I think I'm going to have to agree with the majority on this. I'm always amazed at the amount of people I hear refer to Bella as a bad role model for teenage girls. I am equally amazed at the amount of comments on Edward being possessive, so Jazz, when you have that "Edward Effect" topic up and running, would you be so kind as to send me an alert message?
I'm confused by the idea of because someone has conservative values they are not independent thinkers or can develop personally. And by the idea having these values indicate that a woman is not an independent creature. Why does one have anything to do with the other? Now, having "traditional" rather than "radical" values may mean you are more of an old fashioned type of person, but that does not make you a sheep either.
I was raised in a conservative home but my parents taught me to keep an open mind, to be fair in my assessments of situations and circumstances. You can never have too much information about something if it impacts your own life. There may always be a special situation that you don't know about that can alter your perception of the facts. Take for example Mike's statement to Bella about not liking her and Edward being a couple. Something like "...looks at you like you're something to eat." Considering the source and the object of the comment, what Bella knows about Edward it's a wonder she was able to keep a straight face. But Mike was being serious and he wouldn't have understood the humor in that statement.
It's my opinion that throughout the series, Bella is portrayed as a realistic, strong minded, independent person regardless of her age or sex and that is part of what makes a good role model. She makes good decisions based on her values and what is right for her own life.
She doesn't like to be the center of attention, but she knows that she will be so she just sort of trugdes through it. "I can do this, I lied to myself feebly. No one was going to bite me. I finally exhaled and stepped out of the truck." In life we are faced with the reality that there are things we do not like to do or want to do but have to do nevertheless and there's no other way to get through it except to accept that as fact and go on.
She chooses to move to a different town, in a completely different environment than she's used to, start a new life and separate from her mother who she is very close to. And she makes that choice without any outside pressure other than her knowledge that if she takes herself out of the picture she will no longer be holding her mother back. "It was to Forks that I now exiled myself -"
She takes responsibility for her own actions and what effect those actions may have on those around her. She knows that her life is going to be altered drastically so she may be a little reluctant, but she also knows that though the universe resolves around one fixed point, that point is not her. Bella realizes that what she chooses will benefit her mother more than it will have a negative effect on her own life.
She doesn't shy away from challenges in her life. "So I requested that I be assigned kitech detail for the duration of my stay." the key here is that Bella chose
to have this role in the home rather than for both of them to suffer just to hold the more traditional roles. I've seen some adults who won't take on these responsibilities.
I can see how the "critics" think she is weak because of her inability to do anything except function after Edward leaves, but anyone who has felt the awful ache of loss knows that sometimes...that's the best you can hope for. Life goes on...but on occasion, you have to be an observer instead of a participant for a time. If you're really lucky, you've never had to experience this. But there are some of us who know how crippling grief can be.
Her resolution to that feeling of loss and her life being out of her control...adrenaline...learning to ride a motorcycle. Alright, doing dangerous and reckless things just to have a vision of her lost love, is perhaps not an intelligent decision but it is taking action. And not an action that most would expect from a 17 year old girl. It's not "traditional" and is a prime example of Bella deciding that this is something she could do to allow herself to have some sort of life.
Bella is constantly pointing out that she is used to taking care of herself and is not scared of what may happen to her. Even Edward comments in his version, "...she was just going to have to get used to being treated with more courtesy, and get used to it soon." Granted her mother does not set a shining example of motherhood, but there are teens out there who have similar situations and worse. How Bella deals with this part of her life is more than admirable. And those teens out there who have this same situation (and worse) can at least see that there are some who take their terrible situation where they have to grow up too quick and be the parent and make the best of it. It stinks and it's not fair, but it is life and there's only one alternative.
Being a little old fashioned myself, I think the traditional values and waiting until marriage to have sex is a good message, regardless of whether that is independent thinking or not. It shows that though we are all human and can have our weak moments, if it doesn't feel right, you shouldn't do it. It also shows that there's more to a relationship than sex and that those other issues should be resolved prior to being physically committed. Just my opinion, but it tends to complicate things that are difficult enough during your teenage years.