Outside of the 12-17 young woman demographic (and their moms), there aren’t too many people who love the Twilight series. It’s been called a disease that’s contaminated movie theaters ever since 2009. And though we can do without seeing Twi-moms at this point, the films are harmless and decent at times. But more than that, the Twilight series has been beneficial for not only young adult novels but female heroes in movies. And Twilight deserves credit for that.

Unless you purposefully shoved that information out of your head, here’s the basic gist of the movies/novels. In the town of Forks there’s a girl named Bella, played by Kristen Stewart, who’s a introverted high school girl who that ends up in a glamorized relationship with Edward (Robert Pattinson), the popular guy in school who happens to be a sparkly vampire. Granted, she doesn’t really do that much within most of the movies, but in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 she gets out of her cocoon and becomes a big and beautiful butterfly, metaphorically speaking. Well, a butterfly that has an insatiable craving for blood.

What is it about the Twilight movies that are so appealing? Well for one we’re talking about women’s fantasy relationships with vampires, which at this point will never die (sorry). It doesn’t take a shrink to see why vampires and their love of blood have a special appeal to women. But then there’s Bella, and though there isn’t really too much going for her personality-wise, that makes it easier for female movie-goers to imagine themselves in Bella’s shoes. Because Edward, our perpetually adolescent-looking vampire, is madly in love with a young woman who functions as an avatar. There’s a thrill in slipping yourself into that fantasy role of the supernatural romance, which makes this such a successful franchise. Is she a particularly strong female character for women to look up to? Not at first, but that all changes as the novels/movies continue on.

Once Bella gets hitched to the supernatural love of her life, including birthing a child that ages rapidly, she finds herself kicking into super protective maternal gear even before Renesmee’s birth. When her dear daughter is threatened by the Volturi, faced with the possibility of death under the ancient vampire clan’s hand, Bella won’t let that happen. As a matter of fact, she takes full advantage of her newfound vampire powers to try and put a stop to this. She is the mama bear after all, there’s no way they’re getting to her semi-undead cub. Bella holds the strength, though ill-conveyed in Kristen Stewart’s performance, that makes her so admirable to tons of female fans across the globe.

So how does she compare to Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, in The Hunger Games? How do they both make a difference in the ever-changing landscape of young female protagonists? They both strive to protect what they hold dear to their hearts, no matter what the costs. While Stewart’s character continues to protect her daughter, Katniss volunteers herself into the infamous Hunger Games in order to save her slightly younger sister Primrose. Once she becomes part of the Hunger Games, she quickly turns into the voice of hope for a divided nation. Her selfless acts turn her into an icon of sorts, and the same happens with Bella in the last Twilight film. She too is looked at with great respect by those of the vampire and werewolf community when she goes through great lengths, and asks for their aid, in order to ensure her daughter’s safety. She brings all sorts of supernatural folk together in order to fight for one common cause that’ll hopefully bring peace.

Due to these movies’ spectacular box office they’ve brought about a new wave of young female heroes onscreen. I have mixed feelings about Bella’s odd fictional relationship, but I can’t deny the fact that Stephanie Meyer‘s creation has brought forth the start of what is becoming a wave of stronger young female characters in movies, and to Hollywood seeing the potential in young adult novels as blockbuster franchises. Yes, we do agree that Katniss is a much stronger role model for teenage girls, but she owes her thanks for getting the chance to storm out on the big screen due to Twilight. And considering that before action movies were left to men with women as supporting players, and considering that young female actresses have often been stuck playing those supporting love interests, this is a step forward.