Stong vs. Weak Female Protagonist

Girls want to read books about girls like themselves. So why do all the agents say they want stories with a strong female protagonist? I understand from a plotting point of view that a girl who's making decisions and going places is much more interesting to read about. But then I think of Bella. Why was she so effective? First she was coupled with a vampire. Let's face it, Edward is the star of the show, right? But Meyer does something interesting, whether intentional or not--Bella is every girl. Who hasn't felt stupid, clutzy, even the cheerleaders. (See True Story below.) It's like the reader morphs into Bella, she disappears. We are living the story.

True Story: I sat next to a girl in high school in one of my classes. She was toned, she was tanned, she was, in a word, H-O-T. Ok, that was three letters. Her hair was high lighted, her nails were done. I never saw her wear the same thing twice. Plus, she hung out with all the popular crowd aka "Jock Hall." K, now you know what type of girl she is, crowned Prom Royalty and all that. Zoom forward ten or so years. My sister runs into her at a church function. My sister remembers her (that's what sets the popular from the unpopular, the unpopular are not memorable.) Of course she doesn't remember my sister because we only went to that high school for two years--a small blip in the high school yearbook. So, my sister asks her if she remembers me. (I sat next to her remember? I think we shared papers once!) Not that we're self-absorbed, but I'd like to think we're memorable. Ok, long story even longer, when she says no, she didn't didn't remember us, my sister humbly responds that we were sort of nerds (therefore unmemorable) and here's the kicker! This tanned beauty queen says, "Oh, so was I!"

WHAAAAAAAAA? I'm telling you folks, she was not a nerd. My point is, we all feel like nerds in high school!

So back to Bella. If we all feel like nerds shouldn't agents be looking for "relatable" female protagonists ie ones that feel nerdy? Maybe people would buy more books? Or maybe it's just the vampires.


  1. My point of view with Bella is that she feels this way. She feels awkward and , stupid, and clumsy. However, she makes huge decisions, is willing to sacrifice big for the people/things she loves, and it probably doesn't hurt that she is loved by a vampire and werewolf (who are two very prototypical but VERY different males suitors, thereby playing to two very large groups of females; television example this reminds me of Dawson vs Pacey, hehehe). Here feeling like a typical teenager does, doesn't make her a weak female protagonist, it makes her feel like a weak female protagonist in the story of her own life. The fact that she is able to do so much for others and herself (especially by the end of Breaking Dawn) indeed shows she is a strong female protagonist.

    Oh and FYI, everyone may feel like a nerd, but until you are in math club or something like that in high school, you just don't qualify =)

  2. I agree Amey! "Strong" is so subjective! What agents are really looking for, though they don't realize it, is actually relatable. :D Just a guess though, as I don't actually know any agents!

  3. Good point Christine. But some feminists are up in arms about Bella being a retreat to the '50's female. I agree! I wasn't in math club, but I was in theatre, almost as nerdy, maybe geeky?

    Alysa I have not figured out what "strong" is supposed to mean. If you get it right, let me know! :)

  4. Hahaha! I had forgotten that story! I remember feeling shocked to find out about another "cool" girl (Tyler's sister) who would cry often at home because she thought she was ugly! I think even cool people must have at least sometimes felt nerdy.

  5. This is from my brother:
    As someone who was a popular nerd (bookworm,member of the chess club at
    one point, yet had many friends and also played sports) I would like to propose
    a hypothesis: Twilight is no different than any other fantasy/escapist writing. The
    protagonist is "everyman," but is able to be what "everyman" would like to be. Bella
    typifies every insecure high school want-to-be nerd (self out-cast by a strong desire not
    to fit in because being popular somehow degrades you [pride looking up by the way]),
    but is strong and decisive (which ironically are the qualities that make people want to
    be around you and therefore popular). She fulfills both the feeling of insecurity and the
    want to be someone people would want to be around. I guess that adds to the "tension"
    of the story that sucks in the emotionally insecure.

    I tried to post this on your blog, but it wouldn't let me. If you would post it for me I would
    appreciate it. You should probably say that it is from me with some emphasis as it is
    likely to be ill-received. Thanks! Marc


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