Two women sit in the back of a truck at night in 'Love Lies Bleeding.'

Kristen Stewart’s ‘Rolling Stone’ Cover and New Movie Have Something Important in Common

If the past couple of days have taught us anything, it’s that everything is all connected.

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Indeed, with Kristen Stewart’s next film, Love Lies Bleeding—which will henceforth be referred to as “the lesbian bodybuilding crime thriller”—just a couple of weeks away from its theatrical debut, there couldn’t have been a more perfect lead-up to that than the actress’ recent Rolling Stone cover story, in which she committed what’s apparently the woeful sin of dressing herself in nothing but a leather vest and jock strap for the occasion, a move that all but demolished the notion that female sexuality can’t exist outside of the male gaze.

Let me say that again: Stewart has just finished using Rolling Stone to epitomize the essence of female sexuality existing for someone other than cisgender, heterosexual men, and her lesbian bodybuilding crime thriller is almost out in theaters. I don’t believe in the word “perfection,” but I think I might now.

Speaking at the Berlinale press conference (as reported by Deadline), Stewart recalled her feelings about the cover story’s final presentation, noting how the wider depiction of such expressions of female sexuality is still carving out a place for itself in the public eye, as exemplified by the polarizing reactions to the story. (For context, the usual suspects complained, while everyone else fell somewhere between “good for her” and “Kristen Stewart is a hero and I have never been more turned on and inspired in my entire life.”)

She said,

“The writer of the story was great and shaped it well. But I like how the article was called ‘uncensored’ and then the whole cover was censored because the existence of a female body thrusting any sort of sexuality at you that’s not designed for or desired by exclusively cis straight males, people aren’t super comfy with that.”

The lesbian bodybuilding crime thriller film, of course, is very much in line with Stewart’s sentiments about her cover story, telling reporters of the film: “The people we don’t usually look at were front and center in this movie … We were toying with the idea of strength.”

And that right there is precisely why Love Lies Bleeding is an important film. As a queer woman, it didn’t even register with me that the muscular Jackie (played by Katy O’Brian) might be someone that wouldn’t be deemed attractive by conventional audiences; the fact of Jackie’s beauty is something that I, through my personal lens, took for granted as obvious.

And now, hearing Stewart’s comments, it’s all clicking: The sexy aspect of this film is entirely uninterested in being attractive to conventional audiences (and, by extension, the male gaze), which is something that not even explicitly queer love stories can always claim. Love Lies Bleeding, then, is taking a big step towards embracing the fundamentally liberating nature of queer love and sexuality, and I don’t think I need to explain to you why that’s important.

Love Lies Bleeding hits theaters on March 8.

(featured image: A24)


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