comments_image Comments

Twilight Fantasy Rupture: Why I'm Glad Kristen Stewart Cheated

How a 22-year-old's infidelities rocked the world, and why it matters.

For Twilight fans, July 25, 2012 is a day that will live in infamy. It was on that day that Kristen Stewart, the wan but tough young actress who portrays the cinematic series heroine, released a public letter apologizing to Robert Pattinson—her love interest in Twilight and real-life boyfriend—for cheating on him with a married 41-year-old director, Rupert Sanders. Stewart’s letter was short, sweet and to the point:

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.

The admission came after photos leaked of Stewart, 22, kissing Sanders, who directed her in Snow White and the Huntsman . It was curious that Stewart acknowledged her indiscretions so publicly, given that the reluctant Hollywood ingenue has cultivated a reputation for being red-carpet sullen, and has thus far appeared unwilling to play the typical Hollywood game demanded of young starlets. She is known for rocking black Converse sneakers and affecting vague, disinterested looks at film premieres. 

But it's less about the letter's personal content made public, and more about: Who knew Stewart actually gave a shit what anybody thinks about her and her private life? It's that attitude (not to mention her proximity to Pattinson) that has made a lot of Twilight fanatics spit vitriol at her. Immediately after her apology, social media was alight with disdain for her, from both fans and fellow celebrities. By cheating, Kristen Stewart has shattered the fantasy that Twilight's gooey, breathless rendition of true love—soulmates!—could carry on into reality.  A YouTube video of a Stewart-Pattinson fan crying over her infidelity garnered over 2 million views.

Fans' reactions say a lot about how films like Twilight play into and perpetuate an essentialized, unrealistic concept of love and relationships -- an unhealthy appendage of princess culture. In the films, Stewart and Pattinson play star-crossed lovers, soulmates who rise above their differences (she's human; he's a vampire) to be together no matter what. Because some fans have internalized this ideal to the point of delusion, they expected Stewart's and Pattison’s real-life relationship would mirror that ideal. So when news broke of Stewart's affair, the Internet went into high-level slut-shaming mode, Tweeting and Tumbling and opining about what a horrible "hoe" and "bitch" and "tramp" Stewart is because she transgressed this sacred(ish) relationship. What’s more, the hatred directed toward Stewart wasn't about her being with a man who has a wife and children; it was about violating Rob Pattinson … OMG. What was she thinking?

Pattison is an actor who holds court among the hottest men working in Hollywood today, whose onscreen persona—a vampire who would offer up his life to save his beloved—has been transposed upon his real-life person. Gossip blogs wept for poor young R.Pattz, who has reportedly moved out of their shared mansion in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the same blogs wonder if Stewart's career is over. They  called her a "dumb whore," a “homewrecking slut.” A hack musician with a million followers called her a "slutbag" on Twitter. 

All this with nary a mention of Rupert Sanders, who is twice Stewart's age, and met her while in a position of power as her director. Having an affair with your married boss is a stupid move, careless and insensitive, although sadly not uncommon. But the end result is so common as to be cliche: the young girl is expected to act on her best behavior while the man may act as he pleases, and when they're caught it's the woman who is sacrificed at the public altar. This was compounded against the backdrop of Twilight; some fans seemed to feel that Kristen Stewart broke her contract with them, that she had somehow burst through an imaginary fourth wall. In this rubric, Rupert Sanders was nothing but an avatar, a symbol of her infidelity. Sanders could have been anyone; it doesn't matter, because the point is, he's not Rob. So with Stewart, the slut-shaming is doubly piled on, not just because of her perceived lack of respect for the fantastical fairy tale fans expect her to uphold, but because she never fit the nice-girl narrative to begin with.