In 1997, I was sixteen years old. Blonde, a bit scatty, and dealing with high school, boyfriends, making and keeping my friends and holding down a part-time job. Living with my mother and having the odd rebellious teenage moment. One evening, Buffy Summers strutted onto my widescreen TV (no-one had plasmas back then). She was sixteen, blonde, scatty, at high school, living with her mom and looking for a boyfriend. When she found one, also like me, she lost her virginity on her seventeenth birthday to a guy she fervently believed to be the love of her life.
Then he lost his soul and tried to rip her throat out. The similarities between my life and Buffy’s pretty much ended there, but I was hooked. For the next seven series I watched Buffy fall in love, get her heart broken, die and come back to life, and save the world to boot. I cheered her on as she dealt with high school, university and beginning a career. I watched her get through cheerleading try-outs, the prom, her mother’s death, her boyfriend cheating on her, her best friend coming out and of course, the Apocalypse, visiting both Heaven and Hell in the meantime. I identified with her, and she totally rocked. So when Sunnydale disappeared into a crater and Buffy vanished from our screens forever, I shed more than a few tears. Of course the feminists and culture critics of the time hated her; she was far too blonde and perky for a start, but for me Buffy was the ultimate role model and I mourned her dearly.
Then I heard there was a new heroine in town; a new high school girl who consorted with vampires and werewolves while worrying about the deadline on her latest essay. Okay, so by now I was in my mid to late twenties but nevertheless I welcomed the idea of a new ass kicking heroine and some anti-hero sexy vampire males.
I got Bella and Edward. Now I had better apologise in advance to all you legions of Edward fans out there in case any of you are reading this but I’m sorry, I just don’t get it. He’s pale, creepy and moody and not even a convincing vampire. Vampires are supposed to burn to ashes in the sun, not sparkle! Granted, Bella lives in a small town and if there were the expected shortage of hot guys, I might just get it. But not only does she have Edward lusting after the red stuff in her veins but she also has the attention of gorgeous werewolf Jacob. And she chooses Edward. Is the girl blind? Taylor Lautner, the actor who plays Jacob in the film, has abs that should in my opinion qualify as the Eighth Wonder of the World. Yes, I am totally objectifying him.
But my disappointment with Bella isn’t just the fact that we have very different taste in men. It’s that Bella is almost entirely defined by her relationship with Edward. Take Edward away, and we have a bland high school girl who looks miserable most of the time. Whereas Buffy has a strong personality and backstory that is entirely independent of her various relationships. Of course her star crossed love affair with Angel adds romance and depth to her story, but she doesn’t need it. When the Buffy series was in its hey-day, girls and women alike wanted to be her not just because of her ability to attract guys but because she was funny, feisty, had great hair and martial art moves to rival Bruce Lee. On the other hand, if we find ourselves wishing we were Bella, it’s only because she gets to marry Edward and/or get up close and personal with Jacob.