When you think of some of the least feminist characters in popular literature over the past 10 years, chances are that Bella Swan from the Twilight Saga is one of the first characters who comes to mind. Lacking the intelligence, kindness and resourcefulness of Harry Potter's Hermione or the strength, independence or survival skills of the Hunger Games' Katniss (the other two most popular girl characters of the last decade), Bella is bland and intentionally nondescript, written so that any girl could project herself on to her. She is dependent and needy, doesn't care about her friends and is primarily defined by the two men who are fighting for her, yet, weirdly enough, whenever she expresses sexual desires for either of her suitors, she's immediately cowed for it.
Strange then that Twilight's author Stephenie Meyer would openly call herself a feminist in an interview with the Guardian:
Despite all the criticism of her work, Meyer says she is a feminist, and that this is really important to her. "I think there are many feminists who would say that I am not a feminist. But, to me ... I love women, I have a lot of girlfriends, I admire them, they make so much more sense to me than men, and I feel like the world is a better place when women are in charge. So that kind of by default makes me a feminist. I love working in a female world." She was thrilled when Catherine Hardwicke's adaptation of Twilight made her one of the most commercially successful directors in Hollywood, and says of working on Austenland: "It was almost an entirely female production, which is so rare, and to be able to work with female writers and female directors and even our co-producer was a woman – it was a totally different feel than you would have on a more traditional, male-centric set."
I don't know about you, but this leaves me feeling intensely ambivalent. On one hand, good for her for taking on a label that, sadly, so many women in pop culture seem hellbent on shying away from. As demonstrated by the above quote, Meyer does vocalize a lot of feminist principles. On the other hand, walk the walk, girl. If the world's a better place when women are in charge, why not give them a little bit of agency between the covers of your books?
Stephenie Meyer on Twilight, feminism and true love [The Guardian]