Why do so many people "hate" Kristen Stewart? Note the quotes. They don't really know her so how can they hate a projected fear from their own repressed subconscious? It just means she's doing her job. The only explanation is that these are the same people who were stoning adulteresses and burning hot young naturalists at the stake (and still are in some Islamic backwaters, so the headlines scream), in ye olden tymes, or driving innocent kids to suicide through their malicious scandalizing gossip, ala PEYTON PLACE. But who are these schadenfreude-addicted bitter old gossipy finger-pointers? Do they even exist? Does the Huffington Post and AOL just cater to them as an imaginary reader, a middlebrow projection?
I'll confess: I am the "they" who thinks the other "them" "hate" Kristen Stewart. But I can only go by what I see in the Huffington headlines, and angry feminist blogs, which with all but scream "Burn her!" in their coded subtext, and my paranoiac feminist's desire to protect the maiden faire clouds my judgment. Plus my great/x8 aunt Mary Easty was hung as a witch in Salem, so perhaps I'm her reincarnation, sworn to avenge all the women sacrificed on the altar of mob prudery.
For the hit SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (2012), the mainstream critics did loudly trumpet their ambivalence, as if on cue: too much snow, they wrote, too much pouting, too much CGI. Kristen Stewart's British accent alone generated a blighted orchard's worth of poison pen apples. The evil snow queen played with slow burn elegance by the great Charlize Theron could not hope to match this type of sneering evil. If they were just badmouthing Stewart's acting it would be shameful enough but a new scandal erupted shortly after the film's release that proved a Pavlovian trigger for the press to erupt in a misogynist viciousness so appalling it basically drove boyfriend Robert Pattinson to forgive her (she cheated on him! With the director! Who's married!) Calling Kristen names usually considered the height of bullying or rat-fink treachery in the high school cafeteria, the critics went way too far, way too fast, as packs of fascist bullies are wont to do, and hopefully the bloody tossers have had pause since. I mean, what had she done to deserve such bitchiness? Seriously, Popular Press, what? Answer me! She thought you were her best friend! O Popular Press, didn't her minor--but to you at the time unforgivable--trespasses not provide you with the juicy gossip you so crave?
Well, the release of SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN on DVD corresponds to the release of the final chapter of TWILIGHT, and in each lies the answer -- Kristen Stewart plays young, vulnerable, awkwardly beautiful women very well, and that in itself concerns critics. Mainly it's her look. Not her looks, but the way she looks, as in outward. Her gaze like a boundary-dissolving laser beam, Stewart looks outward from the screen and weighs and judges and forgives the hearts of those watching, even the wicked stepmothers, and so those who think themselves impure, beyond saving, recoil from her absolving gaze. These secret wretched watchers-- who pretend in public to be happy and normal but deep down consider themselves odious gollums and troglodytes--blanche from her gaze. Her forgiveness hurts them the way sunlight hearts the C.H.U.D. She is Esmerelda, freshly born anew like a colt onto the barn floor, watering the rows of wracked Quasimodos with her gypsy wineskin gaze. The Frollos up in the rafters, clutching their yellowed press passes like rosaries, seethe with DSB; they never thought her beauty should be shared with creatures more loathsome even than themselves. She shares anyway, and that they do not forgive.
And I would argue that calling Kristen Stewart a terrible actress is like calling Marilyn Monroe a terrible actress. Monroe was more successful at preserving a sense of vulnerability and precognitive absence/presence onscreen than she was as a dramatic thespian of the Eve Harrington variety. Monroe was more method. She legit crazy. She seemed crazier playing sane than vice vera. Critics and audiences were more attuned to their own Freudian repressions in the 1950s, so they knew the difference between an actress able to convey a susceptibility to male attention and a "common slut." Now she's a goddess on a trillion posters and stamps. But if she came around today she'd be ostracized for exuding kitten sex. Maybe in 2050 the old patriarch critics of the day will laud Stewart's vulnerability the way they laud Monroe's now. And the way parents are encouraged now to ransack their kids' rooms and under the bathroom sink for bath salts, they'll be crucifying some new tart. Even the strawberry scented bath crystals grandma sent for Christmas must go, just to be safe
Call this prediction crazy, but Stewart shares with Monroe more than a gift for conveying shyness onscreen, both of them love, or at least 'feel sorry for' the creatures most of us have cast off. MM felt compassion for the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and didn't even mind flirting with the toad-like Tom Ewell if it meant free air conditioning. Hey, princesses have kissed worse frogs for far less incentive. That's what it boils down to, and boiling is the correct word. Stewart is like the first girl you kissed, ever, though she didn't know you, hardly, at all. She was the starlet of your Middle School's Bye-Bye Birdy, who let all the cast members--male and female-- kiss her on the lips open mouthed in the doorway of the ladies' room before the big premiere, for luck, and in your case, transcendental romantic ignition.
To make we Quasimodo-esque viewers remember that kiss, or anticipate it, the fumbling awkward magic of it, Stewart has a make-up bag full of little facial tics and micro-lip quivers, eye dilations, the looking up from her lover's lips to his eyes to the snow below in a series of deep breathing feints and attract-repulsion micro-movements, her eyes going in and out of focus, hand on fire with twitchy, muted minor key exhilaration.
It's only natural with such silent ancestry that Stewart speaks with words halting and unsure. She fumbles for eloquence and grace rather than babbling like a bourgeois Woody Allen character. For HUNTSMAN she even surprises with a rousing Joan of Arc-esque speech toward the climax, after her true love kiss awakening, rallying her seven dwarfs and coterie of knights to a climactic attack. Starting out soft and wafting, a little wan and undernourished, she slowly coils her Kundalini in a serpentine ascent that cute, clipped adequate British accent rises in pitch and deepening in timbre, conveying an urgency and sense of exhilaration fused to courage in the face of terror that we seldom get outside of novels or Henry V.
What we have in this instead one are some psychedelic bad trip-haunted swamp visuals; poison gas belched out by some rotten spores abounding in the swamp makes Snow White hallucinate black snake branches; "the swamp feeds on your weakness!" The evil duke looks like Max Von Sydow in THE SEVENTH SEAL or THE VIRGIN SPRING. I like the weird fairy forest with its beautiful hart, and the tender effect Snow White has on all life around her, including a big ugly troll that in a movie for boys would be slain with thunderous 3-D sword swings before it has a chance to even declare a side. Instead it's all elegantly done and if some of it is overdone, as in the dwarf's Brit character actor business, I forgive them, as the spirit of Snow White forgives me, even as I write this, and forgives you, even as you read this.
So back to the Stewart gaze: I know some of my regular readers can't stand Kristen Stewart and maybe I'm blinded by my affection, but I think her appeal is deeper than just hipster hotness. She's never really been marketed as a sex symbol, wisely, and in SNOW she looks pretty bedraggled throughout. First she's a prisoner, then a half-drowned swamp rat tripping balls, then she's dead, then reborn. It takes its toll on her make-up. I don't think she gets more than one bath or shower in the whole damned film, erotic or otherwise. But like most of her fans I don't go to sleep fantasizing about dating her anymore than I think oh man Lillian Gish was hot. Rather, I identify with her. I admire her pluck, and feel protective --I love her through her own eyes. To open up to a blue screen and trust a monster or giant hart will be inserted later so she doesn't look like a homeless mime, that takes courage. Anyone can be removed and aloof to a blue screen (Angelina Jolie for example). But it takes true courage to be open-hearted and vulnerable even when you know the closed-hearted are going to send slings and arrows at you to validate their own fears about opening. We've seen coltish young starlets gambol around enchanted countrysides before (STEALING BEAUTY), but aside from her occasional moments as a side player (as in INTO THE WILD) Stewart's seldom cast as a LOLITA sex object. She is the caster.
|Into the Wild|
A classicist may prefer to follow along as a woman like Janet Leigh is gradually driven mad or sliced up by our male gaze desire and think he's understanding the male gaze's destructive drive even as he indulges it, hey, we all do that too, but it's Kristen's gaze that has the power and it actually reverses that devouring destructive Norman's mother gaze like she's flashing an S.O.S. mirror at Medusa. Her gaze may devour and objectify the male, but in a feminine, open, compassionate way. She stops the pendulum swings from phoenix to ash and back again and focuses in on some genuine romantic gazing, back and forth slowly, gently, like calming a spooked horse. And that's such a shock for some viewers they can't get over it; no matter how patiently she whispers to them they just won't gentle. They've got burrs under their leather shoulder-patched tweed suit jacket saddles. How dare Kristen Stewart, in a sense, look back at them as they stamp and snort and kick the back of their stalls in outrage, unable to shake that burr no matter how vitriolic their reviews.
Wow, great piece. Speaking as someone who doesn't hate Kristen Stewart but doesn't necessarily like her all that much either, this is easily the best defense of her acting style and screen presence I've read. Actually, it's really the best defense of HER, period. As actress, I don't have too many issues with her actually. Everyone's inability to focus on that is causing the problem and there's enough blame to go around there, some of which is hers to share in.ReplyDelete
As you pointed out, every minor or major complaint anyone has with K-Stew (ugh,I typed that) will be filtered through the media and magnified times 100. My only problem(and it's admittedly a big one) is that she caused it by signing on for TWILIGHT. I'm having difficulty reconciling that the same serious, promising actress who worked with the likes of David Fincher and Sean Penn spent half a decade in that franchise. Since then it's been "celebrity" first, "actress" second. This could be part of why I can't bring myself to watch those. Then again, the media's been insufferable, so there's that.
The personal stuff notwithstanding, her professional reputation has taken such a hit from that franchise it'll be fascinating to see where she goes from here. She'll always have a career obviously, but many are probably more disappointed in her than anything else. I hate to use the term "sold out" but it's tough coming up with a better recent case where it applies. In other words, she's got a long road ahead of her.
That said, your analysis officially has me interested in seeing "Snow White and The Huntsman," which is something I didn't think was possible. Kudos to you for delivering more than a review, since we are talking about an actress who, for better or worse, now overshadows and dominates any discussion about the movies in which she appears.
From what I understand, when she signed onto Twilight, she hadn't read the books and had no idea how huge it would be. It was being directed by an indie director, the studio was still small, and the subject matter was not obviously mainstream. The only reason it became so commercial was because of how huge and fervent the fan base became which brought the media attention. You could argue that signing onto the last two films after the fact, and then signing onto Snow White, is the point at which she sold out, but she must have seen that almost every indie she did before twilight could not get distributed, and if she wants to keep making indies that audiences will actually see, she has to trade off her current name for awhile. Independents are impossible to get financed. If she can use her star power to help get passion projects made, like many other actors do, then making the big studio fare is not really selling out.Delete
In defense of Twilight Meyer wrote us a modern Tristan and Yseult.The original was not a literary masterpiece either.But Courtly Love became the template for romantic love, its rituals, chastity,engagement/betrothal,marriage for 800 years until the 1960's when the pill became available at your neighborhood pharmacy.Nietzsche has told us that a Discourse cannot be understood fully until it is over.Meyer has given us the bitter pill wrapped in the passion/love/death demand of this story. Only Emily Bronte and Wagner's Tristan and Isolde did not shy from the demand of DEATH accompanying passion.All the structural aspects are in place in Twilight. Did Meyer know this? ID think so consciously at any rate, but everyone of them is there.Chastity to drive erotic desire to fever pitch.Transgression to heighten risk and desire.And so much more.Added to that was the fact that the real life relationship of Rob and Kristen was also wrapped in those parallels.And if the subject/object in experiments under controlled conditions cannot be separated, if particles in a physics accelerator cannot be separated in + and - charges, how would it even be conceptually possible to imagine those two young people to be immune from the greatest romantic paradigm in the western world.And all of us raised in it fell once again under its spell as well as young girls who have just dreamed it. So we watched it unfold before our eyes and became enchanted once more.And now it is truly over.No one has the leisure time, the time for contemplation, the time to just feel your body wake up, which is required for this passion/love to play out its own time.We were watching two people who did have that kind of time, that's what they were supposed to feel and they did, and it cast its spell over them.David Slade comments on this in an interview that they saw it with their cynical eyes in the Meadow Scene with all its plastic flowers and phony stage frame probably CGI'd in there. Passion /love ends in death. It is the heightening of the passion that is its true arrow of time.Meyer did not want to end it that way, so she chose it anyway by Bella's entrance into Virtual Reality, a different kind of DEATH,but a death nevertheless.As Deleuze has suggested, the possibility of becoming more so - worse as Nietzsche would say -could be the way out of our Simulated Reality veering straight into the totalization of Virtual Reality, which surely would be death, and we are flirting with it.Delete
Twilight can be ridiculed. But so can Uncle Tom's Cabin, and 12 Years a Slave - and yes Divergent - but to anyone who wants to read into them and see the secret vision, they are all worth thinking about. 12 Years a Slave reveals the consequences of a 1760 slavery law in VA 4 of our first 5 presidents were fully aware of as they had Virginia plantations affected by that law, had the terrible consequence of Northup's kidnapping and slavery almost 100 years later.When a law is passed and enacted it takes on a life of its own becoming "institutionalized" and irreversible.Meyer could have turned Twilight into a rom-com, and almost did on the honeymoon, but stayed true to the myth and opted for death.(Meyer has said she preferred Jacob.)The Twilight books are a courageous statement.And Edward was right in not wanting Bella to change as she would die. She does.The two Breaking Dawns are a travesty.Eclipse was turned into Camp.But Twilight and New Moon preserved the spirit of the novels, the vulnerability of Bella and Edward.
Buy marry Yseult! Incomprehensible. Never. She has to die and Meyer kills her so we have no rom-com but a Happy Ending that is a disguised death.
Calchi-Novati a professor in Italy has written on Twilight, a reading through Lacan and Zizek.You can find a summary on my blog with a link to it.The Cullen family as family could and might be.And Bella's embracing the Other, the Different, not just tolerating.Delete
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.ReplyDelete
To say Kristen Stewart is an actress worthy of any note is deluded, and the whole notion that her monotonal acting, bereft of any real depth or range, is infact, a more meaningful, virtuoso performance that is lost on the rest of the world, is quite frankly absurd.ReplyDelete
I say this not as a member of any bandwagon, but as a keen admirer of good acting.
Obviously you are not. A keen admirer of good acting that is.Delete
Is that you, Lindsay Lohan?ReplyDelete
I'm sorry, I know very little about Lindsay Lohan, or what you are implying with this retort. Perhaps she has had harsh words to say about Kristen Stewart in the past?Delete
In any case, I admit it may have been rather hasty of me to make such a damning verdict on Stewart as an actress, because I haven't seen any of her work outside of Snow White.
The reason I found this blog in the first place is because I found her performance in Snow White to be so distractingly average that I decided to see what the general consensus was on the subject with people on the internet.
Unbeknownst to me, it seems she is a bit of a hate-figure to a lot of people, and someone who polarizes opinion.
I guess it just irked me a little that someone with the capacity to write such a well written, well thought out piece such as this could get it (what I perceived to be) so completely wrong. In fact I was so bamboozled by some of the praise Kristen Stewart was receiving here that I started to believe it was very shrewdly constructed sarcasm.
Perhaps you could suggest a film in which you think her talents shine brighter, as going by Snow White alone, I remain unconvinced of her acting ability.
Oh hey, I said that you were Libdsay cuz you're signed on as anonymous. I think you're misunderstanding what I mean by the appeal of Stewart. I appreciate your nice words about my writing though. I think you're looking for Stewart to ACT in some grand manner, like a Meryl Streep or something. I'm praising her, in a sense, for her very lack of 'acting' - her reticence and awkwardness is the draw, because it's real. I loved her at the Oscars with that ratty hair and black and blue mark on her arm. If it was easy, then everyone would have that kind of awkward presence when playing young people, because that's how they're supposed to be, not eerily calm, medicated, overly confident.... and ideally not clearly 'acting.'Delete
That was the undercurrent I was shooting for in my review. I like her. She's different. If you don't like Snow White I'm not sure you'd like any of her stuff, but you could go for Adventureland or the first Twilight. No guarantees. thanks again, who are you?
Ah, I see. I suppose it was poor form of me to try and shoot someone down without even putting a name to the post.Delete
I understand what you mean now, and guess I picked up the wrong end of the stick here. Maybe I am looking for a more conventional form of acting, and by doing so I've missed the appeal of which you speak of.
That being said, I'm not sure I'm looking for any grand scale of acting any more than I am for a real sense of believable emotion, which I felt Kristen Stewart lacked in Snow White.
Anyways, the reviews for Adventureland seem quite favourable, I'll be sure to check it out. Thanx.
Wow. This is spot-on. Especially these 2 points:ReplyDelete
"But it takes true courage to be open-hearted and vulnerable even when you know the closed-hearted are going to send slings and arrows to validate their own fears about opening."
"Classicists may prefer to follow along as a woman like Janet Leigh is gradually driven mad or sliced up by our male gaze desire and think he's understanding the male gaze's destructive drive even as he indulges it, hey, we all do that too, but it's Kristen's gaze in these other films that has the power to actually reverse that devouring destructive Norman's mother gaze, to reverse the gorgon mirror and devour and objectify the male, but in a feminine, open way, to stop the pendulum swings from phoenix to ash and back again and focus in on some genuine romantic gazing, back and forth slowly, gently, like calming a spooked horse."
The way she kissed Robert Pattinson in the first Twilight encapsulates it all. The fangirls probably don't even realize (or would never admit) that that is unconsciously 90% of the reason they desire him as fervently as they do. You simply don't see that kind of lust in an actress - I mean genuine, raw carnality that doesn't feel feigned or manipulative.
Her sweet sexy push/pull with Jesse Eisenberg in Adventureland was also magnetic to me. She brought something real out of him that I haven't seen him play elsewhere.
The irrational hatred of her I think is based on the combination of 3 things:
1) Irrational hatred of her twilight character by audiences not used to a story centered around a female protagonist who doesn't prove herself worthy of male attention in the conventional ways.
2) The way she plays that character (since it's the generally the only part they've seen her play) without asking the audience's forgiveness.
3) The way she conducts herself off-screen without making herself amenable to the public.
The character, her acting and her public persona - all 3 are highly unconventional when applied to women in Hollywood. It's 99% straight-up sexism. If people thought she was conventionally beautiful they would just throw her in the 'Weird/Crazy/Hot' box where Angelina Jolie resides. They just don't know what to do with her and that makes them angrier, I think.
This was a really good read. While I don't agree with everything said, I am going to start looking at Kristen Stewart's future films in a different light. And I'm even rethinking Snow White. Though I quickly have to mention comparing her to Marilyn Monroe is a bit misguided as Marilyn started out as a model and not as an actress.ReplyDelete
I will be thinking about her role in films more as an actress to bring a tender, gentle and vulnerable quality to a film. I think that applies to Snow White much more than the Twilight films though. I think the Twilight films use her vulnerability as a way to say she needs a man to balance herself out. Where as Snow White makes the case that she can overcome it or at least that it is not such a burden to her.
Thinking about the Twilight films in that way though did make me wonder if all yelling about how they are a bad influence on young girls is sexist in its own way. You don't see people trying to make sure that everything that's marketed towards young boys teaches them all the proper ways to grow into a man. Why shouldn't we assume girls can make their own decisions about who they should grow up to be even if they watch Twilight? The idea that all the girls who grow up watching these movies and reading the books will become older and just look for a man to give meaning to their life is insulting to the gender.
mekosaj at gmail dot com
I didn't want to sign into anything so I used anonymous.
Can you write a review of On the road, stewart's new film?ReplyDelete
Critic's see it as her "break out performance" but I believe we already saw that in The runnaways or Welcome to the ridleys, maybe even The yellow handkershief (My favorite movie of hers)
so What do you think about her performance in On the road?
this was a brilliant piece. Very evolved.ReplyDelete
Love this article!ReplyDelete
You are absolutely right about the irrational hatred of Kristen. I think most of the ones doing the hating don't actually know why they hate her, so they pick on her clothes or her awkwardness or her acting. Only a person with a preconceived dislike of her would across the board dismiss her acting abilities and talent. She has done some difficult projects and has nailed her characters on many occasions, her portrayal of Joan Jett being one of them.
There has yet to be an actor/writer/director/friend/fan who has met or knows Kristen who has said anything negative about her or her character. That speaks volumes.
I have been fortunate enough to meet her on a few occasions. She was soft spoken, gracious and kind. Having met her I feel protective of her. She does not deserve the negativity or hatred directed at her.
However, for her to evoke such deep emotions in people she has never met, must mean she has weight and significance.
I personally look forward to seeing her evolve as an actor.
Write an article about why Robert Pattinson is so much hated and not taking seriously by middle aged male critics.I would love to read something like that.ReplyDelete
maybe I will - check out my best of 2012 desc. of Cosmopolis in the meantimeDelete
I have written about that.So if you want to read me....Simply he is hated for his beauty, so much so that his scene in Vanity Fair with Reese was deleted and a Happy Ending substituted.He was not told and went to the premiere thinking he was in it. He laughs about it but we know that is a cover up for a deep hurt, not only for the act of cutting him, but for the fact that he was not told because of their shame. We know Reese sees all her films before they are finished editing.Rob made her look like a hag in drag in that scene.She couldn't have it, yet Becky Sharp at that time in her life was coming unglued.Rob has had terrible directors mostly until just recently. And I lump Cronenberg into terrible for Cosmopolis.None of Rob's poor performances were his fault.He was clearly following directors he thought knew more than he did.Kristen doesn't think they know more than she does, but she will listen to them seriously if they are serious directors.She has chosen her directors well for such a young person.Delete