I love the 'Wee Libraries' in my neighborhood. I always check on them when I walk by, often drop off a book or two. This past week I picked up a recent thriller by Lee Child. (Not that one over there, but that's the one I could find a picture of.) I have read several of these. I love the king of the road fantasy Child sells: observant hyper-physical superman working for justice, with no ties, no fears, and new girl every adventure. James Bond and Travis McGee come close to this fantasy but Jack Reacher is freer from the world than they are. No boss, no best friend, not even a change of clothes. He is an ideal, really, the purest example I know -- almost an abstract extension of 'guy'. It's easy to laugh at him, and perhaps he should lay off the head butting before he ends up with CTE, but I think there is a small yearning towards Reacher in most of us Y-chromosome types. Know who he reminds me of? Bella, from Twilight. Yup. Now, here I am talking without a lot of knowledge (I've been unable to get through one of the books) but ignorance has never slowed me up before. And I am aware of Bella as an icon. She seems to embody a certain aspect of femininity -- pliant and submissive, seeming to exist only for relationship, succeeding through manipulation. And what a success she is! Not one but two sexy powerful guys will do anything -- anything -- for her. Like Reacher, her girl fantasy is almost perfect. She doesn't even have to walk by herself if there is a guy to carry her. Again, it's easy to laugh. But pay attention to the bit inside that is somehow satisfied by Bella -- or what's her name from 50 Shades, who is virtually the same character.
I am not judging here. I am interested. The Twilight and 50 Shades books have sold umpty million copies despite being fairly badly written. There's something there. Don't let's hate ourselves for liking them. What's the appeal? I mean, I didn't race through Thunderball because of the prose style.
Bella is a heroine who gets what she wants using her best girl powers. Is that it? Maybe. When Reacher takes 4 big bullies down at once using elbows, feet and head, we go, Huzzah. Guy power. When Bella puckers up, is it the same thing? (And she's not risking CTE.) One of my favorite heroines is Eliza Bennett, who uses charm, humour and belief in herself to succeed. But what she succeeds in doing is asking Darcy to marry her.