It's optimistic to assume queerness has been normalised: Kristen Stewart
The 'Happiest Season' star tells Margaret Gardiner how she came out
Kristen Stewart is a lightning rod. The petite brunette with dark roots, bleached ends and half-moon eyes that captured a generation from the moment she was cast as Bella in the Twilight trilogy has held many titles: America's Sweetheart, heartbreaker, talent.
The latter description is overshadowed by her revelation that despite having dated her Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson, she's recently been dating a woman. The backlash - that she's not manifesting in the projection of the young heroine Barbie doll - has been harsh and loud.
Last year the budding director showed her range in the rebooted Charlie's Angels, which portrayed a side of Stewart we don't usually see - the sexy ingenue with blonde curls and blatant seduction. That the scene ended with her killing the target of her seduction and pulling off the long blonde wig to reveal shorn hair, was more in line with what we expect of her.
She loves to play with tropes, making you question your assumptions. She also recently delivered a fragile performance in Seberg, which speaks to her range, and portends good things for her portrayal of Princess Diana in the upcoming movie Spencer.
WATCH | Margaret Gardiner in conversation with 'Happiest Season' stars Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis
This year she appears in a romantic comedy with a twist: Hulu's Happiest Season. Stewart plays Abby, a women whose love interest, Harper (Mackenzie Davis), hasn't come out to her conservative parents, denying who she is in order to be accepted — and so the discomfort ratchets up.
Long after the last frame flickers across the screen, the bigger social lesson prods. At what price should we seek acceptance? Whether it's the daughter denying her sexual preference to receive the love of her parents, the sister constantly talked over and made to feel less than, or the other sibling obscuring her failed marriage because of her parent's perverted withholding and conditional love, each person is in pain. They all know that unless they conform to the lie their parents hold them to, they'll be emotionally ostracised.
Like Stewart, Happiest Season appears to be one thing on the outside while being more complicated on the inside. She says: "Rather than telling my parents, 'I hate to break it to you,' I didn't think of it in bad terms. I just said, 'There's a new person in my life.' "
She thinks for a moment and adds, "I don't take credit for that moment. I just see myself as an individual growing with the times. I wasn't living in the closet but I don't reveal deeply personal things in interviews. I'm fully out. I'm photographed making out with my girlfriend on the street all the time. I'm gay - but there was something about saying it and knowing it was being heard and said on a platform. If that encourages anyone to dip a toe in the pool of, 'Incredible, I'm out' - it feels great."
But she acknowledges the challenges: "It's optimistic to assume queerness has been normalised. It hasn't. There are many ways to participate in the discussion. Happiest Season isn't argumentative — it presents one side of a coin. It's important to represent a gay couple that doesn't feel alternative or fringe-y. They look like us — not overtly obsessed with gay culture. They're naturally themselves."
WATCH | 'Happiest Season' trailer.
An inspiration for young people under the rainbow umbrella, the woman who loves kickboxing and admits to being "a glass-half-full optimist" grew up thinking that she wouldn't choose to be a lesbian.
"It's harder, people think it's gross, kids in school think it's weird. There's no way around that. I relate to feeling different and other. In the movie I try to stand tall within that because Abby really knows herself and wants to help Harper destigmatise this feeling."
Her dogs and cat stroll through the background of the Zoom call.
"The fear that's come with this year has been so consuming. We're locked inside. I found it interesting how my body reacted to it. I had more anxiety when I was younger … I have been sleeping very well. I feel lucky in such a horrifically intense time to feel great. And I say that with the full awareness of the difficulties in the world."
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