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Captor Audiences: Robert Pattinson and the Perils of Teen Stardom

This article was originally published in print on the 23rd March

When my flatmates and I bought tickets to see Robert Pattinson’s The Batman, we were wholeheartedly expecting to leave the cinema feeling as if we had seen a new chapter of Edward Cullen’s life. Perhaps he had grown bored of being a tortured, grumpy vampire in Forks and had moved to Gotham to make good of his vamp-powers.  

Surprisingly, Matt Reeves’ gritty take on the classic Batman tale perfectly aligned with Pattinson’s performance, which was striking – although not unlike the brooding vampire from the Twilight series. It provokes the larger question: can actors whose big break came from teen movies make the switch to more ‘adult’ roles? And why do we underestimate them so?

The 2010s were accompanied by a slew of dystopian and fantasy teen movies, always equipped with a dramatic love triangle and at least 3 instalments. At the forefront of these box office hits were actors and actresses, with the ability to make or break their franchises. It is an all too familiar sight to see those such as Kristen Stewart, Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Watson and of course, Robert Pattinson squirming to escape their established roles. 

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The 2020s have shown that it is certainly achievable. Kristen Stewart’s critically acclaimed performance in Pablo Larrain’s ‘Spencer’ has landed her as a favourite for Best Actress at the 2022 Oscars, and former Spiderman Andrew Garfield is in the same boat thanks to his role in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ‘tick, tick… BOOM’. So why is it that it is so difficult to see them as ‘serious’ actors? 

Teen franchises are one of the most lucrative projects an actor can land. A good handful of these stars would never have to work again if they so desire. The Hunger Games skyrocketed Jennifer Lawrence to become the world’s highest-paid actress several years in a row. She could easily pay off my student loan (a few times over) with barely a dent in her bank account. The Harry Potter trio were set for life before they hit their 20s. Yet, it is a rare and surprising occasion to see these type-casted performers reach fame with something new.

Emma Watson has won a bunch of great roles in Beauty and the Beast, Little Women and The Perks of Being a Wallflower – but I think I speak for the majority when I say that watching her is like watching Hermione Granger trying her hand at acting. The true culprit of these actors’ struggle is the audience. We get attached to our characters, becoming so invested that we are unable to see them become anyone else. 

Teen movies surround our formative years, and impressions made during that time are hard to shake. It is time to collectively accept that our beloved characters are actors with real talent. We shouldn’t stifle them with our preconceptions, as recent performances have shown that they are capable of much more than we give them credit for.

Image Credit: Martin Kraft via Wikimedia Commons.