Why the “Robsten” News Makes Us Sad

Here’s my Huffington Post take on the Kristen Stewart/Robert Pattinson imbroglio. This is not a snarky piece! I ‘m actually sad for them.

Background: my TIME.com editor killed this piece (It was supposed to be my column today) because I refused to do a ‘Why-do-we-blame-the-young-female-cheater-more-than-the-older-man-cheater?’ angle. Initially I agreed with her that there was a hint of Monica Lewinsky to this cheating episode. But then I realized come on, the Twilight fans are focusing on Kristen, not the unknown director, because she’s the highest paid actress in Hollywood and the fans love her and Pattinson as a couple. Of course they’re going to focus on her missteps, not the bland director guy’s. So I wrote a compassionate and pretty measured piece and… my editor killed it. Fortunately, however, HuffPo will take basically anything I send them! Voila…

Why the ‘Robsten’ Fail Makes Us Sad

Reality Bites. Fans reacted with predictable intensity to the news last week that Kristen Stewart was caught frolicking with her married 42-year-old director. Evidence that she had jilted her long-term boyfriend and co-star, Robert Pattinson, left some women suffering a grief response that appeared quirky, to say the least. The jaded press coverage has been equally one-note, with mockingdescriptions of distraught female fans taking to the streets in “sackcloth and ashes” and “a wave of hysteria not seen since Sigmund Freud set up shop in Vienna.”

But it’s not only the oddball Twilight fan base and rapacious press corps who find the story compelling. There’s something terribly poignant for everyone in this public and all-too-human drama.

The brazenness of the publicity-shy Stewart’s assignation in a public park caught the film world by surprise. Photos circulating both before and after the hookup suggested things were rock-solid in the “Robsten” household.

As Hollywood cheating scandals go, it’s a pedestrian one: No cultish mind control or prostitute-fueled benders, just a young actress — in thrall to her Svengali — who threw security to the wind and now lives to regret it. What made the story noteworthy — apart from the couple’s perch at the very top of the A-list — was the contrast with the actors’ long history of jealously-guarded privacy.

In this era of full disclosure, where celebrities like Beyoncé, Brad and Angelina, Alec Baldwin and Matthew McConnaughey are shilling their most intimate moments like car salesmen, there was something both touching and admirable about a young couple at the peak of fame so zealously protecting their relationship. They mostly kept to themselves, despite the chronic “gotcha” provocations and desperate “shippers” who wanted confirmatory evidence. We didn’t need couch-jumping TomKat antics to get the point. If their reticence occasionally seemed precious, their silence was also the greatest testament to their love.

It gave Stewart’s hastily announced public apology — which was immediately parsed for authorship and motivation — an aching authenticity that could only be the hallmark of youthful desperation: “I love him, I love him, I’m so sorry,” she doubly pleaded, apparently too late if reports of moving vans at their shared home are any clue. The wild breach of character actually gave some weight to her claim that it was all just a crazy mistake.

Whatever one thinks of cheating — and studies suggest a high degree of hypocrisy — it’s not hard to empathize with this couple; the coltish, Californian free spirit trying to mature under the glare of fame and the grateful middle class boy who brought his parents to Jay Leno gigs and carried British self-deprecation to Olympian heights. With their humor, good looks and, yes, talent, they seemed to embody both the extraordinary promise and the run of the mill quirks of youth. There was something lovable about their slouchy, goofy public appearances; the occasional stumbles (including the disproportionately harsh critique of their acting ability) only endeared them further to their fans and fueled the fantasy that what we were seeing onscreen — the promise of eternal love — could be echoed by real life.

But it was probably unfair to put such Herculean expectations on mere youthful mortals. (Stewart met Pattinson when she was 17.) In the reality-based world, youth is a major risk factor for the destruction of relationships. Harvard researcher Dana Rotz argues that increased age of marriage is the single biggest explanation for the dramatic decline in divorce over the last couple of decades. The interminable courtship of Prince William and Catherine Middleton seemed to confirm what most people already know: All things being equal, it’s a good idea to acquire experience and self-knowledge before committing to a lifetime partnership.

In fantasyland, things work a little differently. In the Twilight story, Pattinson’s Edward — older, more self-controlled — soldiers on with increasing masochism as the much younger Bella toys with (and kisses) another guy. Although omitted in the film version, Edward even offers his rival’s stud services so that his bride can experience motherhood without risking her life giving birth to a dangerous vampire hybrid.

In a later scene, he gamely fetches a bucket for his pregnant young wife while Jacob tenderly warms her body — something Edward can’t easily accomplish because of his cooler vampire temperature.

Pattinson had choice words for this tableau.

“Look, there are a lot of moments when Edward sort of acts like a p–y,” he joked. “Jacob’s like, ‘Hey, baby, you don’t look too bad to me, and I’m just sitting there with a bucket collecting [Bella's] vomit. That really wouldn’t happen. I should have thrown the vomit at him.”

Fair enough. But I can’t help rooting for these beautiful kids whose talent and money can’t insulate them from the slings and arrows of life.

About ErikaChristakis

Yale Lecturer in early childhood education/Licensed teacher/Former preschool director and Harvard College house master/some-time journalist. In possession of: unmarketable bachelor’s degree (Harvard, anthropology), semi-marketable graduate degrees (public health, education…). Rewarding career at the intersection of family, society, and schools (including long stint in parenting vortex). Forging a new path to connect all of the above.
This entry was posted in Entertainment/Pop culture, Huffingtonpost.com. Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Why the “Robsten” News Makes Us Sad

  1. Nicole says:

    Amen. Always enjoy your pieces. Insightful. Educated. Very in touch with what is actually going on instead of just the canned pop-culture response claiming all Twilight fans are idiots. Sad that mainstream media has become so biased they reject articles like this… Thank you for making sure it still got published… Helps to balance out some of the nonsense and trumped up stories we’re seeing everywhere else right now…

  2. Sue says:

    Erika, thank you. So glad your take on this unfortunate incident saw the light of day. I too hope that Rob and Kristen can get back together but it will take a long long time, if ever, I’m sorry to say. Rob was hurt very deeply and I’m sure Kristen is suffering her own hell. Praying I’m wrong. They are/were a beautiful couple and I believe most people fell in love with their love. Hopefully time will heal.

  3. Adriana says:

    My sentiments EXACTLY. This is precisely how I feel about this situation, excessive expectations were placed on a couple of kids that are still trying to figure out who they are. I’ve been shocked at the repercussions this story has had….ppl can’t seem to let it go. I feel bad for Kristen Stewart, yes, she made a huge mistake that has cost her a LOT, but hey it takes 2 to tango…she is not solely responsible for what happened, but she’s the bigger star and will pay for it alone. Time will tell and I will secretly root for these 2 to work things out, however they’re young and resilient and in terms of Hollywood they’ll be ok.

  4. Gracie says:

    Ah at last a nice article wishing two young people only the best. It is so nice that someone has demonstrated some compassion. If only others would follow.

  5. nina says:

    There was something endearing about them, even if the twilight movies sucked and I wanted to put a brush to their hair all the time. And god, if that girl doesn’t remind me of that one dumb girl at work who actually fell for our smarmy manager’s advances. But the apology was so embarrassing and unsaavy, even that was sadly endearing to. You hit it on the head why.

  6. imloco2 says:

    I love you Erika Christakis. With so much hate, sensationalism and greed, not to mention all the lies, it’s like a breath of fresh air to see someone understands that they were/are special. It’s just so sad…

  7. Thank you, great article that sums up what so many are feeling, well written.

  8. RLiving says:

    Kudos on your post! Since those two certainly haven’t ever played it according to the Hollywood norm, I’m hopeful they’ll be able to pave a new-improved (& private) path – either together or separate – when all the hysteria subsides. Thanks again.

  9. Sumner says:

    This was so elegantly and intelligent said, a rose among the sharpest thorns that are poised to slay the mortal girl who tried to be both Snow White and a vampire princess to a beloved Edward Cullen. I have to wonder many times why these two captured my attention, I’m a married mother for heaven’s sake! I would see the things that would pass between Kristen and Rob and I would remember the early days of passion and discovery- you could feel it between them and it made me happy to remember. Then there was all the hate that was slung at Kristen long before this and it angered me to see her slandered on a daily basis. The relationship brought out memories of young passionate love along with the need to stand up and protect Kristen. I hate that all those who said all of those horrible things about her before the scandal feel smugly justified now-not because they ‘won’ as they liked to believe but because they will always fail to see a young woman with so much pressure who cracked a little, but stopped, owned it and went on to repair. She will always be a rarity in Hollywood and I will always hope they will find their way back to each other.

  10. Classy says:

    Very well said. I wish for the both of them, and am still a big fan of the two. Together or seperate. I can not imagine going through so much pain with the world watching. We make mistakes and live and learn.

  11. femroc says:

    Hard to imagine what will happen with Rob/Kris but I would think he should stay away from her for a while………to think and reevaluate what he wants and what she wants. If they still want to be together after a good time apart………maybe it’s meant to be. I just feel bad for Rob having to endure all the publicity of this – I’m sure all this attention is just killing him. So embarrassing – moreso for a man to be cheated on………..women almost expect it nowadays – sadly……..but you don’t hear of men being cheated on that much. He probably feels pretty emasculated.
    But………..we still love him ……….even more and support him.

  12. Malorie says:

    Yes yes I have to agree on that rob and kristen have a lot invested, careers each other and fans that greatly appreciate their movies . So in light of what happen I hope rob and Kristen will has everything out , could only hope things will workout – I was 17 when I met husband , age wise we aw not far from each other like Rob and Kristen – best luck to them

  13. lily says:

    smart ,soft article ever.Remine me wonderful word from my late teacher:”there’s no laugh before sadness,there’s no rain before sunshine,there’s no dead before life”,sometimes we have to go through test in our life”.And i believe everyone of us will facing our own test in our own life.Now is Rob and Kristen turn,we never know when is ours.It’s hard to accept reality sometimes but hope them both handle it maturely.Maybe need sometimes for them or maybe for us who really happy to see them together.hope the best for everyone….

  14. Same sentiments and congrats to Erika on an intelligent, compassionate article. Like Sumner, I’m a mother/aunt of teenage to young adult kids who introduced me to Twilight, yet they had moved on to other things. But I’m still around (including Comicon TwiCamp/ panel) admiring the tenacity of Kristen & Rob; privacy and mutual love for each other. I am so sad for them.Though I truly want them together, I feel that Kristen needs to be single for a bit, discover her inner self, develop into more intelligent, mature woman,rise above the backlash; concentrate on work (not date, no distraction) so it may give her some perspective into the events in her life; and the endless opportunities awaiting her in the future. I hope that she will not be self-destructive; and not be clingy. That she will learn simplicity, class, loyalty, integrity and dignity. I think it was hero-worshipping of someone on an intellectual level (she had said she wanted to be a director), but then acted mindlessly (or to some, heartlessly). I do not condone the act committed; but we all need to move forward. Kristen: learn, rise above, and love yourself first so you can love others with much respect and integrity. Rob will be OK. He’s intelligent, caring, true to himself and will carry on (albeit hurting a while). I will always hope that they become friends and Kristen gain back Rob’s trust, even just as a friend. Maybe, then, he (or they) will fall in love all over again. i also would like to thank the people who commented on this article – many of you showed compassion, kindness, and are non-judgmental. Such a breath of fresh air.

    • Yes, I agree that the commenters are very thoughtful and full of empathy. I’m very grateful and touched by how much compassion people have even for those – like famous rich people – we don’t know. It’s an amazing contrast to some (not all) of the feedback I received this past week about my TIME.com column on men and violence, where I felt that some of the commenters (not all, of course) were almost deliberately choosing to create misunderstanding and bitterness.

      Many thanks!

  15. tyderium says:

    I’m disappointed in Time for favoring the well-trodden path over a unique and touching story. Their loss. The Twilight franchise and its stars have long been the victims of lazy journalism – condescension, obvious jokes and cheap shots. Respect has been reserved only for the saga’s profitability. The most persistent misconception is that the machine is teen-driven. On the contrary, females – and males – of all ages make up a formidable fanbase, and a lot of this is due to the genuineness of its two leads. They were so clearly not playing the Hollywood game of polished images and pre-packaged spiels. Kristen refused to fake any love for the spotlight. Rob gave serious thought to interviewers’ questions, while simultaneously charming everyone with his unfiltered and often hilarious comments. They could do glamour better than anyone but only in service of their work. Otherwise, they dressed like hobos, shunned media attention and shared a palpable joy in each other’s company. Most of all they refused to “sell” their relationship. After social media allowed us to witness this for three long years, Kristen’s conduct truly came as a shock, an aberration, that left many feeling very sad for them. Yes, there is a story there, but it’s not the cliché Time wanted it to be.

  16. Adult Fan says:

    Well written piece of the past week. Like most stated here, I found your words poignant, your review very accurate and can only hope now that the healing process will begin for everyone, particularly Rob and Kristen. In terms of the reaction, I always felt that the pressure these two were under by fans (especially) was unrealistic to maintain. We knew too much, followed too closely, relentless in our love for seeing them, witnessing it and invading their privacy. I am a late bloomer Pattinson fan, who grew to understand quickly what the machine was all about. His connection to Stewart made me understand her better. I believe fans being so ingrained in their relationship felt like she cheated on them not just Rob. Our relationship with them became too unhealthy. When the news first broke, I refused to believe she could do something so deplorable, but she’s human and we error. But fans couldn’t let go of the fantasy that these are real people that will have issues. But as a fan, I understood that they were mad at the trust in her words all those years and they couldnt find a connection to her actions. She had strong convictions, and this affair, a need for this male attention, new found sexy demeanor, fashion interest, big new movie… I think she just caught up in herself, her hype and acted in a way that was counter to herself. Yet, unlike most, I think they need to split permanently. She needs to grow up, gain new experiences and find her identity. He needs to heal, focus on his own career and becoming the acclaimed talent that he so truly desires. If they ever make it back together, years from now, I hope its under a whole new outlook, each stronger and wiser. Everyone keeps saying what a great loving guy he is and how could she to a guy who loved her so. Well for me the answer is you have to love yourself first, and appreciate that love because it doesnt come easily. And maybe she didn’t appreciate how good she had it. Easy as that. Maybe Rob had on blinders to see while he was hopelessly in love, she was still finding herself. Thanks again for your wise words.

  17. Rob's own jaded past says:

    He’s been cheating since the start. He hooked up with Megan Fox AFTER the Twilight premiere in Tokyo when he first got together with Kristen. He was sleeping with Nikki Reed at the start of New Moon filming and Ashley Greene all throughout. He hooked up with that Erika Dutra chick in Cannes that year and Camilla Belle in NYC when she went to visit him there during Remember Me filming. There were rumors of him and Emilie de Ravin having and on-set fling that same summer during filming. He was cheating with Ashley Greene again during Eclipse filming that fall while Kristen was on set. There were the rumors of him leaving Leighton Meester’s apartment in NYC early the next year. He cheated with some burlesque dancer Caroline Jones during Bel Ami filming in London causing him to be late for Eclipse reshoots and also his co-star Natalia Tena who he’d already had a history with before too. He cheated with Lindsay Lohan during Water for Elephants filming in LA that summer at Las Palmas and was photographed poolside with a bartender from Saddleranch crawling all over this lap poolside at a hotel that July after Kristen had already left for Montreal to being On the Road filming. There were rumors that he was going to co ke parties in Malibu and hooking up with sk anks like Teresa Palmer all that summer too. He was supposedly hooking up with Maggie Grace during Breaking Dawn filming while they were back in Vancouver spotted in her hotel while Kristen was back in LA. There was the Russian model Ana Colja who was interviewed saying how she’d been ‘close’ with Rob since attending the Oscars with him years back and they still saw each other all the time, hinting at a sexual relationship between the two. He was said to have been hooking up with his director David Cronenberg’s youngest daughter Caitlin during Cosmopolis filming that summer, hitting lots of late night hot spots and parties, spreading their DNA all over Toronto together. He was hooking up with LA bar sk anks like that Shea Marie chick who tweeted she shared “Jameson and Gingers” with him at Jimmy Fallon’s Emmy after-party and went back to Rob’s house to hang out following. There were all the bars he was hitting in LA closing them down at 3-4am every night while Kristen was busy in London filming Snow White and the Huntsman, girls tweeting about sharing drinks and cigarettes with him on the patio and flirting with him. He only visited Kristen one time during filming and not again until the very end after they finished their international promo tour for Breaking Dawn 1. There were the Sarah Roemer hook up rumors that she went home with him from Soho House after they’d been partying with friends all night there and at La Poubelle. There were the Katy Perry texting stories that he’d been trying to console and hook up with her after her break up with Russel Brand–something that Kristen completely covered for him for I might add. There were the Lindsay Lohan cheating rumors AGAIN after that (didn’t believe those were true though. Some of this sh it is going to come to light and it’s going to bite Rob in the azz if he dumps Kristen for this thing with her director. This is not going to go away and it’s going to get worse for him before it gets better. If he forgives he and takes her back (at least publicly) he might be able to avoid the backlash. Otherwise they’re going to start coming out of the woodwork against him and it’s going to be Tiger Woods all over again. She’s the one who got caught, but he’s been doing it for a long long LONG time before this. While none of these rumors of him hooking up with other woman has been 100% proven WITH PICTURES (because there have been multiple sightings by fans and others of him with these and other women), he’s only gotten a free pass on all this so far because Kristen has always stuck by him through it all and looked the other way despite the constant cheating talk about him. This is not going to go away if he dumps her. He’s going to reap a huge backlash so he’d better think wisely before condeming her for something that he’s done since the beginning of their ‘relationship.’ She’s not the only guilty party here. If he wants to keep this all under wraps and out of the mainstream media (as in not just in the comments section on gossip sites), then he’d better be careful. Kristen was stupid with how she handled her affair. Will Rob be smarter than she was? We shall see.

  18. Py says:

    It ‘s a pleasure to meet writers as you, delicate, soft , right, honest on this situation.
    Two inlove young boys in a dream fall in real life .
    From today i’ll read you , sure ,from my Italy.
    By Py

  19. Emma says:

    You should also wright about that kristen shouldnt get al the blame. There is two parts to every cheating story. Rubert should get the blame to.. And like most people has relize, beside you then. Is that he is an azhole. Who cheated with an 22 old, used her and took advanted of her. He is the one who was married, having kids. He ruined his family.

  20. etaber says:

    Finally something worth reading about this whole situation, beautifully written Erika, thank you. I dont often comment but was so taken with the heartfelt intelligent comments, lovely to see commenters showing empathy after all the hatred and vile that has been written. To Kristen and Rob I hope you are both surrounded by those who love and care for you and that you are given the privacy to find your way through this.

  21. andrea says:

    Thank you!!

    I hope Kristen can be read it… it´s crazy see a lot of haters in the world.

    I hope Rob can forgive her, she did the biggest mistake of her life, she lost her 3 years lovers, I think if really Rob love he can forgive her.

  22. Great post. This really resonated with me: But it was probably unfair to put such Herculean expectations on mere youthful mortals. (Stewart met Pattinson when she was 17.) In the reality-based world, youth is a major risk factor for the destruction of relationships.

  23. K.White says:

    Thank you for this delicately written piece … it does a wonderful job of refreshing the computer screen with all of the happy reasons that anyone is ever drawn to romance and the hopes of young love. Still, I must say that your piece retains its delicacy because, in keeping with the fairy tale metaphors spun out by the ‘Twilight’ franchise, the thorny rose that prickles us is not the tragic heartache between two movie stars. It’s the hideousness of adultery and it’s likely fallout upon two young children. It’s one thing to be a 20-something starlet and to have one’s head turned by another lover. That’s Kristen’s (and Rob’s) prerogative albeit a bummer for fans and producers. What completely sours in this *tale* is what it ultimately reveals about the young woman who wore the crown of our ‘Twilight’ fantasies. Of all the other men in the kingdom that she might have chosen, she chose a husband, a father to be her lover. It’s at this precise and ugly fissure where the mirror cracks that we can summon something of far greater value than empathy for ‘these beautiful kids whose talent and money can’t insulate them from the slings and arrows of life’. We’re all adults here, and any of us can unplug from this distasteful nightmare. But those “heavenly” Sanders children, how well do they sleep tonight? Their wicked witch has a name, and neither the media nor an over-involved fan base did that.

  24. Marie says:

    Nicely said. There’s been so much vitriol leveled at Kristen for a mistake she’s obviously paying for, moreso than the dirty director, Rupert Sanders. There’s probably enough blame to go around but it’s not our place to decide where it goes. It’s up to the principals involved. And I do hope that Robert and Kristen are given the time and space to work through this. It’s got to be hard enough without all the media attention.

  25. Cathi Carol says:

    1. Interesting last paragraph, that Pattinson quote. No offense, I don’t know him, but I know the type of (wrong) thinking. If he’s that immature and self-involved, I can see why Stewart sought another experience. That doesn’t mean she didn’t love him. He, however, seems not to know what love is – or how it should be expressed.

    A more mature man might have seen the cheating of the other as a motivator to examine and possibly improve his own behavior and reaffirm his own commitment. Kind of pie in the sky, but many very smart men are capable of this.

    Too many men are taught by society that any true love and empathy shown to the partner, any respect, any lack of selfish jealousy or controlling violence toward a partner is p–y-like. Such wrong thinking harms themselves, their partners, and everyone else. Not only should good manners be taught in school, but the meaning and actions of loving behavior.

    2. I read the “hypocrisy” article, and based on this reading alone I think the authors of the study made mistakes in their conclusions because they missed so many important determining factors for the behavior they were trying to parse. (This happens a lot both in science and psychology research – remember that the majority of research studies are wrong).

    A most important missing issue is the religious factor. People who depend on religion, or any external motivator, to give them their morals care less about their “morality” than when it is internally generated through experience or from early internalization due to good role modeling/teaching.

    Empathy levels also should have been correlated to behavior, regardless of stated beliefs. Empathy is a very important factor in behavior. Strong empathy correlates to good behavior in oneself and a rejection of bad behavior, regardless of what a person has been taught or shown by others as exemplary.

    Forget “rewards and punishments”, schools. Teach good behavior. Teach good relationships. Teach good manners. Teach courage. Teach empathy. Teach love.

    Parents aren’t doing this enough, obviously, and culture is teaching young men and women the wrong lessons about relationships. I believe that standardizing in the curriculum the type of “home” psychology that teaches good behavior, loving behavior, helpful behavior could help.

  26. Sunny C (@sunnysnark) says:

    I’m late to reply, but wanted to say how much I enjoyed this piece. You really nailed it, and how typical of Time to pass on this. (Another example of out of touch editors?)

    I only just now read it because, with an embarrassed cough, I was too sad to acknowledge the situation. Silly, maybe, compassionate, for sure.. Like others in the comments, I’m not the typical,Twi-fan tween, but a mother of kids the same age as R & K. I wish for them and my kids the same thing as they too fall in and out of love – to do so with grace, compassion and with kindness to their partners. This is the least true fans and admirers of these two actors should do, too.

  27. Londrica says:

    Hope they would meet.

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