Thursday, December 10, 2009

Our Heroine, Alabaster Purelove

I’m probably two weeks late with this, but since it’s been bouncing around in my head a bit and since the pop culture juggernaut that is Twilight isn’t going away anytime soon, I figured I might as well post it. A disclaimer: I have never read or watched or really experienced any aspect of Twilight aside from commercials for it and the SNL parody of it, “Firelight.” And I’m happy to leave my exposure there. However, being a person who stares at screens of various sorts, I do know a little about Twilight — about enough to know that the heroine’s name is Bella Swan.

This, in and of itself, is a warning sign enough that I should stay away. I hate that anyone — much less a grown woman — would name their heroine something that sounds so much like the kind of name invented by a ten-year-old girl who wears pink and strives for all things superficially pretty, or as it shall be spoken in this context, “pwetty.” It’s just so goddamn obvious. (“Bella means “beautiful” and swans are beautiful so her name means “beautiful swan” and that is both beautiful and pwetty.”) To me, someone who would like to think that both fictional and real-life things are named for sound but subtle reasons, calling this character Bella Swan is the equivalent of having her first spoken line of dialogue be “Hey you, the twelve-year-old reading this book, I’m supposed to be beautiful and appealing.” I can’t focus my rage on Stephenie Meyer alone, as I had similar problems with Mirabelle Buttersfield, the protagonist of Steve Martin’s book Shopgirl. Perhaps I am allergic to the word part bella, and perhaps if someone writes a book about a winsome lass named Bellabella Bellabelsten, I’d drop dead right there.

Upon thinking about this name a bit more, I considered that there may be an additional level of meaning to it. (Can’t confirm this, as I’ve not read Meyer’s writing and don’t know if she traffics in levels of meaning.) Swans are often thought to symbolize beauty, but in particular they are thought to have beautiful necks. A woman who might have an attractively slender neck might be called swan-like. (Her homelier necky counterpart, on the other hand, would be derided as giraffe-like.) Given that Twilight is about vampires, who often go for the neck, it could be that Meyer thought to name her character so as to underscore the fact that she is appealing to these bloodsuckers. However, even this is just a little too on-the-head for me, too direct, too obvious and too frustrating, though I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much, as no one has forced me at gunpoint to read or watch Twilight and I’m not technically obligated to think about it.

I may love the subtly significant more than the bits that beat you over your head with their meaning, but that doesn’t mean I can’t find humor in someone naming something in an obvious and therefore terrible manner. Here, then, is a list of names that Meyer may want to consider for theoretically appealing heroines in her future novels:
  • Melanie Ravenslock
  • Regina Regalston
  • Dulchezza “Dulcie” von Marzipan
  • Mariposa D’Ethereal
  • Stella McTwinkle
  • Ginger Spice
  • Loyalty the Dog-Faced Girl
  • Dyslexia S. Drawkcab
  • Virginia Tightclam
  • Popular Winsalot

2 comments:

  1. fwiw Bella doesn't think of herself as beautiful. Twilight isn't a bad book, but it reminds me of fan fiction. She's obsessed with eyes and mouths.

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  2. Well, that does figure into my opinion of the character, I suppose. Not having read the books, I just figured she was a Mary Sue, being all perfect and ready to be idolized by young female readers.

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