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A Conversation with Melissa Rosenberg - Writer of the Twilight Series

Women and Hollywood By Melissa Silverstein | Women and Hollywood November 20, 2012 at 2:00PM

I had the opportunity to speak with the hugely successful and very interesting screenwriter and TV writer Melissa Rosenberg last week while she was on the set of her new show Red Widow. 
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WaH: Going back to Twilight for a second, I watched a lot of the craziness unfolding this summer with Kristen Stewart and thought people were incredibly hard on her. And I’m wondering if you had any thoughts being a woman in Hollywood why we are so hard on our women.

MR: Well, I mean, I’ll take it one step broader, they’re extremely hard on Twilight.  When you start to read the criticism of Twilight it’s just vitriol, it’s intense, the contempt.  From critics both men and women. And it’s interesting, you know, there’s a Harvard professor, who wrote an article after the Breaking Dawn called “The Bigotry of Hating Twilight,” and it was very interesting to me.  We’ve seen more than our fair share of bad action movies, bad movies geared toward men or 13-year old boys. And you know, the reviews are like okay that was crappy, but a fun ride. But no one says “Oh my god. If you go to see this movie you’re a complete fucking idiot.”  And that’s the tone, that is the tone with which people attack Twilight.

WaH: I write about that all the time the double standard.

MR: Good. I’m so glad. It’s an incredible double standard. I’m not saying that Twilight is, you know, some brilliant Oscar-winner, it’s not Dr. Zhivago. It’s not trying to be. Because it is a female fantasy. I would argue that it’s actually a universal fantasy.  Which is, the fantasy being to be loved and cherished for exactly who you are. And that I would say is both male and female, but women are drawn to it.

WaH: And also I think that guys don't like women treading on their space.

MR: Right. It’s also because it’s female it’s worthy of contempt. Because it feels female, it is less than.  And that is simply a reflection of our society. That’s not relegated to just movies. That’s just a reflection of why we have so few senators and why we haven’t had a female president yet. It’s reflected all over in board rooms...

WaH: I’m on the same page as you are on this. I did really try to take on this double standard of Kristen and how women are treated on those kinds of issues and what happened was that people who are in the Twilight universe lost their marbles over this. Not even the people who don’t like Twilight but it was people who love Twilight who really felt like she had betrayed them. And I found that very—

MR: Like the Scarlet Letter.

WaH: Yeah. And I just don’t know if you have any opinion on that.

MR:  If it was the other way around, and it was Rob who had cheated on Kristen, it would have been “Oh, he’s a bad boy.”  Poor Kristen. And then he would have gone on to be loved because he’s such a sexy guy. But with a woman, I mean, she’s a whore. And that is where they go with it. It is a archetype, you know. And women tend to be categorized as Madonnas or whores.

WaH: It’s incredibly sexist.

MR: Yeah.

WaH: And it came from a lot of women, too. They like—they attacked me for even defending her.

MR: It’s mostly women who are throwing those criticisms. Here’s the bottom line. She's a kid. She made a mistake. And if she were a man she would be chastised. But what are you gonna do.

WaH: So you’re back doing TV now.  What’s the difference between working in TV versus film?

MR: Oh it’s an enormous difference. First of all, I’m running the show. I’m producing it. I didn’t produce Twilight, I was just a writer on that. For Red Widow every decision comes back to me. From the eyelashes to the hairspray to the shoes to the edit. I’m in control of the creative vision. And it is a writer’s dream to really, really shepherd your vision. And TV’s really the only place the writers get the opportunity to do that.  In features I’ll work collaboratively with the studio and producers and Stephenie on the script.  And that is what it is. I fortunately had really great producers.  But now I get to have my hands all over this.

WaH: I saw that you established a scholarship at Bennington talk a little bit about what that means for you to be able to be philanthropic with your success.

MR: It’s one of the things I love most about what Twilight has brought me.  I finally am in a position to turn around and help others and lift up other women writers.  I am involved with Write Girl, which is such a great organization, because they go into inner city schools and work with underprivileged girls to pair them up with other writers. And it gets them learning to express themselves and become familiar with their own voice.  They have a 100% success ratio getting those girls into college. 100%. And that is all because they’re being mentored by these people and guided. So that’s a whole crop of young women going out into the world that are going to contribute. And I just had such and amazing experience there that I want everyone to be able to have access to that place. It’s just like I feel so blessed by my own good fortune and it is actually really, really gratifying.  I mentor a lot of young women writers and seeing them work their way up the chain in Hollywood is really exciting.

And that is one of the most exciting moments ever, throughout the Twilight thing is when I’m with the fans and maybe one 12 or 13 year old girl will be like, “I want to do exactly what you do, “I wanna be a writer.” I’m like, “Oh my god! That is huge!”  That is what I want for people to be like “Hey, one woman made it. You can, too.”

This article is related to: Twilight, Melissa Rosenberg, showrunner, Women Writers, Red Widow, Kristen Stewart


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