You guys? Something strange is happening to me. Something strange, and shameful, and wrong. Something I have tried to keep secret, knowing as I do that you would no longer be able to respect me, should you find out. But it is too much! I cannot keep the secret any longer!
I… I think I like Robert Pattinson now.
I KNOW! IT’S TERRIBLE! He is in the Twilight movies, and those are the goofiest. And yet!
“When you read the book.. it’s like, ‘Edward Cullen was so beautiful I creamed myself.’ I mean, every line is like that. He’s the most ridiculous person who’s so amazing at everything. I think a lot of actors tried to play that aspect. I just couldn’t do that. And the more I read the script, the more I hated this guy, so that’s how I played him, as a manic-depressive who hates himself.”
– A Thing Robert Pattinson Said.
Also he is the worst actor in the history of filmed entertainment. The main point of watching blockbuster entertainment film Twilight is laughing at Robert Pattinson’s patented (Pattinted? NO) Trying Not To Fart Face. Which he makes, constantly. And also, watching him try to sell the line “this is the skin of a killer” whilst sparkling wildly, which: I’m not sure there was a way to make that good, exactly, but we will never know, because we got the Robert Pattinson version. I will stack Robert Pattinson, acting-wise, against any given moment in The Room. And yet!
I said to my manager, ‘I can’t do that thing where someone comes up behind you and you look scared’. And he said, ‘What? Acting?’. And I was like, ‘That’s it! I can’t do that!’
– Another Thing Robert Pattinson Said.
And, of course, the final and most degrading aspect of liking Robert Pattinson – as a dude, or I guess as a collection of quotes from interviews, since I have no idea what he is like outside of that setting – is the fact that lots of people “like” Robert Pattinson on the basis that they find him physically attractive (WHAT? His face is SO WEIRD, you guys, COME ON) and they want him in their panties. And that makes me feel kind of icky. Not only do I not find him attractive (again: that is a WEIRD, WEIRD FACE on him), I don’t want to ever have anything even slightly in common with those people. Madness that way lies. Or, more specifically, freezing your dildo, which is probably worse.*
Robert Pattinson talks shit about the projects he is in. Robert Pattinson is honest about the fact that he is not the best actor. And Robert Pattinson’s main source of employment is facilitating his own objectification, which he does, but also complains about all the time. Robert Pattinson is… Megan Fox, basically! But, you know. A man version.
But the issue of Our Cultural Discomfort With Objectifying Robert Pattinson, which is a very important phenomenon that I just made up and decided that we should focus on, is perhaps best illuminated by how different it is from our generalized Cultural Discomfort with MF. Because we have no problem with objectifying Megan Fox, really! We just have a problem with everything she says, and specifically the things she says wherein she takes issue with being objectified. We just hate her. Whereas people don’t hate Robert Pattinson, really. At least, not outside of the inevitable superfans in various Internet comment sections, who take issue with him not loving Twilight like it is his own sweet mother, and most of their ire is reserved for Kristen Stewart anyway. And superfans just yell about shit all the time. That is how they show their love. People outside the superfan matrix don’t tend to have strong feelings about The Pattz, but they do tend to get all squirmy and giggly and uncomfortable with the way that so many women relate to his filmed image (for example, by screen-printing it on their underpants) and/or his person.
Because those women are acting in a way that is typically reserved for men. And they’re treating Pattinson like a girl.
This is a place I was heading toward in the American Prospect piece – which is now available online to non-subscribers, in case you wondered – but had to steer away from due to Word Count Issues, which is: we are used to seeing straight men’s goofy, unrealistic sexual fantasies. They are everywhere, all the time. Beer commercials, magazines, Michael Bay movies, porn obviously. We’re used to having female characters flattened out, falsified, emptied out and filled up again with a boundless desire to satisfy men’s needs for no apparent reason. We’re used to the fact that straight male sexual fantasy scenarios (or, at least, sexual fantasies marketed to straight men: and, hey, a lot of dudes are buying them) are cartoonish, in poor taste, unsophisticated, weird. We’re used to expressions of desire, public expressions, aimed at women the desire-expressers have never met and will never sleep with and will probably never even see in all three dimensions, outside of a movie screen or photograph or TV set – discussions of whether the men in question would, in fact, “hit that” or whatnot – and to the sale of those bodies, or at least images and facsimiles thereof. The Twilight sparkle dildo exists in a world where Jenna Jameson was, for a time, selling a replica of her own vagina as a masturbatory aid. (And, you know, I’d Google it, to prove this to you? But I am writing this in a coffee shop, so. Do your own research.)
But this is everywhere. We’re used to it. It’s part of the accepted context of straight male desire – it’s tacky as all hell, aesthetically, and that’s just how they do – and so criticizing it, in an aesthetic way, seems pointless. Congratulations, you went looking for art in a product intended to provide boners and came up empty. Surprise! But when girls do the exact same thing – when they prove themselves capable of the exact same sort of objectification, and the exact same goofiness or tackiness or unrealistic fantasy in the name of getting off – well, it freaks people out. It’s weird. Why are they acting like this? Don’t they know that Robert Pattinson is a person? Why are they treating him like a big chunk of meat? Why doesn’t Edward Cullen act like a real guy would? Etcetera!
Because Edward Cullen is porn. Weird, pre-sexual, socially conservative, deeply repressed and fucked-up porn, but in a world where ladies’ sexy feelings are fenced in with shame and warnings of danger from Day 1, is it any wonder that porn which consistently ties sex to death and fear and the urgent need for repression is selling to the girls? I mean, consider: Edward Cullen has no characteristics, as a person, other than wanting to “protect” Bella and being beautiful and gorgeous and perfect all the time. (And also an insufferable asshole, but that seems more like a mistake than a purposeful effort to give him a personality.) He has no goals in life other than being with Bella. He is over a hundred years old, and he’s never had sex with another person. He’s never wanted to have sex with another person. There is not and will never be a person or a thing or an event that is more important to him than (eventually) having sex with Bella. He is an object designed for the gratification of female desire. He’s the most ridiculous person who’s so amazing at everything, and he’s so beautiful you creamed yourself. And that’s it. And we’re used to dudes writing ladies this way, we’re even used to dudes writing ladies this way and passing it off as “literature,” but the idea of a female author writing a male character in this way, for the pleasure of other ladies, is profoundly disconcerting. Even to me! Because it’s backwards.
We can talk about objectification, as a concept, and whether or not it is good – I know it pisses me off, often – but we shouldn’t ignore the fact that women and men are both capable of it. We just happen to live in a world where straight men are expected to objectify, and given lots of opportunities to do it, and everyone else is supposed to keep it in their pants. On the girl side of things, mostly it is very young ladies and female dorks who break the rules, because they are less inhibited by socialization than the rest of us, but the fact is that sexual fantasy – which is, duh, always only about fulfilling your needs in the long run – looks goofy and weird and dehumanizing for a lot of people, women and men both. And probably we all need to grow up, and deal with the fact that everyone we meet in the world is a person with a complex inner life, and also be open to the fact that people are pretty in different ways and our entertainment only portrays one very limited slice of the vast spectrum that is human prettiness, and etc. But also? Be less weirded out by the fact that ladies are getting all freaky about Robert Pattinson. Or be MORE weirded out by the dudes getting all het up about various lady movie stars. Take your pick. Because ladies are people. And if there is one universal truth about people, it is that lots of us are kind of gross.
* Although, to be fair, I was not as weirded out by the Twilight sparkle dildo as a lot of people. This is not because I think that the concept of a freezing one’s extraordinarily pale dildo is anything other than terrifying – IT IS, and also reminiscent of that one episode of the X-Files where the necrophiliac made all the ladies take ice baths before sex and sooner or later just started keeping chopped-off fingers in his freezer, so, EEKS, Vote No on Freezer Dildos – but because I worked at a Very Empowering Dildo Store for Ladies and basically those things are all, on one level or another, kind of creepy. I think people who were heretofore unexposed to the creepiness could afford to be shocked, but I have given people instructions on how to clean a Fleshlight and thus lost my innocence years ago. At my Very Empowering Dildo Store for Ladies, we had a dildo shaped like – I shit you not – an extremely realistic sculpture of a cobra. With the scales and everything! They wanted to call it the “Indy,” but I think there was a discussion about whether or not that was too negative, because Indy did not like snakes, whereas we wanted to empower ladies to stick this particular snake into their Regions. It was good for your g-spot, apparently! Also? YOUR NIGHTMARES.