The DNA of the Geek Feminist: Beyond Bella versus Buffy.

/The DNA of the Geek Feminist: Beyond Bella versus Buffy.

Hrm. I’d be lying if I said I agreed with all of these, but welcome to the Really Real World, I guess. (Feminists?!!?! Diagree???!!?! Umpossible!!!!!!)

In particular I think there’s a bit too much “Strong Female Character” nonsense in here. Yes, Strong Female Characters are great… but they aren’t the end of the story, they’re the start of it. Part of embracing feminist narratives is, I think, also allowing for female characters to be weak; to be flawed, to need rescuing, and, in particular (and not necessarily related) to want a love interest.

And, look, I gotta be honest here: for all the series’ flaws (and as much as this will probably surprise like, everyone I know), I relate a lot more to Bella Swan than I do to Buffy Summers.

No. Really.

Buffy Summers is the Mary Sue construct of a man, designed to appeal to a male ideal of what women “should” be. Her origins are, in effect, a literal joke: the “preposterous” notion the helpless “victim” of male-coded violence (i.e. rape) could ever possibly fight back. Don’t get me wrong, I like Buffy (with some caveats… okay, a lot of caveats) but Buffy isn’t “me”. I don’t relate to her; neither her “girlishness” (which the show always portrays in conflict with her “badassness”, because gods forbid a woman ever be able to be both!) nor her physicality nor her moral politics. Yes, Buffy (and Buffy) has an important media role and place in feminist pop culture but she’s not a character I identify with and she’s not someone I want to (or even could) be.

Bella, on the other hand, is–depending on how you read the texts–either an un-special “everygirl” or someone who is quite special but has nonetheless been socially conditioned not to see it. She’s self-absorbed and vicious, a pretentious medium-sized fish in a very tiny pond, who’s cruel to the other girls in her life–who’s been taught to be cruel to other girls, in the way most girls are–and yet yearns desperately for love and connection. Bella is by no standard measure a “strong” character, and yet I’d argue that her experiences and her character resonates much more with actual women–or, at the bare minimum, me–than Buffy’s does (not to mention she’s a generation younger).

Bella is also written by a woman, for the consumption of women. That matters too.

Bella’s problem isn’t that she’s “weak”, and, given that by all indicators her relationships are outright abusive (hint, girls: if your boyfriends ever, ever treat you in any way like Edward or Jacob do to Bella, dump their worthless asses, because you’re much, much better than that) there’s a nasty hint of victim-blaming around “Bella-bashing”. Because Really Real World Bellas are much more common than Buffys, I seriously give the side-eye to anyone who can’t find the tragedy and empathy in Bella’s situation or, worse, blames her for it.

Both Buffy and Bella are, in their own ways (and amongst other things), avatars representing the way society deals with the victims of sexual violence. Buffy, who “fights back” is lauded as a “feminist hero”. Bella, who doesn’t, is thrown under the proverbial bus.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

The point isn’t to tear down Buffy, by the way, but it is to find some salvation for Bella. That salvation comes by trying to understand why she’s so hugely popular, and not in that sneering “urgh, teenage girls” sort of way that hurts as much as any “fake geek girl” meme.

Girls relate to Bella, for all the toxicity of the narrative she represents. But blaming her–and her fans–for being the product of a sick culture is not the way to win this war.

2013-11-08T19:11:10+00:008th November, 2013|Tags: pop culture|Comments Off on The DNA of the Geek Feminist: Beyond Bella versus Buffy.