by joel emmett
The Internet imploded this past week when news leaked that Kristen “Bella Swan” Stewart, the highest paid actress in human history and girlfriend of her Twilight co-star, “sexiest man alive” Robert Pattinson, had a fling with her 41-year old, married, director of her recent “Snow White” film.
The public reaction was extreme, heated, and profuse. This is significant not only because of the human drama, but because of how and why this situation was so loaded by the themes of the Twilight Saga itself.
First, here’s what actually happened.
For several years, Kristen Stewart and her boyfriend, Robert Pattinson (who also plays Bella’s boyfriend, Edward, in the films), have been a couple. A secret couple. Throughout their relationship, they have refused to comment publicly, and haven’t even been clearly photographed “together,” even though their relationship is a (very) well-known “secret.”
For many on-lookers, their relationship was simply a vague rumor, for over a year, until Kristen flew from Los Angeles to Budapest to be with Rob, who was filming there, on her birthday. I mean, why else would you fly to Budapest for your birthday? So it was a surprise for many fans to realize that the Rob + Kristen/”Edward” + “Bella” relationship was genuine, even though it had been a secret for so long.
Yet, even afterwards, they kept it “secret,” refusing to comment about the relationship, in any way. Nor were they photographed kissing, hugging, or even holding hands.
The couple did say that they didn’t want to “cash in” on their relationship because, they said, couples that did so (1) cheapened their realationship, and (2) inadvertantly placed pressures on those relationships until they inevitably split up. Fair enough. A treasured relationship should be treasured, fans agreed. And yet, that commitment didn’t prevent them from saying that they respected, admired, and appreciated one another, in ways that were honest, heart-felt, and even quite touching.
None of that actually deflected attention from their relationship, however well intended. Media scrutiny of their exceedingly private relationship has been splattered on tabloid covers month after month after month. They are pregnant. They are engaged. They are secretly married. Their parents are thrilled. Their friends disapprove. They are fighting. They are jealous. They are breaking up. Over and over. Month after month. A study was released that a magazine cover with Kristen Stewart on it automatically sold 25% more copies. Suffice to say, many magazines have been sold.
And yet, on July 17th of this year, the 22-year-old Kristen Stewart was secretly photographed by paparazzi kissing her 41-year-old, director, Rupert Sanders, in a parked car. Rupert is married to former-supermodel-turned-actress Liberty Ross, who is also the mother of their two children, ages 5 and 7. Liberty most recently played Snow White’s birth mother in the blockbuster, “Snow White and the Huntsman,” the first, it was said, of a long series of films.
Kristen, of course, played Snow White.
Two days later, “Robsten” were seen together at a restaurant, where she reportedly leaned against Rob. This action, in itself, comprised a news-worthy public display of affection for the super secretive/much-watched couple. For the jillionth time, hundreds of news stories were posted on the glories of their blossoming love. Seriously.
On July 22, they were seen together on national television, at the Teen Choice Awards, where they graciously passed on their
surfboard/trophies to fans in the audience. For those keeping count, these were the 40th and 41st TCA trophies that the Twilight Saga has received, which are awarded by a teen-only popular vote (four or five is enough to guarantee a long and profitable career). The fans wept, publicly, in gratitude.
On July 23rd, online rumors arose that US Magazine planned to publish photos of the Kristen and Rupert’s liaison in an upcoming issue of the print magazine.
Fans erupted in disbelief, anger, and contempt over the mere suggestion that there were problems in the Robsten relationship; they asserted that, once again, in the absence of information, the tabloids had simply constructed “information” of their own.
So it was a stunning surprise when, the next day, Kristen Stewart, issued the following public statement:
“I’m deeply sorry for the hurt and embarrassment I’ve caused to those close to me and everyone this has affected. This momentary indiscretion has jeopardized the most important thing in my life, the person I love and respect the most, Rob. I love him, I love him, I’m so sorry.”
Not only did Kristen Stewart, in a single statement, finally confirm publicly her “love” for Robert Pattinson, but also that she had
violated the trust upon which such relationships are based. Anyone who has listened to her over the years would recognize her personal, sincere tone in the statement.
Meanwhile, Liberty had tweeted, “Wow.” And later, the Marilyn Monroe quote, “Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” She then closed her Twitter account.
A few hours later, Rupert Sanders issued the following statement:
“I am utterly distraught about the pain I have caused my family. My beautiful wife and heavenly children are all I have in this world. I love them with all my heart. I am praying that we can get through this together.”
Despite these other statements, the attention of the world — including literally,
of any kind, the world over — covered the story, focusing primarily
on Kristen Stewart’s confession.
Unlike countless public figures before, rather than denying the truth, Kristen frankly acknowledged it. As The
Atlantic magazine commented, “She didn’t try to see if she could trick the public into believing the affair didn’t happen. She didn’t wait for a damage-control expert’s opinion on what sort of statement would sound best to her fans. She just wanted forgiveness, so she asked for it.”
Despite the public appeal of tawdry affairs, this moment — this public event, sandwiched between the cold horror of the “Batman Massacre” and the warm glories of the Olympic Games — has, in its own way, struck a chord among Twilight fans, and it would seem, much of the public at large.
A war of words, of conflicting feelings and emotions, has broken out across the globe.
25-year-old Twilight fan Emma Clark responds.
I think it’s safe to say the issue has struck a chord with many fans. NSFW (distraught Twihard language).
For his part, Robert Pattinson’s official representatives have confirmed that he has left the home he shared with Kristen Stewart. He remains in seclusion from the public eye, with the most reliable sources saying, simply, that he was “blindsided” and is “upset.” Less reliable sources have a great many things to add, of course.
And to be clear, later, reliable statements asserted that Kristen and Rupert didn’t consummate the relationship, but only “kissed
passionately” in the parked car, long after their previous film had finished, as they prepared to film a sequel — which now seems in some doubt. Other film industry experts said that Breaking Dawn 2′s box office is likely to be about as strong as it would have anyway, when the film is released in the Fall, although the premiere and promotional tour is said to likely be “awkward.”
So, that’s what happened: Foolish, adolescent girl, looses boy, by succumbing to the… Well, it’s not clear exactly… um, “charms” of a much-older man. Who was her employer. Who held a “position of trust” over her. The young actress’ director. Certainly nothing new. Same old Hollywood story, on many levels.
So, why is this such a big deal?
A lot has been said about the age differences, the (former) privacy, the fact that Rob Pattinson has been said to be the sexiest man on Earth, etc. But while that all pays the bills at the tabloids, that’s hardly the point. For that, you have to dig a little deeper.
Some may not remember (while others will not forget) but when the Twilight books first came out, there was quite a controversy:
- Some critics said the books were unrealistic, outdated, and inappropriately chaste… because Bella and Edward didn’t have sex, even though they were two young people in love. Those critics took offense at the specific religious conversations which run through the Saga, as the characters’ consider the risks of being unchaste before marriage could have on their “immortal souls” (even when the vampires’ souls were likely already damned).
- Meanwhile, other critics expressed shock and dismay that Edward, Bella’s “guardian angel,” watched over her while she (unwittingly) slept. Later on, he regularly sleeps with her — there is lots of sleeping and dreaming in Twilight — which in this case means cuddling, fully dressed, with him laying outside her blankets. She slept and he lay awake, pondering Bella/his damned soul/the mysteries of the universe/Bella. Sometimes, before she fell asleep, they would enjoy their daily kiss. And her father, asleep downstairs, didn’t know. The horror!
The core Twilight audience — meaning the young girls who’ve cherished the series since day one — didn’t seem to notice those controversies very much. But they did notice the rampant chastity going on in Twilight. And the sleeping together just drew more attention to the fact that they remain chaste throught the series, all the way up through their awkward/romantic wedding night, several years (and four books) later. Fans responded warmly to this chastity storyline, with some wearing badges, t-shirts, and other tokens, proclaiming that they, too, like Bella, would remain chaste through their own wedding days.
Suddenly, thanks to Twilight, chastity was cool. At least for some (50 Shades of Grey fans not included).
Yet Stephenie Meyer — the then-Sunday School teacher for the teenagers in her LDS ward — had provided a ready excuse (and no small amount of comfort) for those young people who would have remained chaste anyway. Which is still a remarkable thing, regardless.
She did so by including key, dramatic moments throughout the five books of the Twilight Saga, where highly dramatic consequences await (or befall) those who are unchaste.
- Future wolfpack members, Sam and Leah, “date” for a time, only to wallow in misery later, as a result, when he eventually discovers and imprints on his true soulmate, her cousin Emily.
- Later, wolfpack member Jared imprints on Kim, and they are happily sexually active… which sickens everyone else around them, who have to share everyone’s thoughts through the pack’s hive-mind.
- Vampire Riley is seduced and manipulated by Victoria, who still pines for her former lover, James, who in turn was coldly taking advantage of her “talents” in his own, manipulative way. They all meet poetically just — and grisly — ends.
- A larger part of the story, though, is Bella’s dithering over choosing between the godlike Edward or the man(like) Jacob. Edward is clearly Bella’s true love, her future, her destiny. And yet, Jacob is sooooo…. manly. The few tentative moments of Jacob and Bella being something more than close friends results directly in deep regret, searing emotional pains, and highly uncomfortably awkwardness later on. Not to mention a broken hand for Bella, and multiple fractures on the right half of Jacob’a body.
More significantly though, in this instance, is Bella’s near-kiss in Jacob’s truck, after he saved her life from nearly drowning. She ponders if a kiss would truly matter, since Edward has abandoned her, in hopes that she would find a “normal,” human husband with whom she could live happily — and safely — for the rest of her days.
Enter Jacob, the likeliest (and always-willing) candidate.
Bella sits in his truck with him, outside her front door, in the dark, wondering if it would be appropriate to “settle” for Jacob, even if it meant living with partial happiness forevermore. And if so, she rationalizes, should she kiss Jacob there in car, in thanks for saving her… while Edward’s sister, Alice, watches her secretly from within her home.
One regrettable kiss, and Alice would have secretly seen, left quietly, and all of Bella’s future happiness (and immortal glory) would have been lost to her forever.
And so, here in real life, the Kristen-Rob-Rupert triangle, however “momentary” the indiscretions, bears a number of parallels to the Twilight Saga’s story.
Not the least of which is the danger of kissing in cars with people who are not your true love.
One would hope that, after living and breathing Twilight for several years, that the actress who embodied the chaste Bella would have accepted the reality that a kiss — just a single kiss — can have major consequences on one’s life.
But apparently not. I guess she didn’t read my book.
As one upset fan said, “She still thinks she’s in the Twilight movie. Look how she treated Edward and Jacob. Back and forth, back and forth. The only problem is this is real life. WAKE UP KRISTEN!”
Instead of learning beforehand, Kristen Stewart got the drama in life that she had been foolishly hoping for; she was recently
quoted in Elle magazine (where she, of course, appears on the cover), on her regrets over her sheltered, home-schooled upbringing:
“You can learn so much from bad things. I feel boring. I feel like, Why is everything so easy for me? I can’t wait for something crazy to f***ing happen to me. Just life. I want someone to f*** me over! Do you know what I mean?”
Yeah, Kristen. I think we do. As Bella’s father, Chief Swan, would say, “Well… Good luck with that.”
A major theme of Twilight, and thus a major part of its widespread, multi-billion-dollar appeal to billions of fans across the globe, is that committed, chaste, romantic love can be fulfilling and wonderful. Stephenie Meyer lays it out, more-or-less like the American children’s rhyme, which is so well known, the government could use completing the verse as a test to identify foreign spies:
“Two little lovers sitting in a tree,
First, comes love.
Then, comes marriage.
Then comes baby in the baby carriage.”
Recent research concludes that there is, in fact, no mention of a director’s car within the verse.
Since that pattern applies (at least thematically) to many people’s lives, fans were thrilled to see it exalted in such an imaginative way within the Twilight Saga. And, to read that this pattern can apply even to those who never, ever, in a hundred years, expected that pattern to apply to them… This is a key reason for the Twilight Saga’s remarkable appeal.
And yet, of course, since that pattern/theme doesn’t actually apply to some other people’s lives — for various reasons — this is a key reason for its many detractors, as well.
During the time these books and films were released, there has been a national discussion, not coincidentally: Does love + marriage = wonderful happiness? Can it? Really?
That dialog has extended to many other, (perhaps) surprising areas of American life, as in the national concerns over the legitimacy and desirability of marriage for all people, even those who one may not have expected it to, either. And millions of people are fighting for the opportunity to explore that specific pattern for themselves, in their own lives. People among whom the Twilight Saga is said to offer enormous appeal.
Make no mistake, marriage is on everyone’s minds these days. Research indicates that most of us are either married, unmarried, planning to get married, planning to get unmarried, born and raised within a marriage, or, sadly, not. It’s a big, big, big deal.
Twilight laid the issue out for its readers to consider. And for many years, for many people, the extended courtship of Miss Kristen “Bella” Stewart by Mr. Robert “Edward” Pattinson has been considered exhibit number one. Chaste or not, the question of can “true love” work? Will it work? IRL?
And, these readers have wondered: what does that theme say about me, and my life, my potential, my marriage, my future? We all know that we don’t live within the fantasy world of the Twilight Saga. Even the young girls among us. But, like Bella and Edward, we do live within our own individual milieu — a mental construct that empowers and limits what the characters within that world can do, expect, and live. Or not.
For many, Kristen and Rob’s happy engagement (of sorts) was proof that the magic of Twilight could extend to the “real” world. And if it worked in this world, then why not here? Why not for me? In my own life?
That’s why this “news” story about two adolescents, who weren’t even actually married, is so resonant.
And why, especially given the marriage factor that WAS thrown into the mix, it so potently pulls the rug out from under the Twilight faithful.
Because, when tied to the powerful and persuasive themes of Twilight, Kristen Stewart and Rob Pattinson’s personal and “momentary” failings will suggest to millions and millions of people that a wonderful romance, leading to a fulfilling marriage, is impossible (or at least very unlikely), here, in real life.
Which is very unfortunate, indeed. Because it would seem that the main thing that was missing from Robsten’s specific situation was, in fact, the actual commitment. Marriage. It was such a big issue in the story they played; not nearly so much in the story they lived. And which could — and, some would argue, should — have helped prevented this tawdry affair from happening.
And now, millions of people will look forward to their future lives in doubt. And some of them, with no small amount of despair.
So, for their sakes, I hope Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson reconcile. We’ll see. Of that, I am quite sure.