Jacobs-girl wrote:However, one of the feminist arguments against Twilight which I have heard is that the Twilight series could portray an unhealthy way of behaving to young and more easily influenced readers and that Bella is not the ideal role model for young girls because of her low self-esteem and her obsessive dependence on Edward and Jacob.
Part of me thinks that this argument holds some weight; if my (hypothetical, because I don't have children yet) daughter became as obsessed with a guy as Bella is with Edward, I would be concerned. Although Twilight is a series which, as we know, is hugely popular with young girls I think there is a lot in it which is actually quite mature content. Although the content of the books isn't graphic (the BD birth scene is an exception), the themes which run through the books aren't necessarily entirely appropriate for young readers. I don't know if I'm making any sense here but I just think that very young girls (and guys, because we mustn't forget them) reading Twilight might interpret it a little too literally.
Like you I have mixed feelings about this. It's interesting to get really involved in this series; it's such a quick read that re-reading (I'm a big re-reader) really lets things sink in for me in different ways. There is quite a bit of mature content, and it doesn't help that Bella is such an unreflective character. Hmm, this argument is easy to defeat when broken down, but still leaves me feeling unsatisfied. Let me try and put everything together and see if it makes sense.
The core of the feminist thesis is that Bella is a poor role model for young girls; for many reasons, but especially her relationships with Charlie, Edward, and even Jacob; and it seems as though these people are thinking that she is a kind of Cinderella, a hardworking traditionally feminine kind of girl with no real plans for the future or committment to her life, who falls head over heels for a guy and becomes completely wrapped up in his world, to the exclusion of her own world, and at risk of her life.
Wow, that does sound bad.
It's not so much an Austen-like storyline from this point of view as kind of a princess story, especially Beauty and the Beast, of course. And it has something else in common with those stories; what saves the story is that the love is requited - returned in equal measure - Edward would leave his world and enter hers, if he could. "Juliet gets dumped by Romeo and ends up with Paris" would never have been a bestseller.
And when the love of her life walks away, Bella does her best to pick up her life and go on with it. I will say that her quasi-suicidal risk-taking in New Moon is certainly a dangerous role model.
So Bella is, from one viewpoint, an iffy role model. But then, she also has a lot of virtues to recommend her. She is terribly stubborn, including about trying to avoid obviously swooning in front of Edward whenever possible (and if you don't think stubbornness is a virtue ...). She is honest, decisive, loyal to her human and not friends, she can be assertive and make her own decisions when she wants to. She is capable of seeking help to support her, even against the love of her life, when she thinks he is wrong. And it turns out that her desire to protect everyone ... becomes reality. So from this viewpoint, she is a pretty decent role model.
And then, no one heroine can be everyone's perfect role model. We see how different people make their choices in different situations and think, "what if I did that? What if I was in that situation?" Which has led so many people to comment that unlike B+E, they might not have waited until the wedding. So Bella does things that are questionable but are the best effort she can make, and has admirable values. Well, she's not a perfect role model, but not so bad. Perfect is boring to read, anyway.