Generation Why: Kristen Stewart is a better actor than you know

The Blade
The Blade

As a Millennial film fan, I think it’s time we talk about Kristen Stewart.

Since I’m a movie person, I was following the news of the 2021 Venice Film Festival closely a few weeks back. There were a lot of promising movies that were screened. Dune looks amazing, The Lost Daughter seems like a promising debut for Maggie Gyllenhaal as a writer/director, and The Power of the Dog has early best picture buzz.

But the one I’m most excited about was a film that got a five minute-long standing ovation for the power house lead performance: Spencer , starring the one and only Stewart as Princess Diana.

When news broke of the film’s reception, it was met by skepticism at best and disbelief at worst. How was Kristen Stewart, star of the reviled Twilight franchise and famous for her poor acting skills, now the far and away favorite for best actress? Oh, the humanity!

For those of us in the know – anyone who didn’t write off an actor based on one film series – this film debut response comes as no surprise. Stewart has been a fabulous actor for her entire career and has more recently gotten plenty of well-deserved recognition. She’s one of only two American actors to win a Cesar award – the French equivalent of an Oscar – and was the first American actress to be nominated for the award in three decades when she won for her role in Clouds of Sils Maria .

She was shortlisted for a best supporting actress nomination for her role in Still Alice . Plus her performances in films like Personal Shopper, Seberg , and even in lighter fare like Happiest Season prove that she is immensely talented with a fabulous career ahead of her. So why did it seem like the whole of society was floored when everyone sang her praises for her star turn as the people’s princess?

Probably because if it’s made by women for women (especially young women), it’s reviled. I’ve written about this before – specifically related to pumpkin spice lattes and much of the rest of things young women have come to call our own – but it’s an attitude that’s hung over Stewart’s entire career.

The truth is, while the Twilight movies aren’t great films, their biggest crime was being made for young women. The first movie of the franchise was directed by a woman, and the books were written by a woman for young women. For this, Kristen Stewart is despised. The Transformers movies are unquestionably bad, but Shia LaBeouf enjoyed a good reputation as an actor in spite of his participation in those films because things made for men are seen as more valid, more worthwhile, than things made for women.

There will surely be plenty of shock from the skeptics this awards season as Stewart racks up nomination after nomination, but for those of us in the know – including us Millennial women and film fans – it will come as no surprise that she gets her due. And who knows, maybe the recognition of Stewart’s skill will wake up some of the skeptics and help them embrace some things they glossed over before. Whether it’s Twilight or a pumpkin spiced latte, I can bet it’ll be pretty fun either way.

Kate Mitchell is a freelance journalist. You can follow her on twitter @KMitchWrites and reach her at

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