by: Kaitlyn Conners
According to Forbes last week, Kristen Stewart is officially Hollywood’s highest paid actress. Take this jump to reflect and take a deep breath.
First, I think whoever did the survey used the word “actress” a bit liberally. Second, it was upsetting, albeit not too shocking to see Meryl Streep seven spots beneath her. It is sadly no longer Meryl Streep’s heyday (though I have my hopes that she is secretly eternal), does this mean Kristen Stewart is our top choice for young women to idolize? Apparently yes, young females nationwide idolize the same girl who has three stages of “acting,” biting her nails, biting her lip, and biting the dust on her acting roles.
The sad truth is that whether we want her to be or not, survey says young women already do idolize her. In fact we don’t even need Forbes to tell us that she out-earns every respectable female actress in America. Instead just take a moment to read the quiet desperation of YouTube comments on any video she’s in. They all proclaim that everyone must shut up at once because K-Stew (ugh) is like, the best, most prettiest actress ever. Young ladies on the precipice of becoming women need Kristen Stewart as their role model as much as the world needs a new Kardashian sister.
Kristen Stewart destructs what it means to be a positive female role model both onscreen and off-screen. For starters, she chooses roles of the most gender-polarizing nature. In Twilight, she plays an insecure young woman who needs her boy toy (no one buys that he’s her ‘true love’) to rescue her and when he tries to leave her (probably because she’s psychotically needy), she tries to kill herself and sits in her room pining after her sparkly man 1800s style. In her latest film Snow White and the Huntsman, which I foolishly hoped would be a game-changer for Stewart, she still plays the anguished female needing a hunky lover to save her. In fact, I think she spends more of the movie looking uncomfortable and falling on her ass than actually being heroic.
Not only does Stewart choose roles that do nothing to enhance the possibilities for females to leave antiquated roles, but she can’t even do them well. Sure the sulky, stoned teenager worked when she was still a sulky and (probably) stoned teenager (e.g. In The Land of Women), but she’s now 22 and still plays her roles like a child playing very elaborate dress-up. She’s unconvincing and offensive to young women who have grown out of Disney fairytales. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good fairytale on occasion, but the reason I enjoy it is because it exists in a different realm. Kristen Stewart blurs those lines when she takes up a fairytale role and squashes the existence of another magical world by stumbling through her part in a clumsy manner. We can’t keep forgiving her for her bratty acting; it’s time for Kristen Stewart to grow up.
Even in interviews watching Kristen Stewart interact with others is painful. She bites her nails, laughs nervously, pauses too long, and overall acts like she has no clue how she got there. Frankly, I’ve been wondering the same thing lately. She’s a poor actress and not charming in any sense, yet we still throw money at her to play even crappier roles and look even worse onscreen. One critic has gone so far as to praise her role in Snow White & the Huntsman as “never [being] more radiant or affecting.” Insert obvious scoff.
Now I realize it isn’t Stewart’s fault that these roles are gender stereotyped and overall dangerous for young women, but after the Twilight franchise began to spin out of control she became responsible for the girls who now watch her every move. When your face is plastered on every tween magazine you can’t continue to pretend you’re clueless of your power as a role model. Yet Kristen Stewart continues to perpetuate roles of weakness and the necessity of a strong male to rescue her both in her roles and her actual waking life. She even dates her onscreen Twilight love interest, completely blurring all lines of fantasy and reality.
Earlier I mentioned Meryl Streep, who by all means exemplifies a strong female role model. She chooses roles of strength: playing a powerful magazine executive, a wildly ambitious cook, and hell, she even played the prime minister of the UK. She is, in every sense of the word, fierce. On and off-screen no one doubts the grace, the intellect, and the confidence of Meryl Streep. If Meryl Streep and Kristen Stewart were to have a cage match (which is something I would throw all of my meager savings away to see ringside), Meryl Streep would have Kristen Stewart in the fetal position in a matter of a minute.
Sadly, Meryl Streep can’t live forever and even if she could, younger generations tend not to see themselves in her unless they identify with the 60+ crowd. Young females need someone just as badass to fill her shoes and take on the world with them. They crave someone to lead by example and Kristen Stewart is currently in that position.
Whether we like it or not, Kristen Stewart is at the forefront of Hollywood actresses admired by the under 25 crowd. Maybe Stewart will grow more graceful and take a few acting classes in the next decade, but young females need someone now to carry the torch in film. We need someone strong and dedicated to her roles, not just a grimacing stutterer uncomfortable in her skin.
In a time that I wholeheartedly believe is the beginning of strong female roles a la films like Brave coming this summer and Winter’s Bone a couple years back, we need young women to look up to as leaders in the field of film where they have been largely polarized, set aside, and paid less than their male opposites. And I beg you, please don’t spend another cent on Kristen Stewart until she can learn to be that sort of woman and wipe that god-awful grimace off her face.
If you’re interested in actual strong female leads, here are a few film/TV suggestions: Winter’s Bone for a newer film about a strong young woman, Aliens for an older film with an older female woman, and HBO’s series Girls depicting a group of 20-something females.
Kaitlyn Conners is currently pursuing a double major in film and philosophy at DePaul University. When she’s not working at the library, she enjoys taking amateur photos (mostly of her pets) and watching awesome TV shows. Yes, she realizes she’ll make a great cat lady librarian one day. She rarely blogs at her pretentiously named blog www.wordsflyawaywritingsremain.wordpress.com and obsessively tweets cynical thoughts under the handle @theonlyKaitlyn. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.