With this week’s theatrical release of Spencer, I am obsessed with all things Princess Diana and Kristen Stewart.
Obsessed With Kristen Stewart
I’m obsessed with Kristen Stewart, and I haven’t seen any of the Twilight movies. How can that be, you might ask? Well, I am scared of vampires. But that does not mean that I entirely missed out on the Twilight phenom of the mid-2000s. As a celeb enthusiast, I had my finger on the pulse of every move that Kristen and her then-costar and boyfriend, Robert Pattinson, made. I knew every detail of their relationship; their attempts to hide their relationship, dodge paparazzi, and the scandalous ending to their four-year romance when Kristen had an affair with director Rupert Sanders.
My obsessive focus on Kristen wavered a bit after the Bella/Edward breakup. I was aware that she was in other movies (I didn’t see any of them), I knew that she was dating women, and I saw that she was becoming hotter, but I didn’t care all that much. UNTIL the day I heard that she was cast to play Princess Diana in Spencer. After that, my obsessive switch went on, and it hasn’t turned off since.
Top 3 Reasons Why I Am Currently Obsessed With Kristen Stewart
She’s queer, and she doesn’t care what you think about it. Kristen was in one of the most famous male-female relationships of the 2000s. When she started dating a woman at the age of 21, people quickly labelled Kristen a lesbian. Kristen did not succumb to pressure to explain anything. She quietly went about dating whomever she pleased without making a big deal about it. She now refers to herself as queer, but she didn’t participate in a giant coming out production as many other LGBTQ+ celebrities have. She is happy to be recognized as a queer icon and she just elevated her status this week by announcing that she is engaged to her girlfriend of two years, Dylan Meyer.
She queers the red carpet. I have spent the better part of the last three months watching and documenting every single Kristen-Stewart-on-the-red-carpet moment. Kristen has been promoting Spencer at most of the international film festivals (except the Toronto International Film Festival - sob!), so the red carpet material has been rich! She is the ambassador for Chanel, so there is always an aspect of elegance to her look. But, when she pairs couture with unevenly dyed roots, braless looks, smoky black eyeliner and her IDGAF attitude the queer factor hits the stratophere.
She brought Princess Diana back to life. I was skeptical when I heard that Kristen Stewart would be playing Diana in Spencer. I didn’t trust that she had the acting range to deliver this performance. But, then, I saw Spencer and, as a self-proclaimed Diana expert, I can tell you that she made Diana come alive again. While watching the film, I felt the same enchantment, admiration, heartache and grief I felt for Diana while I watched her life unfold and end in real time.
Readers Fill In The Blank: Kristen Stewart is…
I put out a call to action and asked you to fill in the blank with your first thought about Kristen Stewart. Here are your answers:
Women of the heterosexual, lesbian and bi variety: “hot,” “EVERYTHING,” “a smoke show and an incredibly talented actor,” and “growing on me.”
Gay men: “making me question my sexuality” and (I assume a direct plea to Kristen) “Step on me.” LMAO!!!
No straight men answered the call to action. Hmm…
There’s Something About Princess Diana
There has been a resurgence of Di-Mania, obsession with Princess Diana, in recent years. Her renewed popularity links with Emma Corrin’s portrayal in the Netflix series, The Crown and Oprah’s earth-shattering interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. With the upcoming release of Spencer, Di-Mania is sure to soar again.
I know why I am obsessed with Diana. Despite my attempts to pass as Gen Z, I am the quintessential Gen X. My family and I got up in the wee hours of the morning on July 29, 1981, to watch the Royal wedding. I saw Diana in every magazine throughout my childhood and adolescence. All of her fashion moments are imprinted on my brain. I saw her mingling with my favourite celebs, George Michael, Elton John, and Freddie Mercury. I watched her AIDS activism. I sat in horror in front of the tv, waiting to hear news about her wellbeing after the fatal car accident in Paris. When she died, a part of me died with her.
As I considered my fascination with Diana, I was curious to hear from other people about why they are obsessed. So I posted a question on Reddit and asked people to identify their ages/generations and why they love Diana. I was surprised when people immediately flooded the conversation with personal anecdotes filled with strong emotions. After reading all of the responses, I have sorted out some themes.
These are some of the reasons why people continue to be obsessed with Princess Diana:
She links families together. The majority of the people who responded to my question were millennial women (presumably white, although I did not ask for racial demographics). They spoke about how their mothers and grandmothers wore their hair like Diana’s, dressed like her, and collected news articles, magazine clippings, and Royal wedding memorabilia. One woman wrote, “Diana represents the ‘90s and my mother and my grandmother and everything related to my chidlhood. That’s why I love her.”
One woman loves Princess Diana because her grandfather told her a personal story about the princess. Her grandfather was a burn victim in a hospital where Princess Diana was visiting. She remembers her grandfather telling her how Princess Diana stopped at his bedside, sat with him, and chatted for 10 minutes. After hearing about Diana from her grandfather, this woman started watching all of the documentaries, and she is now a Diana loyalist.
All of the millennial respondents mentioned that their mothers woke them up in the middle of the night to tell them that Diana had died in a car crash. One woman wrote, “My mom woke me in the middle of the night to tell me that she passed away as if she were a family member.” People have vivid memories of watching the funeral with their mothers, seeing Elton John singing “Candle In The Wind,” and watching William and Harry walking behind their mother’s coffin. The significance of Diana’s death and the sentimentality prompted them to continue to follow the lives of William and Harry and their families.
Several people said that their grandmothers and mothers have since passed away and they find connection to their loved ones through Diana memorabilia.
Personal identification with Diana. I wish I had heard from more Boomers because I suspect many women of that generation relate to Diana. For example, one self-identified Boomer wrote that Diana’s life mirrored her own. She said, “It was like we were two trees that slowly grew up next to each other. The world seemed an emptier place when she was no longer there.”
Another woman wrote, “I’ve loved her ever since I was a little girl and learned that she passed on the day of my christening. The vicar said something about losing an angel and gaining one through me, and ever since, I’ve always felt some affinity for her.”
Someone else said that her mother told her that she had the same birthday as Princess Diana, so she grew up believing that she was special like the princess. (I love a woman with main character syndrome!!!!)
Her style. People across generations wrote about Diana’s dazzling style.
Her rebellious spirit. Millennial respondents admire that Diana went rogue. They appreciate that she recognized the oppressive system she was living under and took every course of action to get herself out.
Her activism and charitable endeavours. Almost everyone mentioned that they were impacted by Diana’s public attempt to break the stigma of AIDS by physically touching and engaging with patients who had AIDS. Many of them vividly remember when Diana visited an AIDS hospital in Harlem and held babies diagnosed with HIV and AIDS. Others cited her work to ban landmines as something they admired about her.
Her struggles. Some people idolize Diana for her best attributes, and others sympathize with her over her very public difficulties. Many respondents wrote that they struggled with bulimia, self-harm, suicidal ideation and mental health issues and that Diana’s public acknowledgement of her issues helped them. Others identified with the struggles Diana faced in her marriage with Charles, the extra-marital affairs and the divorce.
Here is my favourite response in this category — “I like her for being a total hot mess. If I were a woman who married Prince Charles, I could totally see myself being a hot ass mess Princess of Wales!” Preach!
A wise Gen Z (and the only one who responded) said, “We like to admire people who look like they are perfect but are actually flawed like the rest of us.” Amen.
Her realness. People felt like Diana was a person first and a Royal second. They loved seeing her as an involved mother who wore jeans and took her kids to Disney. They loved watching her get down on the same level as children when she stopped to talk to them. One person wrote, “She was real and did things with real people.”
I am so grateful to the people who shared their thoughts and stories with me. I did not expect the richness I found in the responses. I was utterly immersed in this mini-project, and the research and writing gave me so much joy and satisfaction.
Readers Fill In The Blank: Diana is…
“An icon,” “stunning,” “an inspiration, a genuine soul,” “a tragic icon,” “an icon, a legend, and she is the moment,” “never to be forgotten,” and “overrated.” I’m going to pretend I didn’t see that last one!!! I should publicly shame the person who sent me that response, but I’m too dignified.
Spencer Gave Me All The Feels
“Movies do the coolest thing. They take internal feelings and externalize them.” - Kristen Stewart.
Every feeling I have ever had about Princess Diana, her life, and her death consumed me while watching Spencer, Pablo Larraín’s fabled imagining, at the Toronto International Film Festival. My emotional experiences ranged from utter dread to horror and ultimately to euphoria.
Kristen Stewart’s shockingly accurate portrayal of Diana made me feel like I was with the troubled princess, and sometimes inside her mind, during one of the most volatile times in her life.
The movie centres on the three days after Diana learned of Charles’ affair with Camilla Parker Bowles and decided to leave the Royal Family. It showcases Diana’s attempts to resist her prescribed role in the Royal family only to be met with a higher, more frightening level of surveillance. The horror of her confinement propels Diana’s struggles with bulimia, self-harm and hallucinations to more dangerous levels. Eventually, the wellbeing of her children motivates Diana to stand up to Charles and the Royal family and, alas, she is free!
I often find biopics boring when I already know the story of the subject. Given my almost concerning level of knowledge about Diana, I was prepared to be underwhelmed by this film. Instead, I was completely overwhelmed. I saw the film one month ago and I had a very difficult time writing this piece because I am still overtaken with emotion while I recall my viewing experience.
I felt so emotionally charged during this film that I nearly yelled out many times. I wanted to yell, “Turn around!” as Diana drove closer to the Sandringham Estate and the doomed Christmas family gathering. I very nearly stood up in the theatre and told Prince Charles to go fuck himself when he verbally berated Diana. I think I silently gave him the finger from my seat. I know that I did make audible scared sounds (gasps, maybe not quite screams) as the haunting visual effects and terrifying jazz/baroque music combined to evoke the horror of Diana’s captivity and her mental unravelling. However, my final emotion was euphoria. I won’t explain why because I want you to experience it for yourself.
The essential feeling Spencer gifted me was the feeling of being closer to Diana than ever before. I want you to feel as close to Diana as I did during my viewing of the film. Accept this rare gift and go feel all the feels.
Spencer comes out in theatres tomorrow, November 5.
In true Obsessed! form I will be seeing it again, and again, and again.