Kristen Stewart is having an interesting week. She has another box office hit with Snow White and the Huntsman but she was attacked by the media for her awkward speech at the MTV Movie Awards. She is on the cover of this month’s Vanity Fair and the most interesting that everyone is focusing on from that interview is that she is remarking on the fact that she is not known for her happy persona, specifically for not smiling. Though I will have a lot of arguments against me, I am going to support Kristen Stewart in her right to not to smile constantly. It may be hurting her business a bit but I think women, especially young ones, more so than men, are unfairly expected to display happiness all the time and get attacked when they don’t. And it doesn’t matter if you are a movie star or a secretary.
“I have been criticized a lot for not looking perfect in every photograph. I get some serious sh*t 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!” Kristen said in the July issue of Vanity Fair. She explained that it is her anxiety over not appearing real that causes her not to smile. “That thought embarrasses me so much that I look like sh*t in half my photos, and I don’t give a f**k. What matters to me is that the people in the room leave and say, ‘She was cool. She had a good time. She was honest.’” Even her boyfriend, actor Robert Pattinson, said, “”People have decided how they are going to perceive her. No matter how many times she smiles, they’ll put in the one picture where she’s not smiling.”
Women from the time they are young girls and are told if they are not smiling, that they should be. I remember as a little girl being asked by strangers on the street what was wrong because I didn’t have a full-on grin. Perhaps I was thinking about something sad? Maybe I was disappointed with the Disney adaptation of Beauty & the Beast. I probably was fine, as I had a rather nice childhood, I just didn’t feel like putting in the energy to smile all the time. On average children smile about 400 times a day so no smile on a child is certainly more noticeable, especially considering that adults only smile an average of 15 times a day. But even today I am told to smile more and not look so serious. Now I do have dark brown hair and pale skin (most of the time) which contributes to my rather serious look but I don’t consider myself a particularly serious person. But when I’m at work, unless I am meeting a new person or giving a presentation, why do I need to look like the joker from Batman? In some ways, I think it is because I am a woman (on the younger side) so I am expected to look happy.
Now, yes, Kristen Stewart is a public figure and is in a very glamorous industry full of bright, bubbly women that will smile until the cows come home (hello Lea Michele.) But I don’t think you can say that Kristen’s career is slowing down as a result of her facial movements or that she is less beautiful when she doesn’t smile.
Rooney Mara’s certainly isn’t. The Academy Award nominee was also criticized for not looking happy when she was promoting her film and doing the awards circuit. Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter tweeted back in February, “I’m personally a little sick of Rooney Mara acting like it’s a horrible chore to have to do an interview, or show up at a tribute, or…attend an Oscar nominees luncheon. Stop sulking. You’re an Oscar nominee. If Meryl Streep is willing to do it, you can suck it up too.”
And I will say no one has once told epic brooders like Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto, Johnny Depp and James Franco (who barely smiled at all when he hosted The Oscars) have even been told they should smile more. It is absolutely a double standard. Yes, Kristen Stewart is horribly awkward and wears sneakers to awards shows and doesn’t smile a lot but shouldn’t we applaud her for being different? And aren’t women told they need to act more serious and macho to keep up with the big boys?
But what Kristen and I both do is make people think something is wrong when there isn’t. And we may give the impression that we are preoccupied or not confident because we are smiling which is bad for business. According to business expert Lydia Ramsey, a smile is one of the easiest ways to build your business. Not only do your customers feel good, you and your employees get the same positive benefit.
But if it isn’t coming from a genuine place then maybe it’s alright not to have a smile plastered to your face at all times.