Kristen Stewart and public confessions

Why did Kristen Stewart offer a public confession and apology for her fling?

In case you’re behind on the chatter: earlier this week, the actress issued a public apology for being unfaithful to her boyfriend, Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson. She admitted to a tryst with Rupert Sanders, the director of her latest film, Snow White and the Huntsman.

What public trust was violated? She wasn't married. Did she betray Rob or Edward, the character he plays in Twilight? Could this be a case of mistaken identity, one especially common among actors?

James K.A. Smith, professor of philosophy at Calvin College, recently drew a line between playwright Tony Kushner and St. Augustine on his blog. According to Smith, Augustine and Kushner identify a similar sort of identity crisis, one that might apply here.

“The actor so regularly divests the self of a center and identity - so regularly fragments and dissipates the self (the chief effect of sin, for Augustine) - that Augustine worries there's no return,” Smith wrote, reflecting on a recent interview with Kushner. “This is the great danger for actors. And Kushner recognizes the danger. He's not willing to go there himself, but also thinks that actors are those brave souls who have the courage to risk themselves in this way.”

The Colorado theater shooting testified to, among other things, the power of movie franchises over those with weak or defective senses of self. Most of us live into these movies for brief moments of time, but others invest considerably more of their selves. The actors are the first to partake of this sort of identity adoption.

The off-screen romance between Kristen and Rob strengthens the power of the story between their Twilight characters, Bella and Edward. The betrayal of Rob is an unscripted betrayal of the Twilight narrative, into which millions have partially invested their own selves. For serious fans of the franchise, who follow the actors in the limbo between life and story, this may be a betrayal of a public, sacred trust. The confession and apology is public because the sacred trust of Bella and Edward has been violated. The damage to the real-world marriage of the director’s family is a side note for the tabloids.

I don’t know if Twilight’s financial backers have morality clauses in their stars’ contracts (think Michael Phelps, pot and Kellogg), but if this hurts the Twilight series at the box office, they may start insisting on them.

All of this raises the question: what story do we live within?

The worlds we inhabit and the identities we behave from are shaped and formed subtly and beneath the conscious level. This story is a full-blown liturgy of troth and confession in a limbo world created by powerful stories backed by enormous business interests.

Postmodernity asserted that traditional meta-narratives (religions, often) are bankrupt and unjustifiable. In the absence of strong meta-narratives, new smaller narratives provide stories within which to live. Actors first take up residence within them. The audience follows.

Kristen/Bella and Rob/Edward now push TomKat off the tabloid covers. Tom Cruise was, of course, a serial groom only to find a stronger meta-narrative in Scientology.

Augustine was right. Our hearts are restless, until they find their rest in Thee.

What Do You Think?

  • Why did this tabloid tale involve public confession and apology?
  • Why do we feel we have a stake in this story?
  • What stories do you write yourself into aside from that of the Gospel?


Comments (5)

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I appreciate the insight of this post. You’re so right, Paul. A lot of lonely people over-invested in a romance meme! And sadly, my guess is that the majority of those sucked in by the Twilight romance are girls who need a more substantial story to live within. Your point about the director’s family is well-taken. Not one other source has mentioned that ... another sad commentary on our world.

This a great article. I love the bridge drawn here between how actors divest themselves and how that is similar to how we divest ourselves into sin. Makes me really think.
As a movie buff, or at least one who goes to the gym of movies and is working out sad muscles, I can see where the investment of the audience comes into play. I can get drawn in and from time to time forget, its all fiction, even when its based on a true story.
I agree with Cathy, the point about the director’s family.
Also it makes me think of Daniel Day Lewis, arguably one of the most talented actors on the planet. We rarely, if ever, hear about him, he lives a quiet life and only comes out to act about every 3 years. But his characters are unforgettable and wonderfully acted. I think this is due largely to not knowing about him outside of the movie world so he’s so much more believable.
You will notice the more you hear about an actor and figure out their character and see how they act outside of their characters it is harder to invest in their characters, there are a few exceptions.

There is another way that Hollywood doesn’t live in the real world: government protection.  Copyright laws are so powerful that the feds reached all the way across the Pacific to pluck Kim Dotcom off of New Zealand and deliver him to the courts here, all at the behest of Hollywood powerbrokers.  The Hollywood/Washington connection captures maximum dollar for movies.

According to Forbes, Kristen Stewart made $34.5 in the past year, the most of any actress in Hollywood.  Forbes adds that the affair is unlikely to dim her star power. 

But none of this would be possible without government protection.  Sure Kristen would still have star power.  But she would have to use that celebrity in other ways, outside of movies, to make her money.  Other employers mean more oversight and less centralized power.

I don’t have a morality clause.  If I did something similar to Kristen I expect to be fired.  Only in Hollywood, with its power and money, could someone get away with this.

I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if we learn after the last of the Twilight movies has come and gone that these two were contracted (or whatever) by some Hollywood someone to be girl/boyfriend and live together for the sake of publicity and getting the Twihards even more invested in the story. Which would be pretty ironic since the characters in the books don’t do that until they marry. (Or so I’ve gathered. I gave up at book 2 and movie 3.)

You have to wonder at the amount of pressure some of these people must be under. God bless them. Seriously.

Did anyone notice in the movie Kristian wearing and orthodox bracelet that had pictures of Jesus, Mary and the saints? after she is turned she no longer wears it. As for their personal lives, actors put much of themselves into a role. It is easy to fall for someone. Problem is they don’t stay together long as the next role demands that they leave the last behind unless it is a sequel. Look at her in the runaways, she was very convincing and she looked more than friends with Dakota Fanning. That sort of basic personality change is both the challenge and danger of acting. I pray for all of them the film illustrates how attractive the Lie can and will be. Lets not make Bella’s choice. Even Edward in the series more than once warns her and tries to ward her off making this choice but ultimately is not strong enough himself to do what is truly right for her.  They certainly know and acknowledge God along with the fact that they are damned. No going back.

It was refreshing that the Cullen’s were from a time of higher morals and still lived by them. Maybe Gods Grace could be extended to them, we don’t know ultimately. for certain we all will be making similar choices especially after the church and the restrainer are taken away.

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