The Anti-Bella

March 29, 2013
Saoirse Ronan, left, and Kristen Stewart may look alike but their Stephenie Meyer adaptations differ vastly.
Saoirse Ronan, left, and Kristen Stewart may look alike but their Stephenie Meyer adaptations differ vastly.

Oh, how I hate Bella Swan. The heroine of the “Twilight” saga offends me as a woman, as a feminist and, most importantly, as a “Buffy” fan. I could go on and on [and on and on] with specific reasons Bella makes me crazy, but essentially what bugs me is that Bella, throughout most of the series, is defined by what she is not: She’s more NOT a vampire than she IS a human. What she is isn’t enough when compared to Edward. She is what she lacks.

The bitter aftertaste of “Twilight” loomed over me when I saw “The Host,” adapted from a book written by “Twilight” author Stephenie Meyer. (Let’s be honest here. I saw it only because I was going to be interviewing the two male leads, who are not exactly un-handsome.) And while “The Host” won’t win any awards and didn’t quite win my heart, I was pleasantly surprised by the strength of the main character.

Or characters. See, there’s Melanie (Saoirse Ronan), a human who fights against parasitic alien invaders. And then there’s Wanda (short for Wanderer), the parasitic alien invader that has taken over Melanie’s body. Melanie’s consciousness still hangs around, shouting inside Melanie/Wanda’s head with an uneven Louisiana accent.

What’s impressive about the two women is that, though they share a body, their strengths are entirely separate but equally valuable. Melanie is bright and crafty and fiery; Wanda operates with a sense of inner peace and confidence (the aliens are not a violent force, but instead aim to eliminate conflict on Earth). And both women have a fully developed character arc; it’s hard enough to find a film that features one woman with as many layers as Wanda and Melanie have.

Bella may be Meyer’s most famous female creation, but Wanda and Melanie are twice as good.

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