Here’s the thing about the “Don’t be a Bella, be a Katniss” meme going around; it’s wrong, but people are saying it’s wrong for the wrong reasons. We want to compare Katniss and Bella with how “strong” they are and how each is valid in their own right because of that. Wrong. Bella is not strong, Katniss is not strong. Yes, they risk their lives for people they love. That’s strong, but it’s a strong act. As people, these characters aren’t inherently strong. Bella needs Edward, so much to the point that being without him makes life seem unworthy. Katniss is jaded, to the point that she pushes away everyone to keep to herself. And then after the games, when she finally lets Peeta in, she’s never truly happy. The games ruined her. So let’s not talk about Strong Female Characters.
What bugs me the most about this meme is how it’s pitting two great series against each other. Two series, which I might add, that have nothing in common. We could talk about love triangles but that’s so common these days that I don’t even count it. Also, it’s pitting two women against each other. And these women are also nothing alike. Bella clings to Edward because he shows her a better world than her own. Katniss runs away from boys because the thought of getting married and having kids in her world petrifies her. But why is Katniss Strong, then? Here’s why, because even though she ends up with Peeta in the end, it’s still not a happily ever after. Katniss is Strong because her story isn’t a love story. Bella is Weak because her story is. This is how we define strong vs weak in YA literature and it needs to stop.
Neither Bella nor Katniss are perfect. Neither of them have it all figured out by the time their respective series ends. But both women have figured out a way to live their lives with the lot they’ve been given. To me, a Strong Female Character should be one that inspires me to live my life to the fullest. Both Bella and Katniss do that. So to that meme I say, why? Can’t I just be both?