5 Reasons the Bella Swan YA Heroine Exists

9 February, 2013 Musing Musers 23 comments

Bella Swan

5 Reasons the Bella Swan YA Heroine Exists

We’re all familiar with the stock standard Bella Swan type YA heroine.  They all tend to share the same traits, their biggest one being a complete lack of any real personality – like a walking, talking mirror for the reader to reflect themselves in. No hobbies or friends except for those absolutely vital to the plot.  Most of all they see themselves as a mouth-breathing super-freak to whom nobody could be attracted.  Basically, if they ever met self-esteem they’d run screaming from it.  Yet they will have multiple suitors in the book, and the full attention/rampant douchery of the hottest guy in school/vampire camp/witch club/ever.  Mostly, of course, he will occupy her entire life and consume all her thoughts.  She will gladly die for him and proves it multiple times by trying it out often to see if she can make it eventually stick.  Actually, she’s so wholesomely sacrificial she’s been known to sacrifice herself for a soggy breadstick on occasion.  Of course, with little-to-no effort on her part she is the most beautiful/talented/super-specially powerful person around and everyone loves her.  And if they don’t then they’re evil/wrong/jealous bitches.  We all know this meek, homogeneously nice gutter of juvenile characterizations, and have probably suffered through reading her in all her clumsy (pro tip: she’s always clumsy) glory at least once.

But often in our haste to retch and bleach the memory of Bella Swan and her ilk from our brains, do we ever ask why they exist?  Why they are so horribly prevalent like a plague just waiting to infect everything we read?  Well, I am here with all the answer and once again ready to ride in and save the day.  Read on to find out why you’ve been so often subjected to the literary version of oozing genital sores rubbed in cayenne pepper.

1. Illuminati

Nothing could be clearer.  If there’s a conspiracy afoot then certainly these guys are involved.  But why?  Why get their nefarious claws into us this way? The answer is right in front of us and couldn’t be any clearer.

Twilight Movie PosterNotice anything familiar? Any similarities?

The symbol of the Illuminati is an eye with hands.  Bella Swan has an eye and at least TWO hands.  Also notice how both the Illuminati eye, and Bella’s eyes are cold, dead, completely emotionless and utterly lacking in humanity?  Think that’s a coincidence?  Well how about this – in the books there are 7 vampires – seven is a very important number in numerology because it ate nine.  Now when you add the number of characters in Edward + Carlisle + Jasper + Emmett you get 26. Now add all the letters from Bella + Alice + Rose + Esme = 18.  26-18=8.  8-1 is 7.  Also 1 X 7= 7.

You just can’t argue with that.

Numerlogy is at work organizing the universe and you are at its capricious whims.  Luckily the Illuminati is always there to take advantage of the numerology whims that you are too capricious to appreciate.

2. Aliensaliens-meme

Everyone knows aliens have been watching us, kidnapping us, probing us in unmentionable places, toying with us to see how we tick.  These YA heroines are just another way for aliens to observe us.  To test if they can fully integrate yet.  Have they got the subtleties of human emotions and interactions down?  At least if they prove so, they can finally begin their long awaited secret invasion into the Earth for the purpose of breeding with us, because we’re sexy bitches.  Who wouldn’t want to make alien babies with me?


Errr… No, thanks.  I’m into chicks.


3. Those fat cats on wall streetI should buy a boat

They bleed pennies when you cut them and a fifty dollar bill is a great way to light their illegal $1000 cigars.  They’re the fat cats on wall street and they’ve figured out that this teen genre makes money.  So they’ve ordered a hundred billion Bella Swan replicas written throughout YA and are sitting back in their mansions laughing as they drink wine infused with smelted gold and pay someone $1000 per hour to pick their nose of boogas.  Twilight sold, fifty shades sold, surely, they think, it’s as easy as remodelling the formula again and again every time they want to buy a new island.


4. The Government


The Man.  The big guy.  You know what he wants!  To control you.

If you’re a girl than the government wants to tell you what to wear, how to be, who to like, what to like.  Of course the government would want to foster a sense of easy self-sacrifice and total slavish devotion!  The government wants nothing more than for you to be absorbed by, and willing to die for your man. THE Man. Not just any man, but an omnipotent, powerful, man who will watch you (whether you like it or not) and stalk you to always keep you safe, control you from making any mistake that you may come to regret.

The Man knows how important it is to get the girls while they’re young.  In high school, when their hormones and the mystical girlie emotions (the ones boys would never succumb to – because, you know… man brain) are in full swing.

The eventual benefit is an army of mindless, infatuated super-soldiers ready to win at all cost for love.  It’s ingenious.  Those evil bastards.

5. Teenagers

Teenagers by by Certain Romance

Maybe, and this is a theory, that a lot of teenagers just gravitate towards this characterization.  I was talking to my 15 year old cousin the other day, and other than mocking her for being 15 (I mean, seriously, who’s 15?  That age SUCKS) I also mocked her for her taste in books.  Mainly Fallen, Twilight, et al.  And I thought about how my intelligent, thoughtful, unique and free-spirit cousin could like such trash.  After all, she’s not a cookie-cutter tween.  She’s awkward, funny, old-school and completely one of a kind!  And I realized, maybe I was being a bit of a prick. Sure, I’m an adult with a well-established identity who finds the whole Mary Sue ordeal ridiculous and pointless.  But for her, it’s fun, wonderful, and a great opportunity to try on different skins, learn romance that she isn’t experiencing physically herself, live a life she doesn’t have and defeat villains she’ll never have to worry about.  It’s an escape from a school full of bullies, a freedom from a world of restrictions and fun that doesn’t come with a price tag on their life.

Maybe it’s not always the best influence.  But a lot of teens seem to know that – because teens are generally savvy with these things. Like many adults know that Romances are for escapism and aren’t at all based on reality.  And maybe it’s fun to mock the Mary Sue, Bella Swan type YA heroine – I mean, I enjoy doing so on various occasions.  But maybe it also negates the needs and wants of those this genre particularly targets and serves.  Those still looking for their own identity, and happy for a personality-free drone through which they can navigate their own fantasies, wants and desires.


Kat Kennedy

Kat Kennedy

Co-blogger at Cuddlebuggery
Kat Kennedy is a book reviewer and aspiring author in the Young Adult genre. She reviews critically but humorously and get super excited about great books. Find her on GoodReads.
Kat Kennedy

23 Responses to “5 Reasons the Bella Swan YA Heroine Exists”

  1. Fangs4Fantasy

    Clearly this is Illuminati aliens funded by the fat cats to control the government
     Your cousin likes Fallen and Twilight. Oh… I’ll be right there, it’s time for an intervention!
    Seriously though – it would be nice to find a way for teens to identify with a character – to be able to experience the story without the character themselves being so empty because the messages it sends are so very overwhelming. Is the only way to experience romance to present a character who achieves it despite who they are (or who they aren’t – since who they are is nobody) rather than because of who they are?

  2. SamShortt

    Wait – KAT?! You’re not 15?! I was going to get you casted in the new Hannah Montana movie! It’s over now!
    You’ll never work in this town again! *Huff* Well, maybe as an extra is a Scary Movie sequel but that’s all!
    Why do I even try?

  3. Neyra

    ” seven is a very important number in numerology because it ate nine.” – Just about cracked me up! seriously, i love this blog, you girls are awesome. lmao smh

  4. athousand_lives

    is a great article! It made me think about why I read books with Mary
    Sue types in the first place. Can’t exactly avoid them all. I’m barely
    out of 15 myself (and I’m telling you, the age I’m at now isn’t any
    better at all) so I think I have a pretty good perspective. So. Why Mary
    Sues? I don’t even enjoy wading through the crap they get themselves
    stuck into nor do I like reading the constant annoying musings about the
    love of their life and how they’d die for him. Unless I’m a horcrux,
    I’m not dying for anybody. So do
    I tolerate the characters because I use them and their world as a means
    of escape? I could just as easily escape into a different, more
    developed world. I could literally be anyone, anywhere. What
    about to defeat villains and be the hero? Eh. Where is the fun in
    discovering the bad guys by simply looking at the colour of their eyes? 
    As a way to find and know myself, then. The only thing I’ve discovered
    about myself is that I’m a better and more interesting person than these
    Mary Sues. That’s not even much of an achievement since they are
    literally nothing.
    guess I put up with them because I can more easily overlook bad
    characters if the plot is somewhat interesting. And I like to see them
    crash and fall. It’s entertainment. YA heroines can’t all be kick-ass.
    We end up appreciating the good ones a lot more.

  5. Kate C.

    I’ve been reading YA for since I was a YA myself (oh sooooo long ago!), and until like 3 years ago, I didn’t even know what a Mary Sue was.  I mean, in those exact terms.  I just knew there were heroines (and their crazy stalkerish incestuous controlling love interests) that I didn’t like.  
    I think that the prevalence of writers like Pierce, McKinley, Kristoff, Cashore, Collins, and many more help balance out the books that may not have the best examples of heroines.  At least I hope so!  
    Your reasoning is pretty funny, though.  That government one sounds almost plausible… as if we were living in a dystopian society or something.

  6. Stuti Rai

    I’ve already exterminated the Illuminati, and am dealing with the aliens. Who’s gonna help feed poisonous mice to the cats on the wall street- it’d be pretty easy and you won’t have to wipe their asses or clean their boogers! Don’t know what to do about this teenager problem though; I don’t get it myself even though I’m the same age- because I can’t just wipe out all my friends, can I?
    Also, from where did you steal this report, Kat? I know it was hidden between the covers of the third book on my second shelf’s first row, in my secret HQ. Tell me, who is the traitor in my army? Or did you manage to do it all by your lonesome? If yes, I applaud your theft skills. 🙂

  7. ChristinaBooth

    Funny thing is, I was totally into those kind of characters for maybe all of…well, never really. 
    It’s weird, because even at a young age I got really fed up quite quickly with waif-y, damsel in distress pretty Mary Sue girls no matter what I was reading, playing, or watching. I always found myself connecting with the hero–the spunky, go getter character (sometimes usually male) who was tasked with stopping the forces of evil with his gumption and courageousness. I always found myself sorry for the hero having to put up with girls like Bella, and now as a young woman I’m frustrated that characters like Bella are so happy with being nothing more than the pretty thing that’s rescued or being so okay with amounting to only meh. I was never really one of those teens who could lose myself in a character like that.
    I definitely understand the escapism aspect, but as you mentioned about the homogenous-mirror qualities to the characters, I could never see myself in them. As a young woman of color, most heroines in YA novels were pretty, inept white girls who were adored by everyone but themselves and their oodles of low self esteem. I could just never believe in a character like that. I could never be that character. In my life, no super hot guy was going to cast aside some girl like Bella to be with me (my skin color sometimes–most of the time–playing a factor). So when YA was just a mirror of what I had to go through day to day, being the odd man out in a world that wasn’t color-blind, I hated characters like Bella. As bitchy as it sounds, I couldn’t help but think ‘she get’s everything. She doesn’t have to work as hard as I do, doesn’t have to put up with being alienated by people who don’t get her. She’s just exists and falls over and guys love her. I do it and I’m bully fodder.’ 
    So, yeah. I hate Bella. As and adult, I hate her character for being such a lazy piece of characterization that thrives on her mediocrity, but the kid in me hates her for representing the fact that the world will always accommodate Bella’s, but will always hesitate to accept someone brown like me.

  8. queendsheena

    I think Bella Swan exists because people like her exists. Who hasn’t seen that awkward girl who has a hard time establishing a sense of identity. I’m 28 and I enjoy reading about all kinds of people. Every heroine can’t be Katniss from The Hunger Games. I think a lot of people who diss  Bella Swan are more like her than they think. Characters like Bella do well because they’re versatile, you can watch them evolve and marvel at what they become.

  9. queendsheena

    I think Bella Swan exists because people like her exists. Who hasn’t seen that awkward girl who has a hard time establishing a sense of identity. I’m 28 and I enjoy reading about all kinds of people. Every heroine can’t be Katniss from The Hunger Games. I think a lot of people who diss  Bella Swan are more like her than they think. Characters like Bella do well because they’re versatile, you can watch them evolve and marvel at what they become.

  10. judyree

    First of all, let me say, I really liked this post.  I completely got the humor and sarcasm of #1-4. But #5 baffles me.  
    I can remember being a teenager (even though it was more than 20 years ago) and by that time, I was reading SciFi/Fantasy, mostly about strong, complex and complicated characters.  Books where a woman could lead an army or save the world.  (Why exactly is this the only genre where women have been equal to or better than men for decades? Sorry, different rant.)  Personally, I think prefer the days when kids read things like Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell or A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle or pretty much any book by Roald Dahl.  Now, they no longer read the book, they just watch the movie (loosely) based on the book.  And we wonder why they all seem to have the attention span of a nat and need medication to focus on something for longer than 30 seconds.  
    Is it any wonder why they seem drawn to these empty shelled individuals in books that are being churned out with less imagination than a wind up toy walking in circles?  Is it because, especially here in Florida, teachers seem more concerned about teaching kids to pass a test than actually teaching them how to think for themselves?  I can say this because my 11 year old nephew has YET to be assigned a book report and is the 5th grade. I have a niece who is 14 and has never done one as well.  I have tried to get them age appropriate books and encourage reading, but it is hard when the schools don’t even seem to encourage it anymore.

  11. Annie J

    your point about the government is eerily brilliant!  But I do like the point about teenagers liking a blank slate to engage in the world and try on different skin.  great article!!

  12. Laurens Loquacious Lit

    You guys are full of giggles, but I liked what you said at the end: We can make fun of teenagers all we like as grownups, but when we were teenagers we were probably into some pretty crappy shit, but we still thought it was awesome. It’s like looking back on photos of people in the 80’s with perms and terrible clothes, they thought it was awesome back in the 80’s.

  13. Jackie Farrow

    You guys are awesome for writing this 😀 Great post, thought I’m hesitant to admit that I was the 15 year old cousin in  #5. I read Twilight when I was 12, and went nuts over it, most likely for the reasons you have listed, that is, it being a great way to learn about romance and use it as an escape from the outside world. When I turned 16 I re read them and I thought they sucked. So my tastes changed, but it doesn’t mean it was a horrible book in the first place… I simply outgrew them. And learned to loathe the Bella Swan type – some time in the past she may have been a literary character I could relate too, now she’s the type of character I loathe 😀

  14. Chantelle Ip

    HAHAHA I loved this!! Glad I’m not the only one sick of the same boring heroine that keeps appearing eeeverywhere, especially with the huge surge of romance and new adult novels. bleugh. great rant haha

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