Why Can't The World Accept That Kristen Stewart Smiles?

Photo: REX USA.
The harping on whether or not Kristen Stewart bares her teeth (in the nice, happy way) for the cameras has gotten so laughable that the actress is now using it as fodder for talk-show anecdotes.

Last night on The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon brought up the “grief” that Stewart gets for not appearing to be the peppiest person on Earth. The conversation came out of a quote from Stewart's interview for Elle UK's September issue, in which she says, “The whole smiling thing is weird because I actually smile a lot. I literally want to be like, 'Dude, you would think I was cool if you got to know me!'”

Now, she told Fallon, she is getting asked about whether or not she really, truly does smile in interviews as she promotes her new movie. “I’ve been doing a press junket for American Ultra, and every single question is: 'So, apparently, you think you do smile.' And so I’m like, 'No, I swear to you I do,'” she said.

Of course Stewart smiles. She is a human person with emotions, both good and bad. She just doesn't use her smile as armor very often, and so some people apparently can't believe her lips have any mobility. As she told Fallon, Stewart did flash a smile on a recent outing — as a strategy for deflecting attention, and as its own sort of "fuck you" gesture. The tabloids treated that moment as though they'd discovered a dodo bird. Daily Mail's headline? “Bare-faced Kristen Stewart offers a rare smile as she flashes her black bra in casual outfit.”

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Stewart is the celebrity patron saint of Resting Bitch Face, and was cited in a recent New York Times article on the phenomenon and its double standards. Stewart's lack of smile fits into an easy press narrative about her, something she readily admits in the Elle UK interview. “So many people make so much money off these character traits that they have assigned me, and so many articles are written every single day about them; if they change my character, it wouldn’t make sense,” she says. (Case in point, almost exactly a year ago, Bustle published a piece titled, "Kristen Stewart Forced to Explain Why She Doesn't Smile, Frowning Men Everywhere Win Again," following another sound bite she gave about the subject of smiling to the U.S. edition of Elle.)

For the tabloids, the thinking goes like this: It makes sense that the woman who always seemed uncomfortable being the face of a major franchise (see: her 2008 Letterman interview) wouldn’t smile, just as it makes sense (to them) that the person who cheated on Robert Pattinson wouldn’t. But, of course, there is so much more to her than who the tabloids think she is. In recent interviews, she has come off as being fiercely and awesomely fuck-all. This summer, she told Marie Claire, “Lately, I've been doing less of the 'I'm sooooo sorry.' And more of the 'No. Fuck. Jesus.'” When asked about her sexuality in Nylon's September issue she said, “Google me, I’m not hiding.” It makes sense that the same woman might sometimes wear a snarl, too.

The media feels comfortable with the idea of Stewart as an RBF Queen, but inherently uncomfortable with the idea of a woman possessing an RBF at all. In a world where Jennifer Lawrence always looks perfectly goofy and Taylor Swift always looks perfectly demure, the fact that Stewart often appears sullen makes her an outlier. She's not always on, and when she is, she's making fun of you. That's a beautiful thing.
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