Witch Hunt

The Affair Witch Hunt: Leave Kristen Stewart Alone!

The reaction to ‘Twilight’ star Kristen Stewart’s affair with her director is akin to an outrageous witch hunt, says Marlow Stern.

Ian Gavan / Getty Images

From the moment Kristen Stewart landed the coveted role of Bella Swan, the virginal obsession of emo vampire Edward Cullen in the film adaptation of Twilight, the press—and I use that term very loosely here—had cast her in another, decidedly less appetizing role: ungrateful diva-in-training.

Whether it’s the character of Bella, with her eternally furrowed brow and “woe is me” mentality, or Stewart’s perceived laissez-faire attitude off screen—despite being the highest paid actress in Hollywood—that sicced the dogs on her is anyone’s guess. But for whatever reason, the young actress—she’s only 22, for chrissakes!—would often find herself being raked over the coals for even the most trivial of indiscretions, including flipping the bird at ravenous paparazzi or occasionally mumbling through interviews. When she delivered a subtle eye-roll after a reporter asked her an asinine question once, gossip blogger Perez Hilton—who has been particularly predatory toward Stewart—linked to a clip of the interview under the headline, “Reason #8,547,833 We Hate Kristen Stewart!”

Now, with the "kiss seen ‘round the world," Stewart has given her legions of snarky detractor’s actual ammunition. As a result, the Stewart-lash has reached heretofore unforeseen levels of insanity. Stewart recently was snapped making out with her 41-year-old Snow White and the Huntsman director, Rupert Sanders, by a prying paparazzo’s telephoto lens. You see, this is a huge deal, apparently, because Stewart has been dating her well-coiffed Twilight co-star, Robert Pattinson, since the first film’s press tour, and Sanders is not only married to model Liberty Ross, but the couple has two young children. The embarrassing pictures of the illicit smooches were then splashed on the cover of Us Weekly, forcing both Stewart and Sanders to issue public apologies.

“I'm deeply sorry for the hurt and embarrassment I've caused to those close to me and everyone this has affected. This momentary indiscretion has jeopardized the most important thing in my life, the person I love and respect the most, Rob. I love him, I love him, I'm so sorry," Stewart said on Wednesday in a statement to People. “I am utterly distraught about the pain I have caused my family,” Sanders told People shortly thereafter. “My beautiful wife and heavenly children are all I have in this world. I love them with all my heart. I am praying that we can get through this together.”

And, as if this whole ordeal hadn’t been played out in the public enough, HollywoodLife.com alleges that Ross’s Instagram account appeared to post a photo Thursday morning depicting Snow White drinking and crying, with the caption, “Not so pretty or so pure after all …”

According to People, Pattinson, 26, has packed up his belongings and left the home he has been sharing with Stewart. As for Stewart, she’s been labeled a harlot and has, by most accounts, received the bulk of the blame from the tabloid vultures and the masses. She’s even been receiving a litany of death threats over Twitter—all this despite the fact that she’s unmarried and only 22, compared with her director, who’s 19 years her senior and a married father of two. Hell, Perez Hilton has even jumped to the conclusion that Stewart tried to “sweeten” Sanders’s kids up by taking them out to ice cream during the promotional tour for Huntsman.

In the wake of the admissions of guilt, there’s been heated debate as to whether Stewart even had to issue a public apology. But the bigger question is this: why is Stewart receiving most of the blame? She certainly isn’t the first actress to (possibly) have been seduced by an older director on set—and very publicly crucified for it.

In 1949, Ingrid Bergman, 34, was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, having lit up the silver screen in classics like Casablanca, Gaslight, and Notorious. Tired of working under the harsh rules of the studio system—which, back in those days, treated actresses like pieces of meat—she wrote a letter to Italian neorealist filmmaker Roberto Rossellini, praising his oeuvre, and expressing her desire to work with him in the future. She subsequently was cast in his film, Stromboli (1950), and, according to the book An Affair to Remember: The Greatest Love Stories of All-Time, from the moment she stepped off her plane Rossellini showered praise and gifts upon her, greeting her on the tarmac with a huge bouquet. Rossellini whisked her off to one lavish party after another while the film was in pre-production, with Bergman later writing, “Roberto … put little gifts everywhere. I was simply overwhelmed.” Bergman eventually broke down and gave in to Rossellini’s hot pursuit, and the two began a steamy affair. Shortly after, Bergman became pregnant with their son, Renato Roberto Ranaldo Giusto Giuseppe Rossellini. The child was born on Feb. 2, 1950.

This would have been the beginning of a storybook romance, had Bergman not already been married to a much older dentist, Petter Lindström, with whom she had a daughter, Pia. Their marriage was, by all accounts, loveless. According to a Life magazine article published at the time, “the doctor regards himself as the undisputed head of the family, an idea that Ingrid accepts cheerfully” (the last part was, as Bergman later confessed, not the case).

The affair caused a huge scandal stateside, with the bulk of the vitriol directed at Bergman. RKO, the studio distributing Stromboli, took advantage of the free publicity, releasing the film with the tagline: Raging Passions ... This is it! ... Bergman under the inspired direction of Rossellini.' But the most shocking blow came on March 14, 1950. According to David Thomson’s biography, Ingrid Bergman, Sen. Edwin C. Johnson (D-Colo.) took to the floor of the U.S. Senate and delivered a bizarre rant against the actress, labeling her a “free-love cultist,” “powerful influence for evil,” and claiming she “had perpetrated an assault upon the institution of marriage.” He also called for the licensing of directors and film actors, so that movie permits could be revoked if they were found guilty of “moral turpitude.”

Bergman was later disinvited from The Ed Sullivan Show. However, she was accepted on Steve Allen’s talk show, with the host later defending his decision to have her on by acknowledging “the danger of trying to judge artistic activity through the prism of one's personal life.”

According to the biography Notorious: The Life of Ingrid Bergman, the actress later explained, “People saw me in Joan of Arc and declared me a saint. I'm not. I'm just a woman, another human being.”

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Due to the backlash, Bergman fled the United States for Italy, where she later divorced Lindström and married Rossellini. In 1952 the couple had twin daughters: Isabella Rossellini, the well-known actress, and Isotta Ingrid Rossellini, a literature professor.

The drama eventually subsided, and Johnson’s outrageous licensing plan was never administered. And the moviegoing public eventually forgave Bergman when, in 1956, she was awarded the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in Anastasia. Since Bergman was away filming in Paris during the ceremony, the award was accepted on her behalf by her Notorious co-star Cary Grant. “Dear Ingrid, if you can hear me or see this, I want you to know we all send you our love and admiration,” said Grant. When Bergman watched the telecast from the bathtub of her Parisian hotel room, she allegedly sobbed.

If the Bergman shitstorm has taught us anything, it’s that film stars are people too, and they don’t owe the public an apology, while we, in turn, shouldn’t tear them apart for their human indiscretions. Hopefully, Kristen Stewart rebounds in a similar fashion.

Time, after all, is on her side.