Here and queer: Kristen Stewart’s groundbreaking genderfluidity
Whether it’s refusing to play by the rules of Cannes, making bold and unapologetic declarations about how she’s “totally gay” on Saturday Night Live, or building an eclectic career full of gutsy performances, Kristen Stewart is a true Hollywood renegade. While she’s rightfully celebrated for her captivating defiant nature and magnetic on-screen presence, Stewart should also be celebrated for continuously picking the most interesting queer, genderfluid roles (and projects) possible.
In an interview with the Cannes Film Festival this week, the actor and filmmaker disclosed her plans to write and direct an adaptation of Lidia Yuknavitch’s 2011 memoir The Chronology of Water. A personal story that traces the exploration of a young woman’s burgeoning bisexuality and the ways in which society challenges her attraction to both men & women, Stewart divulged she’s planning on writing “the best fucking female role” for the film.
I’m making the movie this summer but other than that, my only goal is just to finish the screenplay and hire a really spectacular actor . . . I’m going to write a role that I want so badly but that I’m not going to play.
The upcoming project reflect Stewart’s proclivity for exploring queer narratives but also her determination to delve into gender politics with her work and to elevate the sort of roles available to women. In the same interview, the actor also opened up about her attitudes towards gender in discussing her androgynous performance in Olivier Assayas’s Personal Shopper.
Presenting the idea she was blurring gender lines within the role in which she plays a young woman mourning the loss of her brother, Stewart agreed “it’s almost like she wants to be him in order to have him closer to her,” before revealing she’d be totally up for playing a male character in a film. “Gender is a bit of a myth if you ask me. Everyone’s individual relationship with gender is totally theirs to define. But I really think because of the flexibility inherent to gender, there’s room for all types of approach.”
Those who have followed Stewart’s developing career with a rapt fascination will already be aware of her compelling gender fluidity. For instance, in 2014 the star depicted a dude alongside Brie Larson (Captain Marvel) & Anne Hathaway (Colossal) in the music video for Jenny Lewis’s “Just One of the Guys”, while her performance as Joan Jett in the punk rock biopic The Runaways saw her embracing the androgyny of the musical icon who has straddled the boundaries between butch and femme for her entire dazzling career.
However, even her roles in films like the military drama Camp X-Ray, Assayas’s Clouds of Sils Maria, and stoner action comedy American Ultra see her adopting a gender fluidity on a more low key level. In all three the star adopts masculine or tomboy traits while still maintaining a soft femininity – not just with her look but with the choices she makes in her body language and gestures.
Stewart’s upcoming performances as fellow Hollywood rebel Jean Seberg in Against All Enemies and gender-punking literary hoaxer Savannah Koop in JT Leroy will further see the star cementing her position as an actor who pursues roles featuring a gender portrayal not often celebrated by the Hollywood mainstream.
As society continues to debate about the boundaries of gender and the apparent legitimacy of gender identities bypassing biological males or females, Stewart is well ahead of the curve in skipping such questions and jumping straight to the answer. The actor’s work embodies the rise of genderfluid identities and presents them as a norm, not an aberration up for debate.