Monday, June 18, 2012

Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Blandest of them All?

Welcome guest blogger Logan Belle.

I’m surprised by how many people in the Twittersphere slammed Kristen Stewart’s performance in Snow White and the Huntsman.  Conversely, I’m not surprised by how many people criticize the writing in Fifty Shades of Grey. But regardless of their detractors, both K Stew and the Fifty Shades trilogy work – and they work for the same reasons.

Kristen Stewart’s critics say that her ‘acting’ is just the same limited repertoire of facial expressions she employed  throughout the Twilight movies. But this is exactly why Kristen Stewart works in these films: she doesn’t have to be Meryl Steep. In fact, in Snow White and the Huntsman, a spirited, consuming performance like Charlize Theron’s evil Queen would never have worked in the Snow White role; it’s Kristen Stewart’s blandness that allows us, the viewer, to project ourselves onto her as the heroine.  And it’s not just her generic performances that make her the perfect canvas for viewers; even in interviews she barely says anything personal or distinctive, and therefore when we see her in films, our suspension of disbelief is never broken. She is Snow White, she is Bella – because we don’t see much personality in Kristen Stewart.

This is one of the reasons why the novel Fifty Shades of Grey is such a runaway hit, even though it does not feature the best writing or the most compelling heroine. Its simplicity, its mere serviceability, lets readers put themselves into the fantasy. I didn’t come up with this theory myself; the renowned psychologist Bruno Bettelheim  wrote about this in his book The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales.

So writers, take note: We don’t have to like Kristen Stewart or Fifty Shades of Grey --  or a lot of things that are hugely popular. But we do need to try to understand their success as we pursue our own.

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Logan Belle is the author of the erotic romance trilogy Blue Angel, published by Kensington. Her next novel, The Librarian, will be published this fall by Simon & Schuster.  You can follow her at loganbelle.tumblr.com and at www.loganbelle.com.

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