Let's cut Robert Pattinson a break (interviews, context clues and good journalism)


Okay, Irish Central readers. You seem to have this thing about Robert Pattinson. It's a love/hate relationship. Not that I can blame you: our website seems to have a thing about him too. A fixation, if you will. A preoccupation. A sort of mesmerized cult following.

At the ripe old age of 22, I'm not exactly the kid's target audience, but I am generally fascinated by how differently some hot young things react to their newfound celebrity, and find myself torn between opposing stances of You Get What You Ask For (stars innately have signed away all rights to a normal and private adolescence) and They Become What We Make Them (American media's obsession with celebrity culture and constant salivating over the rise and continuing freefall feeds into self-destructive behaviors).

So when I saw the news about RPatz's recent comments about being "allergic to vaginas," alternately written about as offensive, gay, or just plain weird, my reaction was to give him the benefit of the doubt and head for the original Details interview for further research.

I have to say I was a little surprised to find that the interview, conducted by Jenny Lumet, didn't provide much context for the remarks either. As an article, it's more a string of vignettes intended to show that this kid is -- shocker -- self-conscious, unrestrained, metacognitive and a little, well, "off." Big surprise. The interview covers his fascination with exotic tropical diseases, his self-diagnosis as a compulsive eater, his uncle who worked in a steel mill, and an anecdote about meeting some cool elephants. The vagina comment seems to me to be a sort of awkward observation about the awkwardness of doing a photo shoot with a whole bunch of naked girls-- he then goes on to comment on how porn in the 1980s exemplified a sense of 'community' that's worth being nostalgic for.

Robert Pattinson is not as grounded as some, nor as cocky as others. He's an aspiring intellectual and tries to be sincere about his art. In short, he seems to be doing his level best.

I've been thinking about the contextualization of interview quotes recently, largely in part because of the John Mayer fiasco, in which the musician tried to make a valid and coherent point about white privilege and his experience of it that turned into a complete and complex shitshow when a few quotes were taken out of context.

Ideally, when you're a star giving an interview, you should remain ever-vigilant about trying not to produce bite-size offensives, one-liners built for Twitter-sized scandal. You should know that when it comes to spinning the story, you're at the mercy of the journalist. But readers, bloggers and media consumers should also keep in mind the plethora of filters, edits and tweaks that come between the words of a star and his audience. At best, an interview gives a sidelong glimpse into the inner workings of a mind. At worst, the words take on a life of their own, entirely divorced from context and intent.


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