Jodie Foster defends Kristen Stewart
Written by Lorella
(Lainey: some of you have written to say that you don’t agree with the perceived pro-Kristen Stewart position Duana and I have taken on the cheating scandal and the subsequent cover. For analysis then on the Jodie Foster defence of her former co-star, I’ve asked my friend Lo to weigh in, as we have slightly differed on our perspectives of the situation although where Foster is concerned, I’m with Lo on this one. And Joshua Malina. Her argument is flawed. Lo is, literally, a master debater. Also a lawyer. Here’s a lawyer’s logic to Jodie Foster’s defence of Kristen Stewart.)
First things first: Apart from my interest in Good Gossip, I don’t actually “in real life” care that Kristen Stewart cheated on Robert Pattinson with a married father of two or feel strongly about the situation in and of itself. I don’t think she should be vilified. I don’t think she should be made to hide away until the world has “forgotten”. (Spoiler alert to Kristen – they’ll remember as soon as you show your face anyway, so you might as well get on with your life.) Nor do I agree with those who’d like to fashion her into some kind of feminist hero. I won’t be posting any thoughts on the matter to YouTube, if you know what I mean. I already know it’s not my business. (Although, as Lainey’s pointed out, when Kristen I love him, I love himmed all over the place, she signalled that to some extent it was okay for the rest of us to notice. We’re not exactly party crashers when we all got a flyer with the time and date.)
I feel the need to point out that I don’t really care about any of the people involved because so much of the commentary on the Stewart/Sanders situation has been so heavily “invested” (to put it mildly) as to render it almost meaningless. Her fans foam at the mouth and beg us all to just please leave her alone to live her life! Wishful thinking, in that their exact brand of obsessive interest in the most minute details of her life – an interest Kristen slyly ridicules - keeps the paparazzi in business. For their part, Pattinson’s most ardent/unhinged fans want Kristen banished, or worse. Those people all cancel each other out until the rest of us are left. The casual observers. The generic smut hounds. The students of popular culture. (Somewhat unrelated: I wish we could dispense with the “He’s so hot how could she cheat on him?!” sentiment once and for all. If we run down the list of famous celebrity cuckolds, it’s an attractive bunch. Hot people get cheated on all the time. If physical beauty was the cure for adultery, suffice to say that Tiger Woods maybe wouldn’t have needed to go see about that diner waitress. The real question you should be asking, if you care, is how could she cheat on someone she purports to adore?)
What I do feel strongly about, however, is the turn some of the commentary on the cheating scandal has taken. I’ve whined to Lainey and Duana about some of the things they’ve said in (mild) defence of Stewart. But it wasn’t until I read Jodie Foster’s piece for The Daily Beast yesterday morning, that I really thought we’d veered beyond the pale of logical discourse. If you haven’t already, you can read it here.
Even before I read it, I thought: Does Kristen Stewart want Mel Gibson’s champion speaking up for her? (“Is he an anti-Semite? Absolutely not.”– Jodie Foster, on Mel Gibson. Google “Mel Gibson anti-Semitic remarks” and make up your own mind. Maybe safe to say that Foster isn’t always the most objective source when it comes to the foibles of her friends.) Regardless, the same week that Pattinson has been dodging substantive discussion of the cheating or the split that ensued, and weeks after it first hit the tabloids and caused a frenzy, Jodie Foster has seen fit to come to the ferocious defence of her colleague and friend, “kid actor” Kristen Stewart.
My first “Where exactly are we going here, Jodie?” was right at the beginning of the piece, where after admitting that we all engage in some small measure of celebrity gossip, she gives us this zinger: “But we seldom consider the childhoods we unknowingly destroy in the process.” It’s a nice bit of irony. I can think of a couple of childhoods that may have been destroyed as a result of Kristen Stewart’s involvement with Rupert Sanders. Unlike Foster, however, I don’t think Kristen’s childhood happens to be one of them. I’d argue that Foster simply muddies the water by even remotely referring to Kristen as a child. Kristen’s childhood safely ended long before the Sanders grope-fest started. In fact, we’ve been told by many – including her co-stars and Kristen herself - that she was never much of a “little kid” even when she was a kid. In the article, Foster herself reminisces that even at the age of 11, Kristen could only barely be cajoled to “begrudgingly” participate in a silly birthday party dance. Kristen has said of herself “I was glad to leave school… I couldn’t relate to kids my own age…really I have felt that I should have been an adult since I was aged about five. I just remember when I turned 18 everyone asked me if I felt more mature, but I felt the same as I always did. Juggling work and school, and helping my mother, I’ve always had a lot of responsibility.” And it’s not just her own perception of her emotional age. She’s been described repeatedly by fellow actors and her directors as mature beyond her years.
Until, of course, she screwed up, at which point many, including Foster, have rushed to utterly infantilize her in a maddening attempt to dismiss her behavior as a mistake typical of someone so incredibly young. It’s no better to write off Kristen’s mistake as being a result of her age as it is to shrug and say “Oh, boys will be boys” when grown-ass men cheat. To me, Foster’s “WON’T ANYONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!?” diatribe comes out of left field where Kristen Stewart in particular is concerned. We’re to blame for the demise of her dignity and relationship because the poor little girl is hounded so! A month ago, if you’d patted Kristen Stewart on the head and said “There there, little girl – you don’t know what you’re doing at all, do you?”, you’d probably have taken a punch.
One of Lainey’s favourites, Aaron Johnson, is like Kristen Stewart, 22 years old. He too decided to become involved with his director, also 20 years his senior, then got her pregnant (twice), married her and is raising a family which includes another man’s children. These are the decisions of an adult who acts for a living and lives in a country with a thriving obsession with celebrities. My point is just because we think Kristen’s maybe making some crappy decisions doesn’t mean she’s not making them as an adult. We don’t do her any favours by demoting her to idiot teenager.
So she was giving in to her “momentary” (a-hem) desires, and maybe subconsciously trying to find a way out of a relationship that was past its Best Before date, so what? Unlike Lainey, I don’t believe Stewart was forced to “bend over” to give that apology, nor do I agree that she’s being kept in hiding by the expectations of Twihards, Robstenites or the Minivan Majority. All of that suggests that Kristen’s not making choices, and furthermore that she’s not capable of making choices. I don’t presume to know what Kristen Stewart is really like, but she certainly hasn’t come across as the kind of woman who would appreciate being dismissed as some young twit who doesn’t know any better. I say she chose to cheat, she chose to apologize profusely to her boyfriend in a very public way, and she’s choosing to lay low until she can come to terms with the ramifications of both previous choices.
Regardless of Foster’s reference to Kristen’s age, I’m not as anxious to sweep it all under the “she’s so young” rug. When does that expire? What’s the magical age where you are held accountable for your choices? If, like me, you disagree with those who would see Kristen tarred and feathered, why not “She made a mistake people, leave her be.”? Why do we have to add “She’s only 22!” Sure she’s only been of legal drinking age for about a year. But if we’re going to refer to arbitrary indicators like that, she’s technically been an adult able to vote and enlist for 4, and according to her, she’s actually been living and feeling like an adult for much longer than that. How many other 22 year olds are out there juggling work, school, and raising a family, or, I don’t know, leaving home for their third tour of duty?? 22 is not 16. It’s old enough. This is a mistake men and women of any and every age make. Let’s not attribute it to her age, because in so doing, we take even more away from her. (Duana are we fighting?)
Red herring of actual childhood aside, my real issue with Foster’s article is that she has somehow twisted the story into an example of “how we destroy child stars”. She’s implicating Kristen’s childhood fame and the Hollywood machine, suggesting that either or both drove her into the arms of Rupert Sanders.
It’s a true, sad story we know all too well – child star loses his or her cuteness, “precocious” goes stale and the kid gets tossed on the heap with others who’ve outgrown their moment in the spotlight, only to spend the rest of their lives engaging in more and more outrageous and/or self-destructive behaviour trying to recapture it. This is not that. Kristen Stewart is not Corey Haim. She’s not some irrelevant has-been that’s been driven to a life of drugs and self-harm as a result of being discarded when she got her permanent teeth. Foster would have us believe that we ruin the childhoods of all child actors and we’ve ruined Kristen’s childhood and possibly her life. But she’s completely overlooking the fact that Stewart has already very handily negotiated the seemingly impossible transition from “child star” to “star”. When does the statute of limitations expire on her child stardom being an excuse for future missteps?
I guess her argument would hold water if Kristen were hounded (she is) and then the public had arbitrarily decided to be done with her (it did not). If, for example, Hilary Duff had crashed and burned as soon as little girls outgrew Lizzie McGuire (which, quite admirably, she did not, although she’s been punishing us with her “literature” instead.) that would fit Foster’s model. Given her very current mega-stardom, Kristen’s recent “activity” simply can’t be chalked up to the same pattern of other child stars who’ve hit the skids once they’re sorted into the bin of “kids we don’t need anymore.” Stewart’s already run that gauntlet and survived. At this point, if this specific actor were to crash and burn – why would we chalk it up to “Hollywood is a monster that eats children”? It’s a youth obsessed environment, yes. But the specific trope of child star failing to make the transition and falling into a life plagued with substance abuse just doesn’t fit Kristen Stewart.
Once you remove the “tragic child actor ending” angle all we’re left with from Foster is a tired old Hollywood cliché. Poor me – I’m so famous. All these evil people want to take my picture and know my favourite song. Not quite as compelling as “the destruction of childhood”. Like many other serious actors, Foster goes on at length about the pain of having to give up your life in exchange for your art. If she really felt that way, then maybe she and Kristen’s parents should have conspired to steer Kristen towards a career in theatre, where she could act to her heart’s content and never have had to engage in dodging the paparazzi at LAX. Then again, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a theatre actress become the face of a designer fragrance either, so maybe the Hollywood machine isn’t that bad after all.
On the contrary, Foster’s relentless description of being famous makes it sound like something… well, something much, much worse than being famous. She refers to “the gladiator sport of celebrity culture” (Reality Check: gladiators were slaves who were forced to kill each other for the entertainment of others much more fortunate than they. Not figuratively, but actually, kill each other as a spectator sport.); “the cruelty of life lived as a moving target”; “The point is to survive, intact or not, whatever the emotional cost.” Did I miss Jodie Foster’s tragic stint as a child soldier? She wonders whether she would have made it to healthy adulthood if she’d started her career today, “in the new era of social media and its sanctioned hunting season.” Foster really likes equating the public’s intense interest and celebrity photography with physical harm. (You know who I bet really liked Foster’s article? Ashley Judd. ) Sounds familiar, right? Maybe Kristen learned to equate being photographed with being raped from Jodie Foster. I’m more than willing to consider, however, that the inevitable trauma and guilt that Foster suffered as a result of being the motive behind her stalker’s assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan when she was 19 years old, has coloured her view such that for her, intense scrutiny, whether by fans, photographers or deranged stalkers, is all equally and inextricably linked with violence and tragedy. But one also gets the sense she’s doing a lot of projecting here. If your fame results in getting caught cheating on your boyfriend, it’s not the same as your fame inspiring a stranger to kill the President of the United States in a bid to impress you.
For some reason though, (and maybe it was the Reagan situation) I had always perceived Foster as unassuming and humble. I was wrong. She shows us what’s on the inside when she muses that if she hadn’t managed to “survive” Hollywood “Sarah Tobias would never have danced before her rapists in The Accused. Clarice would never have shared the awful screaming of the lambs to Dr. Lecter. Another actress might surely have taken my place, opened her soul to create those characters, surrendered her vulnerabilities. But would she have survived the paparazzi peering into her windows, the online harassment, the public humiliations, without overdosing in a hotel room or sticking her face with needles until she became unrecognizable even to herself?” I’ll be honest. Unlike Ms. Foster, I didn’t go to Yale, but at this point? She’s starting to sound like Nell to me. Apart from delving into excessive self congratulation of her specialness, what’s the point here? None. That’s the only point: that she’s just so incredibly special that she managed to survive (when she doubts that others would) and as a result, (lucky for us!) we weren’t deprived of her amazing performances. She’s squarely placing herself in what she sees as the singular position of having been able to portray Sarah and Clarice with some vulnerability, while managing to come out of the entire hideous fame ordeal alive. In the process, she casually throws actresses who succumb to substance abuse and self-mutilation under the bus. (Speaking of which, Hollywood Sliding Doors: Nicole Kidman was to play Kristen Stewart’s mother in Panic Room, but she had an injury that kept her from taking on the role. Maybe if she had played the Panic Room mother, these days Kristen would have a fledgling third lip instead of constantly upturned middle fingers.)
Lainey’s written about how Kristen has damaged her “brand” in the way she’s handled this situation. She’s supposed to be smart, honest and has gone on record as hating fake people. If Paris Hilton cheats on her boyfriend with a married man, it’s a big fat shrug (except maybe from that guy’s wife.) When self-proclaimed stickler for honesty, uber-authentic badass Kristen Stewart gets caught doing the same, I’d argue it’s a whole other ballgame. Even more than hating cheaters, people hate hypocrites. Much of the fascination with this story is specific to Kristen Stewart and not, as Foster would have us believe, attributable to hapless youth, the plight of the child star or Big Bad Hollywood. But, if you insist Jodie, have it your way. Kristen’s just a kid. And Mel’s just an alcoholic.