Is Bella Strong
To a typical feminist reading, Bella is often described as weak (and even sexist) because she has none of the superpowers owned by the vampires and werewolves — until the last book, that is. Her decisions are sometimes made for her by other characters, which is typically a no-no (the films are much worse than the book for this).
However, if you are willing to alter your definition of ‘strong female character’ to include more than typical Buffy the Vampire Slayer style warrior women, I think Bella could certainly qualify!
Despite common complaints, she has a range of flaws and triumphs: important to any character! She’s shy and awkward, and self-depricating to the point of being infuriating, all of which are character flaws, and she also funny, brave and protective, all good traits.
More than once in the books, she puts her foot down with Edward and Jacob, demanding they behave in a better manner around her. She snaps at Edward that she ‘doesn’t like double standards’ in the first book, and straight-up punches Jacob when he forces an unwanted kiss on her. Part of her desire to become a vampire is because it’ll will make her equal with Edward (“I can’t always be Lois Lane […] I want to be Superman, too.”).
I think I would definitely characterize Bella as a strong female character, given the obstacles that she is forced to overcome in the novels and the lengths she is willing to go to save others at her own expense.
However, the problem (or I guess worry) I always had with her as a lead character was her coping strategies. I have always worried about the example that Bella’s coping mechanisms set for the young generation of readers. It bothered me to think that a young girl’s boyfriend could break up with her and think that Bella’s reaction to that kind of loss was normal. In fact, she never really dealt with the loss at all. The only reason she returned to normal was that Edward was returned to her.
Bella actually demonstrates several markers of questionable mental health, including her self-deprecating nature and depression. And these were never really addressed in the book.
It may surprise people to learn that Stephanie Meyer’s described herself as a feminist, considering how often her books are slandered for being mysogynistic. In Booze Your Own Adventure, Linsday Ellis and Nella Inserra considered that women of different backgrounds have different ideas of what a ‘feminist’ woman should be, and suggested that Bella is the result of someone reconciling the modern, very left-wing ‘I don’t need no man’ woman with the traditional, good, moral woman that you’d want your children to look up to.
I could probably write a whole thesis on this topic, to be honest. xD In summary … it depends what you consider a strong female character. Does a character have to be a powerful superhero, with total independence and Boots Made For Walking, in order to be strong? Or can they simply be brave, loving, but weak and flawed, and sometimes reliant on others?