If you know even a little bit about Stephenie Meyer's “Twilight Saga,” you have probably heard there's a Team Edward (fans who want heroine Bella Swan and undead Edward paired off in blood-slurping bliss) and a Team Jacob (those who favor Bella hooking up with Jacob, the werewolf).
But there doesn't appear to be much call for a Team Bella.
Fandom, it seems, is more about hoping the guy gets the girl and less about what the girl wants.
"Bella exists almost solely as an author insert or reader proxy to enjoy the relationships with these two guys, whichever one you like better, in a story that is really geared toward wish fulfillment,” said Cleolinda Jones, a 31-year-old "Twilight" fan from Birmingham, Ala.
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Now that may be because it's nearly impossible to tell who Bella herself wants at any given moment — or it might just be because Bella is annoying. Many who have been sucked into the books freely admit that Meyer's heroine is quite possibly the most unlikeable character in the series.
The books are written about Bella's life and through her perspective — taking the reader through the teen's innermost thoughts about love, death, vampires and unnecessary cold medications. But even that intimacy fails to engender sympathy for a character who comes off to many as whiny, self-involved and weak.
"Never have I read a story written in the first person where I really cared less about the person who is doing the talking," said Sharmila Badkar-Bhan, 33, of San Francisco. Badkar-Bahn described Bella both as "a girl who was born to whine" and also "the worst female protagonist in the world of fiction."
And Bella "comes across as a weak, boring thing who always needs to be rescued," said Catherine Shattuck, 36, of San Francisco.
She has some fans
However, not every “Twilight” reader dislikes the series' heroine.
"While I found myself annoyed at times by Bella, I have to admit I also related to her teenage behavior (and) thoughts as well," said 31-year-old Megan Wallis of Huntington Beach, Calif. “I remember what it was like to feel that overpowering love for the first time and how desperate and crazy it made me feel, so I had sympathy for Bella."
Some supporters of the vampire-obsessed heroine can be found in Bella-dedicated forums, such as those on the Twilighters site. Although the Team Bella group isn't the most active forum, clearly the character has fans, who describe her as "awesome" and having a "true heart."
One group of Twilighters posters engaged in a passionate debate over a post on the MTV movie blog asking readers if they'd be on Team Bella or throw their lot in with brainy Harry Potter heroine, Hermione Granger. The Team Bella folks on Twilighters Anonymous stated that Bella has "inner strength" and that her character is "pure." Other posters said they personally related to Bella's clumsiness. But most of the support came from readers who simply find her more realistic than the Potter character.
What do tweens and teens think?
Perhaps championing Bella is a generational thing, and maybe the character resonates more with teens or tweens who, for one reason or another, find a kindred spirit in the broody high schooler. The big question is whether or not these same teens and tweens recognize that Bella's character has plenty of flaws. She's been called out for her obsession with not aging beyond 17, her desire to "die" for a boy and the way she pushes and pulls pal Jacob's emotions.
In a Salon piece on the topic, Kate Harding wrote that she would prefer that teenage girls champion Winona Ryder's murderous “Heathers” character over Meyer's heroine.
"The female protagonist swears, drinks, has sex and kills people, sure, but I'd still pick her as a better role model for teenaged girls than Bella Swan any day," Harding wrote. She described Bella's behavior as "listless moping and dangerous thrill-seeking" and that "the whole point of Bella's existence is earning the suffocating love of supernatural hotties."
Krista Greksouk, 31, of Mountain View, Calif., said, "Bella will do anything to make a boy love her, and has no sense of self-worth without said boy. Moreover, she uses another boy, who has obvious feelings for her, for her own selfish gain." However, Greksouk says she understands why young women have such an affinity with the character and for the series as a whole: "(Bella) takes high school and makes it her whole life. I think this is a reason teens like the books; they also think high school is the end-all, be-all."
But not all teenagers strive to be like the "Twilight" heroine.
"(Bella) was confusing and extremely exasperating, going from 'vulnerable, soft, weak, little girl' to 'lust monster' to 'crazy, mean, but still acting vulnerable and weak,' " said Katya Haught, 14, of Pleasanton, Calif. "If anyone ever compared me to her, the person who did so would receive a long death glare. If looks could kill ..."
Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic is a writer in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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