For the past couple of weeks the tabloid press has crucified actress Kristen Stewart, star of the blockbust “Twilight” movies for kissing her "Snow White and the Huntsman" director, Rupert Sanders. Stewart had been in a relationship with her “Twilight” co-star Robert Pattinson and fans of the series were devastated by the cheating revelation.
While news of her indiscretion might have been a legitimate one-day story for the Hollywood press when it first happened, it certainly doesn’t fit the bill as a “matter of public concern,” that deserves extensive coverage.
Not only is the media’s continued replay of Stewart’s mistake making it almost impossible for her to make up for what she’s done, it is probably placing additional stress on Sander’s marriage and continuing to embarrass his wife.
It is also making it harder for Stewart’s boyfriend to take her back without feeling the continued sting of humiliation—if deep inside he’d like to give her a second chance.
In addition to being presumptively portrayed as a ruthless home-wrecker who targeted her male prey, the extensive reporting has been completely imbalanced because it places all of the blame on Stewart and none on Sanders.
Even Stewart has expressed surprise that Sanders has been essentially given what amounts to a hall pass by the media. Reports surfaced Thursday that Stewart has told people privately that she’s upset the media isn’t at least pointing out that Sanders was “in a position of power over her,” since he was her director, and presumably someone she could work for again.
There’s a very specific reason Stewart is taking all of the heat, however, and it’s because tabloid journalism has a formula of almost always blaming 'the other woman' whenever a major male celebrity has an affair or commits an act of cheating.
The tabloids have done their own studies based on week-to-week sales, which reveal that since most tabloid gossip readers are middle aged, married women, who prefer to read stories that blame the other woman instead of the cheating married man. That’s because these same readers are addicted to stories that target their own fears—and the idea of a younger woman coming along and stealing their own husband one day is a big one. And after reading about how awful someone else’s life is, they can breathe a sigh of relief and say to themselves, “Well, at least MY marriage isn’t THAT bad!”
In the Stewart/Sanders story, even some mainstream media outlets have adopted the tabloid formula and blamed the actress for everything.
A recent caption on an AOL News story literally blamed Stewart for “breaking up a marriage,” while the Huffington Post interviewed so-called ‘experts’ who said she actually—get this—made a “stupid” mistake by publicly apologizing for her indiscretion, thus committing “career suicide.”
At least Stewart is trying to take responsibility for what she did, which is more than this reporter can say for most people, celebrity or not.
The tabloid media persecution of Stewart will undoubtedly leave it’s mark on the young star as the tabs have done so many times to other public figures in the past.
Tabloid persecution does more than just destroy personal relationships and break the spirits of their victims. In the end, it leaves the humiliated victim with a feeling of powerlessness despite whatever stardom they have achieved. It diminishes their legitimate talents and positive accomplishments to nothing while emphasizing a single mistake a person has made throughout their life.
As Humphrey Bogart said in the 1951 classic, ‘Deadline U.S.A.’, “That’s the press baby. The press! And there’s nothing you can do about it. Nothing!”
With the upcoming release of "Breaking Dawn 2," the long anticipated final chapter of the ‘Twilight’ series, there is little chance that the media will let Stewart and Pattinson work this problem out on their own.
Under the First Amendment, Kristen Stewart’s love life may be fair game, but there’s something else reporters should consider when they toy with the life of a human being, and that is compassion and fair play. The continued coverage of this story may actually be changing the outcome of these people’s lives and making it worse when there could be a chance for all of them to move past this incident.
Tabloid journalists pointing the finger at a 22-year old woman for a mistake should remember that a kiss is just a kiss, and although sticks and stones may break bones, words… do permanent damage.
Jeffrey Scott Shapiro is an investigative journalist currently reporting on the Russian Federation.