Why Kristen Stewart Matters
Kristen Stewart doesn’t want to be your friend. She doesn’t want you to like her. Or rather, she doesn’t care if you like her or not. She wears ‘ugly’ clothes in public, doesn’t bother to take off last night’s eye makeup, looks hungover, and uses a marijuana pipe in public. She has a mullet. She wears skinny jeans. She offers no comment on her relationship (or lack thereof) with costar Robert Pattinson. She has one acting style — which mostly employs putting her hands through her hair, not saying much, and biting her lip. But none of that matters, because Kristen Stewart herself is no star. But Bella Swan — that’s another matter entirely.
But she’s an immense object of fascination — photos of her are at a premium, no matter the mullet or generally dismissiveness of fame, adulation, publicity, etc.
And what really fascinates me about Stewart — or rather, about the amount of attention directed towards her — is that it’s almost entirely rooted in a specific persona that has subsumed her identity.
And that specific identity — and why she could do anything, truly anything, save becoming a lesbian, and would still maintain her popularity — is that of Bella Swan. For those of you not in the know, that’s the heroine of Twilight, and the fount of her fame.
Of course, Twilight was not Stewart’s first role — she was best known for her work as Jodie Foster’s daughter in Panic Room and as a skinny, young, hopeful girl in love with the protagonist of Into the Wild.
Before Twilight, she also filmed her role in Adventureland – a music obsessed 20-something with a penchant for older men, being angsty, and running her hands through her hair. (In other words: the same character she plays in Twilight, only she digs Lou Reed, et. al. See Alyx Vesey’s excellent post on her character as music geek here.)
But the role of Bella has truly defined her — and defined what her image means and will continue to mean to the general public. Even when she is photographed smoking pot on a doorstep, or holding hands with her boyfriend (who is NOT, or least WAS not, Robert Pattinson), or even appearing with non-Bella hair (as she’s currently filming the Joan Jett bio-pic), they cannot usurp the conflation of Stewart with her Bella persona. It’s as if Bella Swan is wearing a mullet wig — a total inverse of the actual situation, which has Stewart putting on a Bella wig to cover up her ‘real’ mullet haircut.
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