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Kristen Stewart's Apology: Damage Control or Performance Art?

Photo of Caryn James By Caryn James | James on Screens July 25, 2012 at 9:02PM

Call me a cynic, but I’ve always wondered whether Kristen Stewart’s romance with Robert Pattinson was real or conveniently staged for maximum ‘Twilight’ publicity. Now that she has publicly apologized for cheating on him – after Us Weekly published incriminating photos of her kissing another man – I’m more skeptical than ever. Only a romance staged for the red carpet and press junkets could result in her bizarrely personal three-sentence apology, which ends: “This momentary indiscretion has jeopardized the most important thing in my life, the person I love and respect the most, Rob. I love him, I love him, I'm so sorry." This might be damage control; it’s weird enough to play as performance art. What it doesn’t even approach is reality.
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Kristen Stewart Sanders

Call me a cynic, but I’ve always wondered whether Kristen Stewart’s romance with Robert Pattinson was real or conveniently staged for maximum ‘Twilight’ publicity. Now that she has publicly apologized for cheating on him – after Us Weekly published incriminating photos of her kissing another man – I’m more skeptical than ever. Only a romance staged for the red carpet and press junkets could result in her bizarrely personal three-sentence apology, which ends: “This momentary indiscretion has jeopardized the most important thing in my life, the person I love and respect the most, Rob. I love him, I love him, I'm so sorry." This might be damage control; it’s weird enough to play as performance art. What it doesn’t even approach is reality.

Who apologizes to the love of her life in a statement to People magazine? But in the celebrity-culture version of “Live by the sword, die by the sword,” a romantic image carefully cultivated in public has to be repaired in public.

One of the strangest twists in this story – already analyzed and Tweeted to death -- is that the apology backed Stewart into acknowledging the relationship, which she had never quite done before. The tacit admission that off-screen Rob and Kristen were just a fangless real-life version of Edward and Bella has usually been done with a teasing smile (hers), a shy smile (his), and camera-ready PDAs. I  kind of admired that part of the image-making, which suggested they wouldn’t be bullied into talking publicly about something private; how quaint and refreshing!   

But now we have that other display of affection, which Stewart certainly never thought would go public. (Has she learned nothing from her years on the red carpet? There is always a photographer.) The Us Weekly photos show Stewart with the director of her latest film, 'Snow White and the Huntsman': Rupert Sanders (with Stewart, above), not only married with two children, but married to the very woman who played Stewart’s mother in the movie. He has issued his own public apology; good luck with that.

This cheating would amount to a standard case of Hollywood ick if it weren’t so damaging to the idea of a fairy tale romance on and off screen – just the kind of romance cherished by adolescent girls, who of course are the ‘Twilight’ target audience. So Stewart took the advice well known to every star or politician facing a sex scandal since the days of Hugh Grant’s: get ahead of the story and keep moving.

This whole episode, of course, tells us nothing about the truth of the Stewart-Pattinson relationship, but it says a lot about celebrity culture and the absurdity of buying into “staged  reality,” whether it’s a publicity-friendly romance or the whole Kardashian family. For all we know the Stewart-Pattinson love affair might even be real. The point is: we don’t know. All we see is what they’ve played out in public.

And all the apology tells us is that Stewart wants to get this mess behind her long before that ‘Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2’ premiere in November.

This article is related to: Kristen Stewart, Kristen Stewart apology, Robert Pattinson, Twilight, Snow White and the Huntsman, Rupert Sanders, Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn, Us Weekly, People magazine

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