The Kristen Stewart Double Standard

I always roll my eyes whenever I see that an internet critic is going to review Twilight. Everybody and their mother has been criticising Twilight since 2009, there is nothing more to say about it. Everybody knows why it’s bad. The side characters are infinitely more interesting than the two leads, the relationship that serves as the focal point of the story is deeply unhealthy, the books inspired an entire sub-genre of bad novels in which the Most Ordinary Girl in America (TM) falls in love with a mysterious were-supernatural-ethereal-marble-faced-Michelangelo-sculpted-beautiful-but-dangerous-being-teenage-boy thing and vampires don’t sparkle. You don’t need me to tell you why it’s bad. There’s just no need to keep going on about it. Let it die.

But in those recent Twilight reviews I have noticed a disturbing trend: it is acknowledged that Kristen Stewart’s and Robert Pattinson’s performances in the Twilight films as Bella Swan and Edward Cullen respectively are less than stellar. Pattinson is excused for his. Stewart faces a parade of endless personal attacks for hers. Nobody who pushes these opinions seems to realise they are perpetuating a ridiculous double standard. So it’s time to open up all the cans of worms from 2009: today, we talk about Twilight!

Part 1: Role Models

First, let’s take a little detour and talk about the issue of role models in Twilight. This particular double standard appears prominently in the aftermath of the Twilight novels, and is less disturbing than the double standard surrounding Pattinson and Stewart as the attacks are aimed at fictional characters and not a real person’s personality. Bella and Edward are both criticised as bad characters, which is fair comment entirely. Bella Swan is infuriatingly cruel to everyone around her except the pretty people and Edward Cullen is a controlling stalker I’m supposed to find sexy. The strange thing is that Bella is also called a bad role model because of how much of a pushover she is and how much she lusts over validation through a relationship with a man. Edward is never called a bad role model.

Of course it’s important to teach girls that they can have lives outside of their romantic relationships and to make them aware of the signs of an abusive relationship, but Bella doesn’t really concern me in terms of impressionable young girls copying her. Young girls read Twilight and are easily influenced, but young girls grow up too. Almost every woman I’ve talked to that liked Twilight in their early teenage years now realises that Bella was not a good character, and sometimes even that they don’t like Twilight anymore, therefore proving my rather revolutionary theory that people can in fact think for themselves and aren’t going to do something stupid just because a fictional character did it.

Regardless, let’s go by the rest of the world’s theory that a character has to be a good role model. Edward is not a good role model. I’d go as far as to say he’s a terrible role model.

Hey kids! Did you suffer a tragedy in your life that changed you forever? You should mope for literal decades, never try and make a positive change to your life or anyone else’s and be extremely rude and condescending to everyone around you unless you fancy them! Why? Because Edward Cullen says it’s okay!

Hey kids! Do you have a crush on that new girl in school? Well in that case, you are 100% entitled to her! Remember though, she’ll only stick around if you ensure it, so make sure to be as controlling and manipulative as possible! If she has male friends, do whatever you can to stop her from seeing them, including tampering with her vehicle so she can’t go and see them! Why? Because Edward Cullen says it’s okay!

Hey kids! Did you hear the word “funeral” and immediately assume that someone you love is dead? You should kill yourself! It’s the only possible solution! Why? Because Edward Cullen says it’s okay! (I’m not denying that Bella Swan is also guilty of suicidal tendencies in the name of love. Why did Meyer want TWO characters who are so ready and willing to romanticise suicide?)

Do I think that because of Edward Cullen, we’re going to have abusive, horrible, faux-intelligent people running around causing havoc? No, of course not. But if we’re going to accuse Bella of being a bad role model, by that logic we should accuse Edward Cullen. He’s just as bad if not worse at promoting good life choices.

Or could it be that people think young girls need role models and young men don’t? That women have more of an obligation to be good people in the eyes of the public than men? That girls can’t think for themselves so they need fictional characters to see them through? Because if I didn’t know better, I’d feel like that’s exactly what people are saying when I hear all about how Bella’s a bad role model and complete radio silence about Edward Cullen’s awful life choices.

The point I’m trying to make here is that in double standards, it’s usually the woman on the negative end. It’s the woman that is criticised more. Hmm.

Part 2: Robert Pattinson Hates Twilight

The reason people are so quick to excuse Robert Pattinson for his performance in Twilight is because he is well known for publicly talking about how much he hates Twilight. He has openly criticised Stephenie Meyer, his character and the entire story of Twilight. To most, this is so endearing that they can’t bring themselves to hate Pattinson. He is just a young actor that needs work, and is not a horrible person just because he was in Twilight.

I personally find the way he went on about Twilight while the films were still in production quite unprofessional.

As a frequent cast member in amateur dramatics societies, I find it appalling the way Robert Pattinson went on about Twilight while the films were still being made. If I did that about the shows I’m in, it could potentially damage ticket sales and the committee behind the productions could end up losing a lot of money, good hardworking people that don’t deserve that. For one of the stars of Twilight to say in very public interviews that he hates the material he’s acting in, I find it shocking. How dare he potentially seriously hurt box office sales? How dare he put the people working on the films behind the scenes in that position? I don’t find it cute, I don’t find it endearing, I find it very immature and petty.

Furthermore, do people really think Pattinson is the only cast member that hates Twilight? Do you think Peter Facinelli liked that his character’s awesome backstory was entirely cut out? Do you think Taylor Lautner liked playing second fiddle to a dreadful romance? Do you think Anna Kendrick is going around saying her favourite role to play was the token best friend character from the Twilight movies? Of course not! I’m willing to bet very few Twilight cast members liked the material, but they were light-years more professional about it than Pattinson, who was willing to throw an entire cast and crew under the bus so people would think he’s funny. I have no problem with Robert Pattinson or any other Twilight cast member expressing dissatisfaction with the source material, but to go on like that while the films are still in cinemas, needing to make their budget back so no one goes bankrupt? It’s downright silly.

There’s also the fact that Robert Pattinson turned in a really bad performance in the Twilight films. I’m sorry, but he did.

Edward Cullen in the books is very old, often deceptively charming and quite the confident git. Robert Pattinson spends five movies looking like he’s holding in a gigantic dump and having a lot of trouble with it. That is not how the Edward of the books behaved. People will complain for days about how stone-faced Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan is, but not how utterly constipated Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen is? If we’re going to say Stewart is bad for only portraying one emotion in Twilight, let’s say the exact same thing about Pattinson.

You might think I’m being a bit harsh on our beloved R-Pattz. But I’m being just as hard on him as you’ve all been on Kristen Stewart over the years. I don’t think he’s a bad person, I just think this behaviour is really quite ridiculous.

Robert Pattinson has given excellent performances in other films he’s starred in, and his role in Twilight has not tarnished his reputation. Kristen Stewart won the French equivalent of an Oscar and has given amazing performances, but people are willing to discredit her entire career and call her an appalling actress overall because of her role in Twilight. If you don’t think she’s a good actress, fine, that’s your opinion, but you can’t go around saying that if you’ve only seen her in Twilight.

Part 3: Kristen Stewart, The Lady in Question

People have a really hard time differentiating between the character of Bella Swan and the real life person Kristen Stewart because neither of them smile very often. Bella Swan never smiles because she’s not a particularly fleshed out character that shows any emotion other than, “I really fancy my super hot boyfriend”. Kristen Stewart doesn’t smile a lot (in public) because she suffered pretty severely from panic attacks and anxiety disorders in the past.

And honestly, it’s not that hard to pick up on the signs if you see her early interviews or presentations at award ceremonies. She’s obviously extremely uncomfortable and fidgety, and people saw this and thought, “I’m going to make fun of her for not being well equipped to handle an extremely publicised situation with a live audience”. The people that went on like that should be ashamed of themselves. I went on like that, and I’m ashamed of myself.

Now an argument I often see to counter this is, “if celebrities can’t handle the spotlight, they shouldn’t be there. They knew what they were getting themselves into”. I really don’t like that argument.

Do you like to act? Do you like to sing? Do you like to write? Do you like to do anything that may result in you becoming famous (which is a great many career options, including COOKING for goodness’ sake)? Well you’re not allowed to do it, because the paparazzi doesn’t respect privacy and people don’t understand that sometimes artists just want to work on their craft in peace and while they appreciate the fans that helped them get where they are, they sometimes have difficulty interacting with them.

If a celebrity is having trouble dealing with attention, don’t attack them for it. Attack the people being so inconsiderate of the celebrity’s personal space that they insist on taking sneaky pictures of them and making entire tabloid articles about them. Educate people on anxiety disorders like the one Stewart faced and show them how to identify the signs that someone might be struggling. Attack the machine that is celebrity hero worship, not the celebrities themselves.

Kristen Stewart was endlessly berated for not smiling enough in public, when the people that should have been criticised were the ones creating uncomfortable public situations for her. She was told she must be a horrible person because she doesn’t smile enough. Because she played a character that didn’t smile enough. That’s abhorrent.

Part 4: Conclusion

It’s okay to criticise Kristen Stewart’s performance in Twilight. It’s not a good performance. It’s bland and forgettable. It is not okay to criticise her entire personality because you didn’t like her performance in Twilight. It is not okay to demand that she smiles more or say that it’s her fault she got the unwanted attention in the first place because she’s a celebrity and not the fault of invasive interviewers or journalists. This is especially wrong considering that she behaved quite professionally about promoting the Twilight films, unlike Pattinson.

Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart are both excellent performers, but they were both bad in Twilight. However, it’s entirely wrong that Pattinson should be patted on the back for his performance just because he admitted to disliking the source material just as much as you and that Stewart should be lambasted both for her personality and for suffering from anxiety just because you didn’t like her performance in a movie.

In short, criticise the art, not the personalities. Respect people. Don’t perpetuate stupid double standards like this. And most importantly, let’s all agree that a novel series about the rest of the Cullens before they became vampires, particularly Rosalie, would be AMAZING.

 

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