenie Meyer represents Bella’s agency as a character is actually sort of progressive.

Bella is often dismissed as a personality-less character, but her actions across the novels reveal much more depth. Bella is shown to be selfless, brave, sarcastic, and stubborn; she’s also uncannily mature to the point where she’s constantly referred to as an “old soul.” Bella continually puts herself on the line to save people she loves, jokes around with Edward (something the melodramatic film adaptations leave out), and, most of all, refuses to back down when she wants something (especially when that something is superhot vampire sex).

By the end of Twilight, Bella’s mind is made up: she wants to become a vampire and be with Edward forever. And though other paranormal obstacles arise across the saga’s four books — such as the threats to Bella’s life posed by Victoria or the Volturi — these subplots are generally dealt with pretty quickly. The majority of the story’s conflict comes from external opposition to Bella’s choices, even as she insists she isn’t going to change her mind.

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