Image: Kristen Stewart at the Adventureland red carpet, wearing a peach dress, not smiling. Image from Flickr
Kristen Stewart plays Bella in Twilight, which is the hottest franchise around right now. Thusly, she is invited to a lot of events. She stands out on the red carpet because she does not smile broadly or pose; she usually looks slightly uncomfortable. Of her red-carpet experience, Stewart said:
People say that I’m miserable all the time. It’s not that I’m miserable, it’s just that somebody’s yelling at me…I literally, sometimes, have to keep myself from crying…It’s a physical reaction to the energy that’s thrown at you.Stewart is often a target of a specific kind of body policing: the “smile, baby” requirement. When she appears on the red carpet and does not assure us with her teeth that she is simply thrilled to be reduced to a presence, a dress, a posture, she is often the target of harassment for her expression. There is an expectation of women in general and famous woman in particular to always assure the onlooker that they are happy to be looked upon through smiling, and Stewart rejects this.
Her expression is an affront to the patriarchy, it seems. Stewart’s expressions do not go unnoticed among those who write about celebrities.
Kristen Stewart Actually Cracks a Smile - Twilight’s leading lady Kristen Stewart isn’t exactly known for her cheery disposition.From ONTD members:
You know, I used to not mind her and actually thought she was just kinda misunderstood in why ppl think she's bitchy and ungrateful.The hell of it is that Stewart often does smile – just not broadly, or without opening her mouth:
Then I kinda realized that no, I think she really is just like that and means to be that way.
Her life. It is so HARD.
God, stop bitching for half a second and recognized you are one of the luckiest people that will ever be born. I mean, yeah, fame has it's own problems attached to it, but they will never outweigh the good.
Image description: Kristen Stewart, with her hair pushed back and wearing layers, smirks at someone to the left of the camera at an event. From Flickr
And this is not enough. Despite the fact that this attention is often negative and always demanded, despite the fact that it drives her to tears, appreciation of this harrassment is demanded. Graciousness is an obligation on Stewart's part because people are looking at her. The implication for women is that attention is a sign of our value; if we are not attracting it, particularly from men, we are worthless. If we're harassed and ordered to smile, we're lucky. We must be grateful for all attention, even that which we find unpleasant. Or we are bitches.
I myself am a rather smiley person, and have only gotten “Smile, baby! It ain’t that bad!” once in my memory, when I was pissed off and cold. It was infuriating though, and I still remember feeling humiliated.
s.e. smith recently wrote about this expectation for folks read as women:
People order each other to smile because they feel uncomfortable around people who are not smiling, especially when those people are women (or are read as such). Women are expected to be nice and sweet, to make other people feel comfortable. A woman who says ‘hey, I think there’s a problem here’ is being ‘negative.’ A woman who doesn’t smile while she’s being harassed is ‘humourless.’ A woman who prefers to stay focused on tasks is a ‘cold bitch.’ Significant gendering is involved here; women have an obligation to look and act a certain way and when they don’t, they need to be hassled until they do.Some folks construct smiling on the red carpet as a professional expectation. But why is that a professional expectation? This is the same argument applied to weight for actors. As with weight, it sends the message to female fans that thinness/smiling is mandatory. Placing expectations on the body is always an act of the kyriarchy, whether it's for movie stars or flight attendants. Some people do not care to smile constantly. They should not be expected to in their work.
This professional/social expectation is often applied to problematized bodies, as Renee points out:
I get that Gabby is a celeb, but she is also a person -- and if she does not feel like putting a fake ass smile on her face to satisfy some guy, that is just fine. Too often men will expect women to hide their feelings and become little automatons, because it makes them happy --never mind that it may be in direct conflict of how we are currently feeling. This is not a celeb thing, this is a woman thing. I have been told on more than one occasion that I should smile and all it inspires me to do is give the person the finger. You know, if I felt like smiling, I would smile.This "professional expectation" is applied mainly to movie stars who are women. Sean Penn, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, and even George Clooney (who is known for being goofy) usually do not broadly smile, and I've never heard a word about their lack of appreciation for their fame.
Stewart’s lack of a ready smile isn’t really indicative of anything. Her supposed disposition does no manifest itself in anything other than some ruffled feathers among those demand a specific expression from women. She is not violent or cruel. She seems to be nice to the fan community. She doesn’t beat up photographers.
She just doesn’t like smiling. And in a culture of pop where it is the responsibility of women to make everyone comfortable, to put everyone at ease, this constitutes a grave affront.