Usually when someone is described as "polarizing" it means that sensible people think they're awful and foolish saps think they're the greatest. Other times, it can be a matter of acquired taste, someone who seems weird and unlikeable at first and then over time, as you begin to understand what they're about, becomes more interesting and cool. In other cases, people's impressions can be forever tinged by what their first exposure to someone is, and they refuse to change their minds, instead steadfastly clinging to their original conclusion because thinking differently is too much work.
I say all this because I think a sizeable contingent of the public has gotten Kristen Stewart entirely wrong. The first moment she seized most people's attention was as Bella in Twilight, which developed a specific reputation for her as a person and as an actor, and she has been unable to shake this reputation to this point. For a number of us though, she was somebody before she was Twilight Girl. She was that girl in Into the Wild who was so awesome, and then also the young girl in Panic Room we remembered being really good for a child actor, and then in some interesting-sounding indie movie called The Cake Eaters and the enormously anticipated Adventureland, Greg Mottola's Superbad follow-up. Oh, and she's in some vampire movie coming out?
That was my thought process at least, back in 2008 when I first learned who K-Stew was' you know, before she was "K-Stew". So while I can understand hating on the performers in Twilight, because I don't dispute that the acting is uniformly bad in those movies, with few exceptional moments, I think defining an entire career from one character in a poor blockbuster series is unfair. Not to mention, people who think she's just some dumb teen actress who's miserable in public all the time misses out on appreciating a public figure who is seriously punk rock. Like, even more than Jennifer Lawrence, who has far more patience for Hollywood BS than many of us do.
You may think I'm crazy, and that's fine. Indulge me by hearing me out. Then you can share all the outraged comments you'd like. Or anything else. Here are, summed up, the 4 main reasons I think instead of being decried as an angst-ridden hack of an actress, Kristen Stewart should be celebrated as an alt-celeb badass who is one of the most promising actors of her generation.
1) She can act. If you disagree, I'd say you haven't seen enough of her work
I don't want to be too hyperbolic, but it's not enough to point out that Kristen Stewart is an underrated actor. She is excellent. For real. In fact, I would go so far as to say she is one of the best actors under 25 in movies right now. BAFTA agrees, nominating her for its Rising Star Award a few years ago (the academy determined the nominees; she won thanks to a public vote flooded by Twi-hards). She doesn't deserve this credit for her talent because of the Twilight movies by any means of course. It's absolutely despite them. This should be obvious. Michael Sheen shouldn't be judged on his Twilight character and neither should Stewart.
She should be judged for the work that she should be getting all the attention for, including a terrific breakout performance in the small 2004 film Speak, and then her heartbreaking turn in Into the Wild. She gives one of the performances that make that film, which many considered among the best of the year. If she wasn't the girl from Twilight now, she'd probably be the girl from Into the Wild. Also Adventureland. This was a terribly underrated movie in 2009 and I suspect much of it was because people couldn't get past the casting, including Stewart who now was a known commodity thanks to Twilight. But her work in this movie is fantastic, subtle but quietly rich. Then she continued to do great work in small movies like Welcome to the Rileys and On The Road, the latter of which changed my mind about Garrett Hedlund and I hope will do the same for the K-Stew detractors. She's seriously outstanding in it.
2) She keeps it real, on screen and off
Let me just talk about her acting for another second: you know those actors who seem like they can just be, on camera? Like just exist as if that's the world they've always been from, whatever world the movie exists in? It's hard to explain, the extent to which some actors just have this uncanny ability to be simply real. People are noticing it about Elle Fanning, I've found, especially in comparison to her more showy sister. Another who gets mentioned is Al Pacino, especially young Al Pacino, Godfather Al Pacino. I'm telling you Kristen Stewart has this. She doesn't let herself be anything but completely real when she's working. The result is that a lot of her weirdness then shows up on screen through her character, and a lot of people can't see past this, which I understand. I'm the same way with other actors at times.
Then how about the way she handles herself publicly? People don't seem to care for this aspect of her either, which I don't understand. I get the people whose contentions essentially amount to "Why don't you smile, sweetheart?" They're just assholes. But people who are constantly complaining about the phoniness of Hollywood and how the whole industry operates on BS and vapid speech? As if everyone's constantly selling something? K-Stew is the antidote to that, in the same way Jennifer Lawrence is. Both of them are refreshing. They have completely different styles, K-Stew the introvert and J-Law the extrovert (it's obvious where my allegiances lie). But they're essentially doing the same thing, flipping off the press, rolling their eyes at questions, giving sarcastic replies. With Stewart it just seems less obvious, and less charming. Because that's how little she gives a damn. How is this realness not admirable?
3) There's no one else like her, is there ?
I'm not going to go into the "love her or hate her, at least she's different!" argument because that's not at all satisfying. If someone is genuinely awful their last defense is "well that's just Bob being Bob, you gotta give him that!" So that's not what this is about. I do, however, think that there are certain aspects to Kristen Stewart that are distinctly her own, which makes for a unique ability to play specific types of characters that literally no one else can play right now. Who else out there can mix the neuroses of Woody Allen with sexual adolescent girl angst? I haven't seen anyone else match the awkwardness of Jesse Eisenberg with the weird confidence of Julia Roberts. Aside from someone who can deadpan as hilariously as Aubrey Plaza, there are very few young actresses who can stray from the molds of bubbly, cheery, smile for the camera Madonna (that is, virginal) figure or steamy seductress vamp. This is the classic dichotomy. And it keeps women from being able to give complicated performances depicting complex characters. More young actors like Stewart, who don't fit easily into any mold, facilitate these increasingly rich roles for young women. It's not much easier for young men, granted, but damn.
4) She's really serious about what she does. That's kind of rare
I think it's because she has such limited skills in expressing herself when talking to people and an issue plenty of us can relate to and that Kristen Stewart so earnestly wants to express herself by acting. This is common for people in artistic fields; they'll sound completely incoherent when operating in the medium of conversation and interview, but when they're in their chosen element, whatever medium that may be, they're clearer than they could ever be trying to explain themselves. So Stewart seems like she needs acting to do this, in a way.
And she seems to have a real desire to get better, which I don't know if I've ever heard her say outright, the way Bradley Cooper has, many, many times (which I respect), but is clear from the people she tries to work with. She's also incredibly young. She has so much room to improve. She shouldn't be expected to be operating at a Jessica Chastain level when she's 13 years behind in age. And that's the best actress in the world right there. I am certain that as she matures, and gets better parts (seriously, who the hell is her agent? They're not as good as J-Law's, whoever they are), we'll see her get the chance to be more versatile and put her enormous talent for totally embodying a character down to the subtlest details to better and better use.
Convinced? Are you on the Kristen Stewart bandwagon yet or do you still think she's insufferable?