One way the internet allows you to make serendipitous discoveries about something’s popularity is by typing one letter at a time into Google and seeing what the auto-complete brings up (something Slate discovered last year). Typing in the letters “kr” will give you “Kristen Stewart” second (first is Kroger, the largest grocery store chain in America, albeit one not yet universal).
Keep typing her name out and she remains higher than, say, “Krispy Kreme,” safely perched above the likes of the Kristins Chenowith and Bell (distinctive first name spelling helps, presumably). “Kristen Stewart aw,” it gets a little more sinister: “awkwardness” is prevalent. And yes, finally, there’s an auto-complete for “Kristen Stewart awful actress,” something apparently on a lot of people’s minds.
Back in 2002, Stewart plausibly played Jodie Foster’s daughter in “Panic Room” — not an easy task, seeing as Foster’s basically the first and final word in preternaturally intelligent child/teen performers, but she pulled it off. She was also very cool and collected in “Undertow” and “Adventureland,” and admirably spacy in “Into The Wild.” She’s not the most wildly expressive actress, but that’s a choice rather than a limitation.
The main complaints against Stewart that come up, then, are surprisingly consistent. An online petition sums up many of the points of contention: “cold, boring and fidgety,” “lack of interest or ability,” “intimidating.” Indeed, apparently Stewart is one point on which pro- and virulently anti-“Twilight” factions can find common ground. There are Twihard who think, basically, she doesn’t understand who Bella is, and an anti-side who also think she’s limited for superficially different reasons: “it’s all the same emo carp [sic],” says “Kokuhaku.” Consensus in a divided America at last!
Might I suggest that Stewart is actually quite good at what she does? In a world decrying the existence of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, Stewart is realistically sulky and pissed-off — not aggressively unpleasant, just hard to impress and already disappointed far too many times. I’ve seen people dismiss her performances based solely, it seems, on her association with “Twilight” — which, as we can see, is fairly prickly even among that devoted community.
Leave her alone: no matter how awkward her faux pas can be (as if being caught smoking pot were somehow a completely unusual activity rather than a case of poor choice with regard to visibility), she has real talent. That she sold her soul to teenage Satan means she can do that much more for the other side on her off-hours, as she’s repeatedly proven. Don’t hold success against her.
[Photos: “Twilight: New Moon,” Summit, 2009; “Panic Room,” Columbia, 2002]