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April 11, 2012

Hating Kristen Stewart

Recently I was discussing upcoming movies with a few of my friends, as I am apt to do as a film fanatic. One of the films I brought up was the upcoming fantasy epic Snow White & The Huntsman, a film that I personally am looking forward to quite a bit. Each of my friends gave this general consensus. They agreed that the film could be good, but all were turned off by the main star, Kristin Stewart. When I asked why they held such distaste for her, they gave a one word answer: Twilight.

Now it's no big secret that Twilight is a terrible franchise. It's a poorly written, faux-romance wet dream of a series that little girls and middle-aged women seem to go completely bonkers over. It's also wildly successful, with each film being one of the highest grossing films of their respective release years. Such wild popularity has launched its stars, particularly Stewart, to the forefront of pop culture. And it is here that Stewart gets a lot of largely undeserved criticism.

Before I go any further, let me clarify something. I hate the Twilight Saga with an undying passion. I am in no way a fan, nor am I a Kristen Stewart fanboy. I just want to shed some light on a topic that I find interesting, and something that I feel should be addressed.

If any of you have been unlucky enough to have seen a single frame of the Twilight films, you would be familiar with the character of Bella. Bland, emotionless, pathetic, annoying Bella. Her emotions seem to range from complete apathy to deep depression. She's a source of a lot of hatred, both among fans and haters of the franchise. This hatred has since carried over to Stewart, and she's been branded as a bad actress with the emotional range of a potted plant. It's even become a really popular internet meme.

One of said memes. Ouch.

But this characterization is based solely on the Twilight series. Anyone who's seen any other film Stewart has done knows that this is completely false. Stewart has been praised for her performances in both The Runaways and Welcome to the Rileys, as well as showing her true acting chops in films like Panic Room, Zathura, and Adventureland. In other words, she has the capacity to be good in a film. But just like any other actor, she needs the right material.

What a lot of people don't realize is that there's a lot more that goes into an actor's performance than just them standing in front of the camera and doing their thing. The actor's job is merely to bring to life a character that until then has only been on paper. There are two things that have a lot of say-so when it comes to what the actor does on camera: the script, and the director.

"Alright, Kristen. Think mannequin, think mannequin....perfect!"

Before an actor is even cast in a role, a script is written. This script includes the characterization of the people in the film. It is the screenwriter's job to create compelling characters with interesting plots. If the script and characterization isn't there, then it doesn't matter whether you've got Robert freakin De Niro in your movie; the character will still likely be poorly written and the actor is left to do their best with what they've got (note: see Al Pacino's performance in Jack and Jill).

Many people may be unclear as to what the director actually does for a film. Their job is to envision the film as a whole and bring it to life, including the story and characters. They decide how everything is going to be done in the film, including the performances. In most films, the director instructs the actor as to how they want a certain person to act, react, and exist. They get the performances they want from their actors, and unless the actor is a true legend, ignoring them is an easy way to get booted off the project.

With this in mind, let's take another look at Twilight. We already mentioned how poorly written it is. The characters (not just Bella) are bland, uninteresting, and have unclear motivations. The story itself is completely anticlimatic and suspense-less in every way. It's a bad, bad script. Which often leads to (shocker) bad performances from the actors playing these bad characters. And as they give the same performance in every film, it's quite clear that they portrayed the characters exactly how the directors wanted them to.

Kristen Stewart is just unlucky. She got roped into a franchise that continuously calls for a bland performance that's far below anyone's capabilities as an actor. It's unfortunate that her involvement in these films has led to such harsh criticism. Basing an actress' talents off of one character is completely unreasonable, unless they give the same performance in every film they do, which Stewart clearly doesn't.

The good news is that Stewart has a chance to redeem herself with Huntsman. The film looks epic, fun, stylish, and slick, and Charlize Theron is gonna kill it as the Queen. Stewart's involvement neither adds nor detracts from that opinion. Either way, I'll be in line to see it when it hits theaters. And hopefully a certain star won't turn people away.

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