I'm Not Bella

Last year I was in a successful show, an improvised "Twilight". While at times a parody of the popular book, it was actually more of a love song.

There were points during rehearsal in which I fought that love song tendency, preferring to hold myself against the cultural conditioning that indicated that I too, should LURVE TWILIGHT, should identify with Bella. For a time I was really hoping we would spear the genre, mock it. Tear up the themes that irritated me so-the plodding plot filled with stalkery near abuse, the abstinence only commentary, the ROMANCE which seemed to be drawn from that very commentary.

Even so, I loved doing the show. I loved the sexy tension, the amazingly talented people involved, the sheer delightful playfulness of it all....I just held a part of myself back from it, from giving in to the Twilust. Watching a recent video clip of the cast performing (we are remounting the show soon, both nationally and in Austin this fall) I just....well, folks I gave up for a moment, perhaps due to my illness, but I gave in.

You won, Twilight, if but for a moment. For a moment I wanted to be Bella. Bella.

There are times, infrequent but they exisit, that I wish that I were that overwhelmingly pale and feminine, that timid, that special, that passively, perfectly beautiful helpless porcelain doll, so that a powerful, immortal teeth shatteringly, neck destroying sexy beast would either a) want to "consume" me, or b) break my heart because being with ME, MEMEMEMEMEME is so powerful he couldn't live with himself if anything happened to me.

Or at least I'd love to pretend to be (During the last run all the ladies all played "the Bella" at least once except me. Part of that might well have been due to the fact that, well...let's face it, I'm a good 10-12 years older than the rest of the chicks in the show. But also, it's probably because I did yammer on so about vampires, feminism and the like).

I've never been Bella in real life, either.

In high school I was more like the character Jessica Stanley. In college and my 20s, weird and retro, I'd probably have been cast as Alice. And now? I'm mostly an Esme. Not that there is anything wrong with Esme. The actress, Elizabeth Reaser is GORGEOUS, but the character is pretty boring, the "mom" type (and yes, I know I have issues about this, I know, but in the movie anyway she doesn't even really get to fight. That's no fun for me. Which is why during Dusk, I nearly always played "Victoria" type characters. I am not evil, but she is the most fun to play).

I think what my momentary desire to be Bella, brought up is that I am not that girl. I don't fit the traditional female archetype. I was a tree climber, , a hang with the guys girl, a Sci Fi fan***, a chaser of boys, a feminist loudmouth, sassy and probably (still) obnoxious, not afraid to be smart and aggressive, and had a rather original, if not odd, fashion sense. It's always been a bit of a weird feeling, not fitting in like that, not being able to even the times that I tried (which truth be told weren't many).

Worst "look in the mirror" moment of my young life? High school, me and a bunch of fellas, playing D and D. Me in my thriftstore retro gear and funky hair cut. And I was in love with....let's call him Paul. And we'd been playing for weeks, characters aligned, there was warfare and sacrifice and all kinds of amazing things. We'd hang out a lot, and who did he take to the fucking ShamRock? Jennifer. Who had fluffy hair and boobs and Calvin Kleins and didn't know chaotic neutral from a hole in the wall. Of course. It was a total heartbreak, but I knew I couldn't be her. I wasn't her. And I'm glad I'm not....but still.

I suppose Twilight appeals to women of all ages for those same reasons. Partially, because we've been fed so many (albeit heteronormative, but that's another post altogether) stories about "the way it should be", boy meets girl, boy sweeps girl away, girl is breathless, boy is strong, that that's just how Romance is, and I suppose I have to admit I am not immune to the charms of those stories. And while there are probably academics out there who could state all this better than I can... those tropes aren't often fun to read if you don't identify (or want to but can't) with the protaganist.

***and truth be told I've always had a hard time with most of the fantasy female characters out there. I identified more with Eowyn than Arwen, Artemis than Aphrodite, loved bad Vamp Willow, far more than Willow herself (until the later eps, when she took control of her power), Zoe more than Inara. The Wicked Witch way more than Glinda. I do have a fondness for Princess Leia, cause she was pretty AND a badass, and proved she could save the Guy as well as be saved. Xena and Gabrielle. That's another post altogether.

All this doesn't even touch on the opposite side of the coin, though. Do the men who watch or read Twilight harbor any particular secret desire to be Edward? To be uber strong and powerful and controlled/ing and dangerous (sexually and otherwise), but also sensitive and aware? Does he make them feel all oogy, as Bella does me? Do they hate their partners reading that stuff? Is it too much pressure on the guys? Are there fellas out there who are like, fuck that, take me take me now, bite me Bad Vamp Willow!!!! Probably so.

Desire is a funny thing isn't it? Who we are, how we want. What we grow up seeing and absorbing, rejecting only to find there are still prickly bothersome little kernals of idealised gender and romance roles in our heads. All the goddesses and gods we are supposed to follow, regardess of whether they appeal to us.

I'm not Bella and that's ok. I woudn't mind playing her though, just to see how it would feel.