It's Beyond Time To Stop Judging Kristen Stewart Based On 'Twilight'

Mention her name on any type of social media and you’re sure to get a swarm of comments from the young actor’s devoted group of fans; rarely does an actor as polarizing as Kristen Stewart come along. She's an actress whose supporters will go to great lengths to attempt to prove her critics wrong while her detractors stand by their disdain, with both sides occasionally resorting to insults or attacks to get their point across. The war over Stewart began as a result of her starring role in the Twilight Saga; with every new role, she and her supporters seemingly have to fight the same battle. But isn’t it time we all laid Twilight to rest? Stewart has had a streak of great performances in recent years that prove that she’s moved past Bella Swan, and so should we.

Though she’s been acting since she was a kid in films like the Jodie Foster thriller Panic Room or Jon Favreau’s Zathura: A Space Adventure, Stewart became a bonafide movie star and media darling when she played Bella in the Twilight movies. Among many cinematic circles, those films became the subject of fodder and criticism which derided its young stars for poor acting and apathetic expressions. Since then, Stewart has been hounded by the paparazzi, had her personal life investigated, and been subjugated to the whims of the tabloids who are quick to label her victim, villain, or anything under the sun. Her awkwardness in social settings has earned her the label of being ungrateful or uninterested. Hers is a lose-lose situation. It’s nearly impossible for any young actor who’s made their name in blockbuster franchises to have their career evaluated without people digging into their personal lives. But if everyone just stepped back for a minute, her rabid fans and critics included, and examined her resume without incorporating her personal life, and heck, even forgot that Twilight even existed, it would be quite clear that Stewart’s career is one deserving of praise.

One of Stewart’s post-Twilight breakout performances came at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014. Attendees fell for her tough-as-nails take as a newbie Guantanamo prison guard in Peter Sattler's 2014 film Camp X-Ray. But critics could only praise Stewart’s performance while simultaneously invoking her Twilight past. One Vanity Fair critic wrote, “You likely have strong opinion on Kristen Stewart's acting abilities. The Twilight movies turned you way on or way off. Well, throw that perception out the window.” Variety dug in too, writing, “In a turn that will surprise and impress those who know her only from the Twilight films, Stewart is riveting.” The Hollywood Reporter declared, “Ever since the Twilight backlash began, people have questioned whether Stewart is merely a sullen screen queen or a real actor. She puts that argument to rest here.”

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The Twilight comparisons didn’t stop that spring when Clouds of Sils Maria premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015. Stewart was applauded for holding her own while acting alongside Juliette Binoche and the film not only brought us some of Stewart’s best work, but it was a meta-commentary on her celebrity. Critics noted that Stewart’s character's frustration with the Hollywood system could reflect her own and that her defense of a blockbuster siren played by Chloe Grace Moretz sounded a bit like a Twihard’s defense of Stewart. She may not have been nominated for any Oscars (yet), but she was the first American to win a French César award for Best Supporting Actress for the role.

Most recently, Stewart proved her acting ability once again in Tim Blake Nelson’s Anesthesia, which premiered at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival and opened in theaters Jan. 8. In the film, which is an ensemble piece heavy on philosophy and human interaction, Stewart plays a depressed graduate student suffering through an existential crisis. It’s a long way from Bella Swan, and one of her best performances to date. Stewart once again hit up Sundance this week in Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women , in which critics are saying she “continues to impress,” and provides, “another understated and heartfelt performance.”

So far, it’s been nearly impossible for supporters and approving critics alike to declare Stewart a good actor without referencing the negativity surrounding her Twilight past. But now it’s time to move on. Stewart has clearly left that world of vampires and werewolves behind, so it would be only fair to allow her to be judged on her ability without invoking her history in the franchise. Imagine what media coverage of Stewart might have been like if Twilight had never existed? Her tabloid record would be all but gone and Stewart would be free to be an award-winning but budding indie darling whose first big budget offer was about to come after head-turning performances from these festival films.

It's high time to pretend that’s how it went down all along, and kick her Twilight past to the curb.