Looking back on Bella Swan

Kristen Stewart has come a long way since her days as protagonist Bella Swan. Her newest movie is slightly different from Kristen’s usual dramatic roles and will see her in a comedy holiday movie about a gay couple. In Happiest Season, Kristen plays Abby, who’s excited to meet her girlfriend Harper’s family only to find out Harper isn’t hasn’t come out to her family. The story sees the couple struggle with the question of identity and acceptance while home for the holidays. Kristen Stewart brought to life the role of Bella in the Twilight series, a different kind of love story. However, its love story is still one that deals with similar insecurities and tribulations of any relationship – with a vampiric twist, of course.

Bella Swan isn’t the easiest protagonist to love, and her character has been continuously critiqued for a number of flaws. Bella’s rash behavior, codependent actions, and general thoughtlessness have been a source of irritation for much of the Twilight fandom and beyond. Bella’s character has also been analyzed as being bland and generic enough for virtually anyone to slip into her perspective so they too can be wooed by an attractive vampire or a hot werewolf.

But Bella Swan is a stronger character than we give her credit. Sure, she has her flaws – we definitely don’t recommend putting yourself in danger to win back a boyfriend. But beyond the overdramatic plot points, Bella is a resilient person. She’s determined, decisive, and daring. When she falls in love with Edward, she commits to him. And she makes the decision to live her life with him, regardless of the risks. She cares for her family and does everything in her power to take make sure they’re kept safe. She stands up to forces stronger than her and doesn’t back down from her choices even if they’re not favorable to everyone.

For a character claimed to be weak and dependent, Bella faces up to considerable conflict and pressure. After her vampire transformation, Bella is a force to be reckoned with – showing cunning, aptitude, and authority. Her resolve only grows stronger, and she doesn’t apologize for who she is and the goals she pursues.

Kristen Stewart became synonymous with Bella Swan for the years she portrayed her. And she’s received a fair amount of criticism for the angsty role. Like Bella, Kristen showed herself to be a strong person as well as a talented actress. She broke the boundaries of typecasting to play gripping characters in The Runaways, Charlie’s Angels, and American Ultra. Kristen also made the move to be unapologetically herself by coming out as bisexual. Even though she was advised not to reveal her sexual orientation to advance her career, Kristen wanted to be truthful about her identity. Now, Kristen’s role in Happiest Season is to portray a woman who has to accept her girlfriend’s fear of revealing her own identity.

Twilight might not be a classic work of literature. But it impacted many people and shaped the new voices of YA fiction. Bella Swan will always be a part of the zeitgeist of the 2000s. And hopefully, we’ll remember her for her strengths as well as her flaws. Be sure to catch Kristen Stewart in her new role as Abby in Happiest Season on November 25th.

For anyone struggling with coming out to your community, here are a couple resources to help you on your journey: 

https://www.glsen.org/activity/coming-out-resource-lgbtq-student

https://www.thetrevorproject.org/trvr_support_center/coming-out/

What is your favorite Kristen Stewart role? Is it Bella Swan?

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