The holidays must have kept me mellow, or at least kept me distracted by family enough so that I haven't been fired up about anything in the last week or two.
FEAR NOT. Today I have hit upon something new at which to fling my outrage.
And it involves Twilight. Well, not so much Twilight itself as people's complaints against Twilight and what that tells me about the different expectations that readers (especially male readers) have for female versus male characters.
A common criticism about Bella Swan is that her appearance is never described in detail and therefore she is an empty shell, existing only as a conduit through which (female or gay male) readers can live out their Edward fantasies.
You've heard this before, yes?
This cartoon from The Oatmeal by Matthew Inman is what has set me off. Let me provide an excerpt:
"First off, the author creates a main character which is an empty shell. Her appearance isn't described in detail; that way, any female can slip into it and easily fantasize about being this person. I read 400 pages of that book and barely had any idea of what the main character looked like; as far as I was concerned she was a giant Lego brick...By creating this 'empty shell,' the character becomes less of a person and more of something a female reader can put on and wear."
Now, maybe you have your complaints about Bella. I know I do. Mostly I don't like how carelessly she throws away her humanity and her human life, because you know I happen to be human and I like it very much. But the girl does have a personality. She makes choices. She is in no way a lego brick.
And anyway, Bella's appearance IS described. I don't have a copy of Twilight at hand, but according to Bella's Wikipedia entry (I know I know...great sources I'm citing here...) she is described as being, "very pale with brown hair, chocolate brown eyes, and a heart-shaped face."
That counts as description in my book. Can you, for example, tell me in greater detail what Jay Gatsby looks like? How about Holden Caulfield? Ender Wiggin? Romeo Montague? Mr. Darcy?
No one complains about these famous fictional men being empty shells for lack of bust, waist, and hip measurements, as far as I know. So what gives?
Why, the difference is that Bella Swan is a girl. And the value of a girl is measured by her appearance. How can we know anything about her personality and value as a human being without first knowing her cup size??
It's interesting to note that Edward, more like a traditional female character, is described in loving, worshipful detail from his sparkly jaw to his granite hard chest.
Methinks the menfolk don't like the comparison too much.