"Oh shit, I'm in trouble now."
Kristen Stewart, as we have previously established, is great. In part, she is great because she is fairly unvarnished; in this era of cultivated and micromanaged Disney stars, it's great to hear from her because she doesn't appear to have a giant press-management-industrial-complex clanking behind her at all times (which is all the more remarkable given that she's under contract with Summit Entertainment, which is basically run by Darth Vader and Lou Pearlman). But there is a reason that pure beings like K. Stew don't last very long: we can't deal with them. By we, I don't mean you and me. I mean the rest of America. We find some way to destroy them, some way to squeeze them back into the molds we find acceptable. And they can't be contained by those molds! They get crushed.
So in an interview with Elle, Kristen Stewart likened the intrusive nature of the paparazzi to rape. Even out of context, it doesn't take an idiot to see that she did not mean "being followed by the paparazzi is exactly like rape, it is of the exact same magnitude and is exactly as bad as actually getting raped," but that seems to be how some people have taken her comments.
FOX News has the story that several groups are now criticizing Stewart for her comments. If you want to see a little bit of authorial bias in action, note that the specific groups don't get mentioned until the seventh paragraph. Until then Stewart is being condemned by a kind of amorphous Everyone, which is a great way to condemn Stewart yourself if you are an intrepid and judgmental reporter at Fox News. Similarly:
It sure takes that sentiment a long time to get attributed to somebody, doesn't it? I understand that part of this is politics. A celebrity mentions rape and every non-profit director tries to get quoted in a story to increase visibility; this is half of the reason most groups ever get offended about anything. That isn't to say that rape activists don't do important work. But it's a tough gamble, playing this game. When PETA gets angry about Obama killing a fly they increase their visibility but lose credibility. It almost seems like the American desire to get famous for something, anything has even bled into organizations of people. It takes root in collective consciousness.
Kristen Stewart is probably going to have to apologize, which is dumb. Rape is a serious crime; such a serious crime that basically nothing anyone can ever say ever will diminish its seriousness to anyone. Stewart's apology, if it happens, will just feed into this unfortunate fake-outrage trend and will generally strike a blow for freedom of colorful speech. Not that I think she should stand strong; Kristen Stewart doesn't have to champion the cause of being allowed to make rape analogies for me to respect her. It's just as much a waste of time to defend it as it to attack it in the first place.
I understand on some level that there is a measure of hypocrisy to me talking about this, since in the past I have mocked at length the right wing trend of comparing things to Hitler. Obviously those right wingers don't mean that Obama is exactly like Hitler, that his actions are of equal magnitude. The major difference is that these people endlessly compare things to Hitler; see Lewis Black's Daily Show piece about how Glenn Beck has Nazi Tourette's. There's also a more subtle rhetorical difference in that their rhetoric is designed to force associations between Obama and Hitler to feed and flavor general discontent, to channel it in a specific direction. That is not what Kristen Stewart is doing. But you probably already knew that.
I would also like to tell Margaret Lazarus of rapels.org to make sure she understands the context of a quote before stepping in front of a microphone:
“Rape is a violation in which one has no choice. A star seeking publicity has choices,” Lazarus told Fox411.com. “Although rape involves loss of privacy, loss of privacy does not constitute rape. Let's use a little logical thinking here.”
This is first of all based on a kind of realpolitik understanding of Hollywood and publicity as part and parcel to the art form of acting, which is true but still kind of unfair. "A star seeking publicity," doesn't exactly conjure the warmest image in your mind, does it? It's not like Summit forced Elle to interview Stewart, either. The magazine has as much to gain as anyone else, if not more. But Stewart was talking more about the aggressive and rude behavior of the photographers, the nightmare of avoiding them. And when we talk about Kristen Stewart we're not talking about avoiding them on the way to a club, we're talking about avoiding them by not walking near the windows in your house. Lazarus would be right in any other situation. She still is sort of right. But less right than she could be.