Buffy was the poster girl for Girl Power. She kicks butt, is fiercely independent, even in her early days as a sixteen year old, and is determined to make her own choices. This is a girl who most certainly does not need a man. But she’s also nice; she loves her friends, is close to her mom, and doesn’t sleep with boys on the first date – apart from once at the beginning of season 4, but we get to see the consequences of that. She makes mistakes, but always tries to clean up after them. She looks great, but has the same crises of confidence as the rest of us. Being a feisty, independent kind of girl she has to deal with the inevitable conflicts this throws up in her life; boyfriends who can’t handle the fact that she is stronger than them, an over-protective parent and the dizzying responsibility that comes with having to make your own – often very difficult – choices. Buffy is the essence of the modern woman. We may not live on a Hellmouth and have to save the world every second Sunday, but we know her. We understand what she’s going through. And in her finest moments, such as when she sacrifices herself to save her family, or her relationship to save her friends, even when she turns her back on the ‘cool’ kids, she’s pretty aspirational.
I just can’t help contrasting this with Bella and sighing with disappointment. Bella can’t fight to save her life – yes I know, she’s not the Slayer, but couldn’t she at least try and stand up for herself – needs Edward so much she can’t live without him, and has zero career plans other than becoming his wife. And convincing him to turn her into a vampire. To me Bella is everything a young woman shouldn’t want to be. The Twilight series may have finished, but we still have Bella’s contemporary counterpart Ana set to hit our screens with her own brand of utter drippiness. The young heroine in the recent hit City of Bones also disconcertingly reminded me of Bella, though she does dress better. The Bella Factor seems to have taken over our on-screen and literary heroines, and makes me long for the days of nineties Grrls and Buffy’s witty one liners. The only heroine possibly still carrying the now sputtering torch Buffy passed on would be Katniss from The Hunger Games, but as I haven’t read or seen the sequels I’m reserving judgment.
I’d love to see a scene in which the two meet; Buffy gives her quiet counterpart some self-defence lessons and hands her a stake. Bella goes home, dispatches with Mr Sparkly, gets with Jacob or maybe Alice instead, finds some friends and gets a job. Unfortunately if they did ever come across each other, I can’t help thinking Bella would just cry and wait for Edward to come and save her. She’s really good at that.
Maybe I am just a product of my era. As a teenager when Buffy hit my TV screen, influenced by MTV, the Spice Girls and Snoop Dogg, the Vampire Slayer ethos naturally resonated with me. I was twenty six when I met Bella, with two small children and a demanding career and a fizzing social life, mostly because I was brought up to believe women could Have It All (no-one warned me how exhausting this was).
Perhaps I missed the point. Maybe today’s younger women want different things from their heroines and are thoroughly fed up of having the pseudo-feminist Cosmo girl image shoved down their throats. Sometimes you just can’t have it all, and it is a natural human instinct to want to find your life partner and fall in love. Nothing wrong with that. I just can’t help thinking that in an age where we have had a spate of teenage suicide pacts and a worrying rise in teenage relationships featuring control and over possessiveness, the creation of Bella and her like as heroines for young women is deeply irresponsible at best and dangerous at worst.
That’s why, in ‘The Lady is a Vamp’ I decided to make my heroine the vampire, rather than the guy. Ruby and Nick are a good match for each other, and if anyone’s going to be doing any swooning, it’ll be him….