Facebook Pixel

October 6, 2009

What Makes a Good Heroine?

My special guest today is paranormal author, JA Saare. Her post is about heroines and in particular Buffy and Bella. I’m a huge Buffy fan, but also a very new one since I’ve just started watching the series for the first time. I’m hooked. Over to you, Jaime…

Author, JA SaareWhat makes a good heroine? Is it a hard-assed Buffy or a soft-spoken Bella?

I remember it like it was yesterday. The WB network was advertising this brand new show that was a spinoff of the movie sharing the same name. At first it was laughable, and I made the common joke about the “frog” network and their futile attempts to survive in a Seinfeld ruled world.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer – really?

Beastly creatures and high school metaphors aside, how could anyone take such a thing seriously? The market for the paranormal, at that time, was weak. Even with a devout cult following, shows like Kindred: The Embraced were shelved after one short season. Darkness didn’t prevail, people wanted pep, they wanted sass, they wanted Rachel’s latest haircut! Still, I tuned in, reminiscing about the days when Dylan Mckay was the hottest thing since freshly mopped tar on a sweltering summer roof. Chewing my popcorn and drinking my Jolt cola, I watched a young and impressionable Buffy Summers enter into the Hellmouth, err, I mean the doors of Sunnydale High, for the first time.

And whaddya know? It was love at first stake.

Buffy was tough. She was strong. And she could make the high school jocks cry like hard core sissies. But even more importantly, she was a total girl. Her need to belong to the world she was so apart from was so raw, and so very relatable. Each week brought about new challenges with real themes, ranging from first love, to domestic abuse, to losing your virginity and discovering the guy you thought you loved isn’t who you thought he was at all.

Those next seven years were some of the most memorable of my life, and I remember them fondly because they were shared with a young girl that was roughly my age when the show started and ended. Oddly enough, we shared heartache and growth, and when those final credits rolled on the final episode, The Chosen, I wept. When it was all said and done, I knew there would never be another heroine to compare, and I bid a very fond farewell to one of my favorite characters of all time.

Fast forward a couple of years.

I was browsing the books in my local Barnes and Noble, looking for something to pass the time. My favorite authors weren’t due to for a new release, and I wasn’t in the mood for the usual romance. I wanted something different, something with bite.

A cover got my attention. It was simple but elegant, a pair of alabaster hands palming a ripe red apple. Figuring I had nothing better to do, I snagged the book and purchased it along with a double Mocha Latte. I read it in record time. It was a beautiful story, a romance that used sensuality to sell. Sure, Bella was a tad annoying, but what girl isn’t at that age? And that hunk, Edward, hubba-bubba! Not a bad read at all, and guess what? The sequel, New Moon, was coming soon!

It was a good thing I had the foresight to save that first edition hardback, because soon after, the Twilight frenzy was born.

Now, it’s all about New Moon. The motion picture is on the way and the hype has just begun. As I stare at the numerous billboards lining the walkways of Target and Wal-Mart, I have to ask myself…What is the deal?

Attending the release party at that same Barnes and Noble for Breaking Dawn was a mind-blowing experience. For one, I discovered no book, and I do mean no book, is worth the agonizing shrieks of ecstatic tweens as they clamor for their sparkling vampire fix. Fights broke out over quizzes that indicated your “blood type”, and if you were the parent of the disgruntled girl that got the white paper bracelet that signified Jacob’s preference, Lord help you.

Then it hit me.

The frenzy isn’t about Bella at all. It’s all about Edward – the man that completes her. For without him, she is nothing.

Testing my theory, I pulled out Twilight and read it again, then came New Moon and Eclipse. Yep, it was just as I thought. Bella, the ever normal Mary Sue that is plain and shy but shows up at a new school and becomes uber-popular and snags the attention of the notorious unobtainable vamp himself, is only important so long as the topazed-eyed vegetarian sparkler is at her side. What better way to prove self-worth than to gain the attention of the most beautiful creature in existence, and maintain it permanently?

Jaded and angry, I pulled out my DVD collection of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, starting with season one. There were similarities – anxiety, shyness, attempting to fit in.

But then, it happened.

Buffy meets Angel, and in true kick-ass manner, she blows him off. Oh, to be sure, she did so in a sultry fashion. And what do you know? The boy follows her. Thus, one of the most beloved and indelible couples on the small screen was born.

It’s a shame Buffy The Vampire Slayer didn’t get the recognition Twilight has. Though they are notably different (Buffy, though in print and comic format, is inherently a television show), the messages were so much deeper, so much more involved. Sure “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” sounds silly, but that goes to show you that it’s not smart to judge a book by its title, or in this case, the catchy symbolism of a cover.

If Mr. Whedon has some free time, maybe he can schedule an intervention and do the world a favor.

Have Buffy give Bella a call, Joss. The world needs a reality check.

Happy Reading!
Jaime AKA J.A. Saare

Soft As Moonlight Moon Kissed Lick of Frost A Kiss Before Dying

J. A. will be giving away a $10 Amazon.com gift certificate to one randomly drawn commenter from her blog tour so don’t forget to comment here to have a chance to win. For details of JA Saare’s entire blog tour go here.

Which heroine do you prefer? Buffy or Bella? What do you think makes a good heroine?


  1. Cari Quinn

    I prefer Buffy by far, though like Shelley, I’m just getting into the series now. Honestly, I don’t get all the Twilight hype. The movie was fine, and I enjoyed it. I’d like to see New Moon. But I haven’t read the books and probably won’t because too much of what I’ve heard about the series bothers me. Bring on Buffy…and in my case, Spike. Talk about a fun character. ;)

    My kind of heroine is someone strong – even if they don’t always realize it – and smart and loyal. Ideally, she’ll have goals and dreams of her own not necessarily connected to the hero. Someone who sees love as frosting, not as the entire cake. And if they have interesting quirks, all the better.

    Great post, Jaime! Thanks for having her here, Shelley!


  2. RKCharron

    Hi Shelley :)
    Thank you for having Jaime here today & introducing me to her & her writing.
    Thanks to Jaime for sharing!
    All the best,
    PS – Follow J.A. SAARE on Twitter: @JASarre

  3. sandra cox

    I love Stephanie Meyers writing style. It completely enthralls me. I’ve read the series three times.

  4. Jaime

    Hey Cari, RK, and Sandra,

    As I’m sure you gathered, I started watching Buffy from the start. :wink: It’s actually kind of funny. The one night per week I was off from each of my jobs (was going to college at the time as well) was “New Tuesday” for Buffy. I got a lot of razzing over that from my bosses.

    I obviously garnered enjoyment with the Twilight series (until Breaking Dawn, sorry, detested that book). My issue was rediscovering the material and getting hip to that underlying ‘message’ that you must have a guy to complete you.

    As a mother to two little girls, I think it’s a bad message to send. Especially since Twilight is a YA book that’s targeted at the tween audience. Adults know better. Impressionable young girls? Not so much.

    Thanks for dropping by everyone!

  5. Jaime

    Oh and Shelley, thanks for having me again! ;)

  6. Julia Smith

    Hi, Jaime and Shelley! For a vampire lover, it’s strange but true that I’ve never watched much of Buffy, and I haven’t read the Twilight books but I’ve seen the film.

    I’m completely addicted to True Blood, however. Sookie Stackhouse is my kind of heroine. Like Buffy for you, Jaime, Sookie immediately entered my top 10 heroines ever list.

  7. Alice Audrey

    I only watched a dozen or so episodes of Buffy. I liked it, but not enough to forsake the time I spent with my family with the TV off. I like Twilight, too – both the book and the movie. I have every intention of both reading and viewing the next in the series too. But even at the time I was mostly enjoying the gloss. I never thought it was all that deep. As long as you aren’t looking for too much, have you tried the Black Dagger Brotherhood?

  8. Jaime

    Hey Julia and Alice!

    First – Sookie. I’m a huge Charlaine Harris fan and was thrilled when the show was announced. The hubs and I watched it every Sunday this previous season. When your man is a fan, you know it’s good.

    Alice, I love the Black Dagger Brotherhood. I have J.R. Ward’s newest, Covet, I just haven’t had the time to read it yet. I’m also a huge fan of Kresley Cole and have her newest, Deep Kiss of Winter, on pre-order.

    Thanks for saying hello! ;)


  9. Catherine Bybee

    I am all about Buffy and Angel… and am sorry to say I’ve never read any of the Twilight books. I do believe that Buffy changed the world or romance, and for the better, IMHO.

  10. Helen Hardt

    Hi Jaime — great post! Buffy by far, for me.

  11. Amy M

    I have never watched an episode of Buffy :eek: I don’t know why, it just never caught my interest! But, from all of the notes and comments, maybe it is something I should try! And it gets even worse…I have not read any of the Twilight series either :blush:

    I really like a strong heroine, who is not afraid to take a little help every now and then from her Alpha hero :cool:

    Amy M

  12. Jody F

    I vastly prefer Buffy. She’s strong, both physically and emotionally, and goes after what she wants. There’s no whining coming from her. Bella is a big reason why I don’t like the Twilight books. I find her whiny with no backbone.

  13. Jaime

    Hey Helen, Amy, and Jody :grin:

    If you haven’t seen Buffy, you can nab the first few seasons on DVD for $9.99 at Wal-Mart (don’t quote me on that, but I think I saw them priced as such recently).

    I agree, heroines need a backbone. And I love an alpha hero as well!


  14. Nonny

    I love Buffy & Angel. Joss Whedon is a genius.

    I never finished reading Twilight. Edward’s behavior creeped me out too much. Maybe I know too much psych for my own good, but I couldn’t get past the classic abuse patterns. He’s a jackass, then he’s nice, then he’s a jackass… plus stalking her? The movie painted a better picture of Edward, I think because the book is solely from Bella’s POV, but even still… the husband and I finished watching it, and he (and I) was bemused as to why women found Edward so attractive. I haven’t read the second book, or watched the movie, but somebody mentioned to me a scene in which Edward stops Bella forcibly from driving off for some reason.

    I have known too many women scarred emotionally — and in some cases, physically — for life by men who exhibit behavior so similar to Edward’s that it’s scary. I think it’s a very bad message to send to girls or women, and I hope some of them are smart enough to recognize fantasy is not reality, and avoid the real-life Edwards.

  15. K Cher

    I am so glad someone asked this question!

    It’s a no brainer for me: Buffy takes the title in this contest. She is a strong heroine, yet we also see her weaknesses and her pain. We watched her fall in love, face betrayal, lose the love of her life, suffer her mother’s death, and carry an incredible burden on her shoulders. Yet at the end of the day, she had the inner strength and will to sacrifice her life for the world. She understood her duty outweighed her own happiness or dreams. To this day, people still talk about the romance between her and Angel, as well as Spike. In essence, we can all find ourselves relating to her character in one way or another.

    Bella? There are countless articles you can read by googling ‘bella and edward unhealthy relationship.’ Essentially, Bella is a typical teenage girl, yet she is meek when it comes to her own goals and aspirations. Her world revolves around a man whom she believes must love her since he does not kill her. She follows him everywhere, he is her life, there is nothing else she cares about or focuses on in the book, and when he abandons her in the woods, she gives up on life and almost dies. Yet, Twilight is a fun release from reality. I will watch New Moon.

    Overall, Buffy is a true heroine if you look at the definition of the word on dictionary.com: “a woman of distinguished courage or ability, admired for her brave deeds and noble qualities.” Alternatively, there would be no Bella without Edward.

  16. Bryn

    Great post! I completely agree.

    Anyone who hasn’t watched Buffy is really missing out. It sounds like it would be pure camp, but instead it’s a big, dramatic, compelling story–with some great humor thrown into the mix. Buffy’s a terrific heroine…she wisecracks and kicks ass, but she’s vulnerable, too.

    I read Twilight expecting to love it. It really disappointed me and I skimmed the last 50 pages. Bella doesn’t act; she reacts. For me, her passivity is Novacaine, leaving me numb.

  17. Jaime

    Hey Nonny, K Cher, and Bryn,

    All excellent comments and insights. Thanks for sharing!


  18. TJ Michaels

    I must be the only person in the world that is NOT feeling the Twilight buzz. The Bella/Edward characters come across to me as kids while Buffy (though she was supposed to be a school girl) seems a bit more grown up and independent.

    The end result: I never finished the Twilight novel and have no plans to see the movie, yet I’d watch Buffy all night long…especially if she’s got the hunky and totally HAWT Angel trailing after her. In fact, the emotional connection between Buffy and Angel caused me to follow Angel when it spun off into its own show. Loved it!

    Buffy? Totally. Twilight and Bella? Not so much.

  19. Alisha Rai

    Buffy, Buffy, all the way. Tuesday was my night as well :). I love that show so much. She’s definitely in my top ten heroines.

    Great post!

  20. Shelley Munro

    Jaime – you’re very welcome. As I stated I’m a Buffy fan all the way. She’s strong yet has a hint of vulnerability. And Angel…oh, yes. I Heart Angel.

    I’ve only read the first Twilight book and as several have mentioned, Bella does come across as very young and not very mature in some of her thinking. I haven’t seen the movies, bit I definitely lean toward a more rounded heroine. That would be well-rounded in character, not body!!

    Great post, Jaime.

  21. Jennifer Shirk

    Buffy all the way!
    I like a heroine who has a big heart, nurturing, yet independent. :grin:

  22. Jaime

    Hey TJ, Alisha, and Jennifer,

    I’m so glad so many of you share a love of Buffy! As I said, I got mocked quite often for being “obsessed” with the show. Seems I was not alone!

    And Shelley, thanks again! You’ll have to let me know what you think about the rest of the series when you get a chance to watch.


  23. Darynda Jones

    I love them both so much!!! Buffy and Bella are goddesses. But you are right. It’s all about the guy, seriously.

    Great, great post!!!

  24. Jaime

    Hey D~

    Thanks for reading and commenting! I’m glad you liked the post. :grin:


  25. stacey smith

    Buffy is the one she hard ass all the way and I like here like that I always looked up to her and her strength.
    [email protected]

  26. Jaime

    Hey Stacey!

    Me too. :wink:


  27. Mary

    I love Buffy and then Angel. I haven’t yet read the Twilight series of books but I did watch the movie and I loved it. I can’t wait for the next movie to come out.

  28. N.J. Walters

    I’ve never watched an entire episode of Buffy. Never got into it. But whenever I’d catch five minutes here and there, I thought it was really good.

    As for Bella…I haven’t delved into the world of Twilight. I am planning to rent the movie soon and check out the second one. Maybe the books will follow.

    From what I can see, I think I’m more of a Buffy fan. Any girl who can kick ass and take names has my vote.

  29. Jody W.

    I’m not enjoying Buffy Season 8 (in comic book form) as much as the televised Buffies for various reasons, but I definitely prefer Buffy to Bella. When Angel behaved like Edward, it was when he was EVIL *laugh*.

  30. Misty Evans

    Great comparison blog about these two characters. I was a Buffy fan from the first show, but I still like the Twilight series. The mania over Edward is a bit too much for me, probably because I’m too old or too jaded or something. LOL. However, the love between the characters is so deep and lasting, I enjoyed reading the series.

    Buffy was cool, plain and simple, and I wanted to be her as a young woman. I loved her friends and their deep, abiding connection to each other. She never gets old even when I watch the series again.

  31. Carol Thompson

    I loved the whole Buffy series and suffered terrible withdrawal symptoms when it ended.

    I thought the Angel series would help but it just wasn’t the same without our girl !

    I also became a fan of Sarah Michelle Geller and follow her new projects with interest.