This content was originally posted on www.alwaysyaatheart.com as part of the Stitch Blog Tour in 2012.
I recently came across the following meme on Facebook:
Now, I’m as big of a Twilight fan as the next girl. But I’ll be honest here – Bella Swan drove me absolutely nuts, and frankly, so did Edward Cullen. I managed to fall in love with these characters despite my better judgment, because let’s face it, it was an engaging story (and I was extremely gratified to see Bella’s transformation by the end, thank you Stephenie Meyer!). But there was always that nagging voice in the back of my mind whispering, “How can you ever wholeheartedly support a book that sends this kind of message to readers?”
After all, Bella is no Buffy.
I’m a daughter of the 90’s, and as anyone who grew up in the 90’s knows, it was all about Girl Power (or Grrl Power, if you prefer). Buffy was my icon, and I will be forever grateful for growing up (literally, her show was on from the time I was 12 to 18) with her ass-kicking, witty-remark-making, evil-vampire-slaying awesomeness as a role model (though, in retrospect, some of her fashion choices were questionable… Hey, she was a daughter of the 90’s too!).
As the infographic above so clearly explains, Buffy was anything BUT a damsel in distress. Not only did she not need to be rescued by anyone – man, soul-wielding vampire, or otherwise – but she was also resourceful, smart, a loyal friend, a shameless dancer, and she knew how to rock a head scarf, pleather jacket and platform shoes like no one else. She wove her way through life with an unshakable confidence, and she did whatever needed to be done to save the world for the umpteenth time. She was the ultimate.
That’s not to say Buffy was perfect, of course. She was human – she made mistakes (Spike, anyone? Though I kind of loved him…), she had doubts and fears and insecurities just like anyone else – but when things got bad, Buffy solved her problems from within. She never turned to Angel or Riley or father-figure Giles to fix things for her, to pull her out of a bad situation and magically set things right. She took the reins and did it herself, and that was what made her awesome.
Bella, on the other hand, was infuriatingly helpless. I knew it wasn’t that kind of book, but I just kept hoping that one of these days she’d pick up an axe and dust some baddies with her own two hands. I felt for her, but I also had the constant urge to kick her. Get out of your funk, Bella! Stop letting everyone else control your life and make you miserable! Do something about it! And not something dumb and irresponsible like riding a friggin’ motorcycle to get attention!
Oh, Bella. Sigh.
And then there was Edward. Controlling, emotionally-manipulative, damaged-and-damaging Edward (and if you’re still questioning how bad Edward actually was, watch this video to see what he looks like to someone who’s not under his spell). I still hate myself for loving you, Edward, but I do anyway.
And this was precisely what I wanted to avoid with my own books. I wanted to write characters that readers could love unreservedly without their inner Buffy drawing a warning stake. I wanted a strong female lead who was independent and quick on her feet, who treated her respectful and loving partner as an equal, who made her own choices – and her own mistakes – and dealt with her own consequences. I wanted my male lead to be sensitive and strong and protective, but not overbearing – and I wanted him to have to be rescued sometimes, too. Isn’t that what real love looks like?
There will only ever be one Buffy, but I hope I’ve done her influence justice in Alessa. So far, I think I have – I’ll never forget the day that I was skimming the Goodreads page for Stitch and I noticed that a reader had put the book on her “dystopia-feminism” shelf. I smiled about as wide as could be, and I thought, Buffy would have been proud.