Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Our Secret Desire to be the Characters we Hate

If you read YA (and really, why wouldn't you) you know that lots of folks are concerned about the lack of strong female characters in many of the chart-toppers. They point to characters like Bella Swan from Twilight and Luce from Fallen. These ladies lack any identity outside the men in the lives.



Readers, librarians, and fellow authors are concerned about the messages this type of character is sending to the impressionable teens who read about them. This is such a hot topic that it made me wonder why an author would create a character like this in the first place.

And then it hit me. Because secretly, deep down inside, we all want to be like Bella Swan. Now, I'm not suggesting that we all want to suddenly develop self-esteem issues and sacrifice our personalities for the sake of true love. So let me explain.

Characters like Bella are all written the same. Beautiful girl doesn't realize how pretty she is and is clueless to the male student body ready to sacrifice appendages for a date to Homecoming. We assume that this character is either a) dumber than a box of rocks to not see all of this or b) has one of those so far over-the-top humility acts that it has to be fake.

But this is where the secret, deep down part comes in. Don't we all wish this was how things really were in high school. It sure would be nice to convince myself that the reason my sophomore year was dateless was simply because my overwhelming beauty made all the boys too nervous to ask me out.

I'm not suggesting this is a green light to write a dozen novels with sappy, unaware teenagers. But it does explain why seventeen year old girls and forty year old women stand in line at midnight to see their movies. Because, secretly, we all want to be Bella Swan.

12 comments:

  1. To be honest, I didn't like Bella because she is a little like me. She had Edward and yet she ran to Jacob. I've done that and regretted it, which is why I wanted to smack her every time she did it. ;)

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    1. With characters like this, these plenty of dislikes to go around.

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  2. I LOVED this post. It's probably true. Why is it we don't read much about sluts who get the guys? (yeah, I'm workin' on this idea in my next WIP) but think about it. We secretly wish that being this shy girl who is beautiful will get us the guy and that's the perspective we always get in books and even movies, yet we go for it. Spot on Sarah :)

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    1. Hmmm...the slut who gets the guy. Like Rizzo from Grease? An interesting idea!

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  3. Thanks for the truth, Sarah. They're like fairy tales all over again. Princesses transported into the YA world.

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    1. This could explain the recent trend in YA of fairy tale retellings. Spot on!

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  4. I don't think it's any secret that authors write themselves (or the selves they wish they were) into stories. I'm guilty! Bella didn't particularly resonate for me because the boys in her life exhibited some bossypants behavior that gave me horrible flashbacks to a high school boyfriend. But I totally get why a lot of people want to be her!

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  5. Really good point. I still don't like her. I like my heroines to be swashbuckling and kickass, probably because I secretly wish to be swashbuckling and kickass. Heck, forget secretly, I'll admit it. But I guess I am more of the quiet bookworm that lucked into finding a great guy so maybe I should cut Bella some slack.

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  6. Honestly, I have not yet read Twilight! But I would love to be in my newly finished novel's villain's shoes for a few days. He is deliciously nefarious and charming.

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  7. I wanted to be like that in high school, but by the time I was in my 20s, I more strongly identified with the likes of the girl who became the Harper in the Anne McCaffrey series. I wanted to be the girl from the abused background who turns out to be awesome so a bunch of other awesome people love her.

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    1. Kimberly, I believe that makes you awesomely self aware. :)

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  8. "we all want to be like Bella Swan"

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