Why Kristen Stewart’s lucid queerness is perfect for ‘Charlie’s Angels’
Kristen Stewart officially joined the cast of the Elizabeth Banks-directed reboot of Charlie’s Angels in 2018 and she couldn’t be more perfect for the role. Stewart will be joined by Naomi Scott (who will next be seen in Disney’s upcoming Aladdin remake) and British newcomer Ella Balinska, with Banks also taking on the role as Bosley (the never-seen owner of the detective agency). The reboot drops in November.
The main trio make for a diverse reimagining of the iconic crime-fighters originally depicted by Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith, and Kate Jackson in the late 70s show and by Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, and Cameron Diaz in the early 00s movie reboot – but there’s an opportunity for Stewart to bring something impossibly fresh to the table in the role.
In recent years, the feminist star has shied away from mainstream Hollywood movies in favor of independent fare. In that time, she’s capably thrown off all the (frankly, undeserved) criticisms hurled upon her for starring in the much derided Twilight franchise by becoming one of the most extraordinary young actors currently working today.
But Stewart has done more than simply flex her impressive and adventurous capabilities as a performer – she’s pushed back against the parameters of what a female star should look, sound, and act like.
Openly queer with a penchant for androgyny, Stewart is unapologetically authentic to who she is off screen. She epeatedly breaks sexist dress code regulations and isn’t afraid to bite the hand that feeds her by calling Hollywood out for being “disgustingly sexist.” She’s a rabblerouser leading the charge for change in small ways that add up to a colossal influence.
That’s exactly the sort of Angel we want to see. It’s worth remembering that when the TV show was first released during the second wave of feminism, it was unfairly belittled as being little more than “Jiggle TV” based on the attractive female leads.
A moral panic was sweeping through the US that pornography was spreading out of the underground and hitting the mainstream, and Charlie’s Angels (with their bodacious looks and big brains) were bringing it into American homes and onto television sets (won’t somebody please think of the children!).
Fawcett once joked the success of the show was “because none of us wears a bra,” but actor Cheryl Ladd (part of the second cast lineup) argued the show was actually “inspirational to a lot of young women” because it was unlike anything else on TV at that time:
“There hadn’t been a show like this on the air (with) three powerful women who had the latest hairdos, wore the coolest clothes and could walk around in a bikini . . . Young women would write us and say, ‘I want to be like you. I want to be a cop when I grow up and taking chances to be something else other than the acceptable school teacher or secretary.’”
When the movie remakes landed in the early 00s, they took ownership of this sexuality, with Barrymore, Diaz, and Liu depicting the Angels as confident women in charge of how their bodies looked and how they were used – mostly for kicking some serious ass in a revolving set of often ludicrous (and sexy) outfits. They weren’t undermined because of their sexuality or femininity, but they also weren’t afraid to subvert norms either.
Barrymore depicted a tomboy character who we always thought came across as being at least a little queer, but sadly it was only in subtext.
At a time when the LGBTQI community is still clamoring for visibility in movies that goes beyond subtextual or dissatisfying virtue-signaling efforts, the new Charlie’s Angels reboot has an opportunity to give us an openly queer crime-fighter who defies Hollywood’s norms. If Stewart isn’t the woman for that role, we don’t know who is.
As well as being a captivating actor with a wide range, Stewart is also a visible advocate for queer authenticity, gender disruption, and seemingly effortless takedowns of outdated societal structures.
It’s uncertain what angle the new movie will take or what sort of character Stewart will take on. But judging by how carefully the actor chooses her roles, we’re inclined to believe (or at least hope) that her Angel might just be able to inspire a whole new generation of young women with a whole new crime-fighter to look up to.