|[Image text: Kristen Stewart at the 2013 Oscars looking
unamused, probably because Seth MacFarlane sucks so hard.]
It was the dreaded, "Smile! You look so serious!"
You see, I think that Kristen Stewart and I share a common affliction...we both have serious looking faces when they're not actively engaged in a smile. My whole life I've had people (almost exclusively men) oh-so-helpfully advise me to smile in the street. So I can't help but feel a certain allegiance when I see this happen to Stewart on an infinitely more public scale, pretty much any time she appears anywhere. I mean, in a lot of ways, Stewart is the most visible example of the "smile, baby" phenomena that many of us experience. (Side note: That's not to say that I find her a particularly interesting or note worthy actress or public figure--I don't really follow her career and I know she's said some problematic stuff. I just HATE IT when I see/hear comments about her "sullen expression.")
Stewart really takes a ton of shit for what I see as simply existing in her face. She's been called so expressionless that she's like a brick wall and when she does smile, it's "painfully uncomfortable." If you Google "Kristen Stewart never smiles" and you'll get almost 728,000 results. And then there's a popular meme which compares her expressions to Emma Watson:
"I have been criticized a lot for not looking perfect in every photograph,” Kristen said. “I get some serious shit about it. I’m not embarrassed about it. I’m proud of it. If I took perfect pictures all the time, the people standing in the room with me, or on the carpet would think, ‘What an actress! What a faker!’ That thought embarrasses me so much that I look like shit in half my photos and I don’t give a fuck."I wish that could be the end of it...She says she doesn't care and we all just collectively move on. But the pressure that Stewart's under is so much bigger than her. Sarah Dropek at PolicyMic wrote a good piece several months ago about Stewart and the "smile double standard." I love that phrase, because I think that's exactly what's going on. I mean, honestly, how many brooding celebrity men are constantly hounded to smile more? In fact, they're usually coded as "deep" or "contemplative," but not "bitchy."
Stewart has been forthcoming about how she refuses to acquiese [sic] to the pressure she feels to "smile, baby" even while she receives her weighty paychecks which are laregely [sic] due to being in the public eye (and maintaining popularity) and performing...I'm not sure "smile, baby" culture can disappear until we, as a society, change our expectations of gender performance; allowing women to appear focused without being read as surly...I completely agree. The dominant message for women is still that we should be happy, smiling, bubbly, and all around pretty objects whose primary function is to be viewed by men. We're literally told things like "worrying so much will cause wrinkles!" and "you'd be so much prettier if you'd smile more!" We're not supposed to be too serious or sarcastic because it's just one small step beyond that to being labeled a bitch.
So you know what? Fuck all of this!
Let Kristen Stewart's face and mood be whatever the hell she wants it to be. There's no reason to assume that the resting position of her face necessarily indicates a bad mood and even if it does, what does it matter to YOU? People who police her mood certainly don't have to actually hang out with her on a daily basis. Perhaps they've just been deeply socialized to find anything other than a smile on a woman to be a problem. I suspect that's the case.
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