The way women are portrayed in literature matters - The Hunger Games v Twilight

The way women are portrayed in literature matters – The Hunger Games v Twilight

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“I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.”

William Faulkner said “Facts and truth really don’t have much to do with each other”. The truth of something, is much more important that the facts. Philosophy can be seen in this way. We tell stories about things, so we can understand the truth behind facts. I used to know someone who would never read fiction because “he didn’t have time for made up stories”. He would only read educational or informative books such as Tony Blair’s autobiography, economics books and so on.

Yes, this man has a thorough knowledge and understanding of the world and politics, but he has no imagination. I tried to reason with him and tell him that philosophy (something he took seriously) is a story. But being a seasoned debater, and general know all, he thought his opinions were right and final and never listened to a word, I or anyone else said.

But he was wrong, and this is why. We form our opinions of the world by what we see and read, and that includes fiction. Ideas are discussed and formed by this discourse in society. Seeing how character in a book thinks and feels, how they deal with situations in their world, is just as important as watching how your friends and peers operate in the real world. Just because it is made up, it doesn’t make it any less important.

I think the way women are portrayed in literature matters

It matters because when people read they go into a world of their own. It is a magical, wonderful thing. It gives you an escape after a long day. When you don’t have the feelings or emotions to express how you are feeling, your favourite author will be there to provide you with them. Because. Books Matter.

Bella Swan

As this is clear, I think you can begin to understand why I have a serious problem with Bella. Fucking. Swan. Oh I can hear you Twi-hards out there moaning. And I can also hear you others out there crying “ if you love books so much surely you should encourage people reading in any form” and in general I do. Unless they break the golden rules:

    1. If the writing is so bad, it is detrimental to literature. For example text talk is offensive to me personally.
    2. If a character has no point, no interests, no character development and are so one-dimensional you could get a paper cut off them.

The wonderfully idiotic Stephanie Meyers ticks both these boxes. She doesn’t just tick them. She demolishes them. She owns them. She… oh you get the picture.

Now there is enough Twilight baiting out there in the world and I’m not adding to it. Instead we can all agree Bella Swan who defines her life by her boyfriend (oh good god someone slap me), has no interest outside Edward. Is the archetypical one dimensional character. Meyer hastily shoves into the writing how clumsy Bella is, and “isn’t it endearing how clumsy Bella is”. It’s writing at it’s laziest.

Interestingly, Meyer is in love with the male character of Edward. She spends pages on what Edward is like and his past. Yet when it is when it is Edwards turn to find out about Bella’s past life, Meyer just says “and he asked me loads of questions and I answered them”. Thanks Meyer. Well done. Lets take feminism back a couple of years and highlight how Bella is not as important as Edward shall we?

Bella Swan v Katniss Everdeen

Instead, let’s compare and contrast with a well thought out heroine and female character that kicks ass, and more importantly kicks Bella Swans perfect “oh everyone loves me what a surprise cause I’m so clumsy and adorable”  ass. I present to you, from the 74th Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen.

With Katniss you understand her state of mind. Understand her confusion over how she feels for her family, the government that puts her through such terrible ordeals. You can understand how she feels conflicted over the two boys in her life, but ultimately doesn’t let it define her. She has worse and more important thing to worry about. The same cannot be said for Bella.

Meyer defends Bella by saying that she defines feminism as being able to choose. But Twilight does not represent this very simplified version of feminism. Bella has no power over her self. She is enthralled by Edward and therefore stops having power over herself. She thinks in terms of Edward Cullen and that is it. She becomes an autobot unable to have free thought of her own. She is in the control of a man. A world of not cool.

Being in the power of men

Katniss is never in the power of men around her. She might be controlled by her government (which she overthrows FYI), but Bella doesn’t have this. If she could throw of the shackles of oppression that she is in, (or in this case a bad author) I’m sure Bella Swan may have been a more interesting, less anti-feminist character. The reason women wanted a vote was so they could have a say in how their lives are run. Bella represents the illusion of choice. Katniss is the choice itself. To not eat the berries and become a tool in their Hunger Games. Or eat the Berries, resist to the end, and have control over ones life.

Bella’s feelings towards Edward are suppose to be grand and awe inspiring, however they often leave us feeling empty as they do not relate to how love in the real world actually works. Yes I know, no one should have to fight to the death like Katniss, but the emotions are relatable. That love for someone, to care for someone like your sister, family and friends. She is strong and looks after everyone and does what is needed to be done.

Katniss shows young people, shows young women how to be strong and confident. Bella Swan teaches us how to forget the rest of your family for your boyfriend.

Katniss embodies a truly ass kicking woman. She looks after those she loves, not easily, with struggles and falls, just like in the real world. But she does it, picks her self up and carries on. Her motives and the way she feels, never leave you feeling like this is a lie. Another wonderful thing about Katniss is that she can look after herself and in the arena; she has protected the man. She is not some damsel in distress that needs rescuing. She knows what she has to do to survive, to get back to her family and make sure they are safe Not to mention she is pretty nifty with a bow and arrow. A powerful action woman, a fully fleshed out character who you can empathise with every step of the way.

Katniss Everdeen. I take my metaphorical hat off to you.

Does love conquer all?

Some could argue that although Twilight at its centre has the poignant message that true love will conquer all. Which is not true, love sadly in reality does not triumph over evil. Twilight is sadly, telling women, girls, ladies and female folk of all shapes and sizes, that to mean something you need to have a man. This my friend is a lie. And not a beautiful one at that. It’s ugly and wrong and should be stomped out of existence.

And this is where my friend always got it wrong. And as always I will turn to the words of a much wiser, smarter human being than myself “lies are attempts to hide the truth by willfully denying facts. Fiction, on the other hand, is an attempt to reveal the truth by ignoring facts.”. This is why books matter, but more impotently what these books tell us of ourselves matter. And why Bella Swan is an act of Evil in my eyes, for telling generations of people that it’s okay not to be a kick ass woman, as long as you have a boyfriend.

Katniss Everdeen – you’re doing it right.

The Hunger Games

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7 Comments

  1. I totally agree with your points about Twilight; I can’t comment about the Hunger Games as I haven’t read it. But I hate, hate, HATE Bella Swan and everything she stands for.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. There are so many contemporary literary heroines that highlight just how poor a character Bella Swan is, and how damaging the message she presents is. The female characters in Harry Potter are another great example.

  3. Fab post – I absolutely hated Bella as a character and everything she represented. A Twilight fan persuaded I read the book as I’d really understand her character more – but oh my goodness it just made me so furious. The whole thing about it being Bella’s fault when Edward gets angry or too excited? Domestic abuse comparsions anyone? Yes let’s teach our young girls and women that it’s their fault if a man can’t control himself. What’s worse than the fact this insane woman wrote these books is that in the 21st century Hollywood thought it was a great idea to make them into films and that so many smart, intelligent women adore them! I’m sorry but no amount of vampires and pouting is going to allow me to get past the fact that Bella Swan’s character has just shat all over the years of hard work feminists have fought for.

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