02 July 2010

Profiles: Kristen Stewart, the Anti-Princess

With the first weekend since the premiere of Twilight: Eclipse (2010) upon us today we're looking at the only interesting part of the production, writing or ensemble, Kristen Stewart. Natural annoyance of the Twilight brand aside, I do respect Kristen Stewart as and actress and what she represents - as this brooding, moody brunette alternative to the typical Hollywood Blonde. Let me explain:

Kristen's been in a many many films actually, mostly to critical acclaim. The Twilight movies are her only real blockbusters and the rest of her resume is pretty impressive (well...besides The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas [2000] and Zathura [2005]...woof). She typically has this natural ability to star as this tough drama'd chick while also displaying a lot of hints and vulnerability and humanity. She acts this way in most of the major films of her oeuvre, to varying degrees of moodiness (Twilight) and rebellion (The Runaways [2010]).

So, she's in a ton of these little films, for the purposes of this article and Norwegian Morning Wood's insane obsession with popular appeal and culture, let's focus on her most notable, wide release roles - Panic Room (2002) (yeah she played Jodie Fisher's little boy...err...girl), The Messengers (2007), all the Twilight Shits (2008 - Forever), Adventureland (2009) and The Runaways. In Panic Room she played a little dying kid pretty well I guess but certainly was more of a MacGuffin than an important character. The Messengers is like, a whatever-Horror film, typical February release, who cares. So we're really only analysing a  handful of roles here.

Did You Remember to Wash Your Neck?

I've never seen a Twilight film, but like anyone else in our zeitgeist I've absorbed enough of the plot to understand what's going on. There's a cute vampire boy at school and this goth bitch wants to jump his bones. Cool. From my understanding this carries on for some time. I have my own issues with Summit selling sex to preteens through the films but whatever, they're the kind of cultural trash that has always existed in our society and nothing to really get up in arms about like some internets do.

This is one of the most brilliant Twilight Parodies I've seen. Somehow Taylor Swift absolutely catches the Kristen Stewart vacant stare, hair brush and brooding temperament. It's clear her mannerisms really are that easy to replicate and of course her actual performances in the Twilight films are relatively forgettable. What she represents in Young Hollywood is what should last.

Kristen has done a fantastic job creating Bella as this angsty twisted brunette in a field that only a few years ago might have starred a pre-meltdown Lindsey Lohan or a post-jailbait Brittany Snow in the role. That's what I'm getting at. She's not a nice, sweet angel girl. There's nothing innocent about her. Following some strong new Trashy Role Models, Kristen always looks dirty and used, perfect for Modern Princess that is no princess. She's got this awkwardness to her, an imperfection that is refreshing in a Hollywood typically filled with young starlets groomed to say everything expected of them. Just watch how dumb and awkward she appears on Letterman. Because Bella is such an icon (at least among girls under 16), it's really a treatise for how Hollywood could showcase its young actresses for the next decade.

Youths in Trouble

Kristen's best roles though have come in two films in the past two years, last Summer's vastly underrated Adventureland and her biopic with Dakota Fanning, The Runaways. She's got this great sweetness underlain by anger and distance in Adventureland. After so much schmaltz in Twilight it's neat to see her in a much more organic budding relationship with Jesse Eisenberg. She pulls off this "finding herself" innocence while simultaneously expressing a darker maturity beyond her years with Ryan Reynolds (who bar none is the best performance in that film). There's this part of her that tries to be very sinister and "grown up" while she really is merely ultimately still a kid like anyone else in the film. It's a complex character that Kristen nails.

In The Runaways she also shines as Joan Jett, rebellious but driven guitarist/singer of the eponymous band. While this film may really just live on as having a kind-of-ok Smooch Scene between Kristen and growing jailbait Dakota Fanning, her performance is the best part of the film. Like her other roles she just aces that tough front with a genuinely vulnerable side. She can get hurt but she doesn't want anyone, not even herself, to know it. Dakota Fanning is basically in "I want to grow up" mode (see also, boozing it up in Push [2009] and for some reason most of the Twilight movies). Kristen though, just flows, channeling a lot of her own rocker personality into the picture. Sweet.

If The Runaways can be a feminist "Girl Power" movie, Kristen is Susan B. Anthony. It's true Chicky Rock exemplified through girls who don't need men. Twilight can be argued both ways - while Bella keeps swooning over Lautner's abs or Edward's brooding stare, she's able to control both by manipulating their own obsessions over her. In Adventureland while Ryan Reynolds seeks to dominate her, her natural attitude gels better with a wiener Jesse Eisenberg who'd rather take her in partnership. While in these two films the "empowerment" is still defined by her relationship to men (positive or negative), The Runaways presents a much more fiery, truly independent girl that Kristen seems to really be able to run with.

As for her face and hair, still truly Rat-like. This isn't a girl worried about looking fake and pretty. She's a real girl for the iGeneration. Awesome.


  1. You can't really do a study of Kristen Stewart and not even mention either Into the Wild or Speak, both of which are way more important than her child actor stuff in Panic Room.

  2. And also Into the Land of Women...
    You can't do a study of an actor and not even mention half of the films they've been in.

  3. Like I explicitly stated, I'm more interested in her most major films and their wide interest on American Pop Culture. Into the Wild (2007), sure that was a bad omission but going into this I said I was only bothering to look at films that have seeped well into the Public Consciousness. I don't really find a lot of need coming from a Pop Culture standpoint examining films that no one has seen.


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