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Dear Kristen Stewart,

Please. Please. I am begging you. Please, for the love of God: MOVE YOUR FACE.

No, not to a different location, Kristen Stewart! You can keep your face right where it is! Which is your head, I am assuming. No, Kristen Stewart: I am referring to the subtle movement of facial muscles, and more precisely to the series of small or large contractions and/or relaxations of said muscles, which we human face-havers refer to as “expressions.” Frequently, those of us who move our faces do so to express emotion! Face-movement lets those around us know what we are thinking, without the effort of lengthy speeches. As such, you would imagine that it would be a fairly important skill for a person whose job is to convey emotions and thoughts in a visual medium. A person such as an actress! A person such as YOU, Kristen Stewart!

And yet, your face? It does not move.

Let me explain: I recently watched a movie in which you appeared. A movie called Adventureland! Now, I would like to share with you, and with those who may be reading this here open – yet Kristen-Stewart-specific – letter what my thoughts on Adventureland have been. For example: imagine, if you will, that a friend of mine approached me, and was like, “Sady, I would like to watch a movie with you. This movie is by the director of Superbad, features Ryan Reynolds in a prominent role, and concerns an upper-middle-class white dude who mopes a lot about his parents not handing him a chunk of money that would have been – and still is, really – inconceivable to you in size, thereby forcing him to take a job that he believes to be beneath his station. He mopes about the job, pretty much throughout. And Kristen Stewart is his love interest, also.” My reaction to this proposal would have been pretty bad! Somebody would have gotten a crotch-punch in that exchange, is all I’m saying! And yet, Adventureland is a fine movie. Kind of a shockingly excellent movie, in point of fact. I just have this one problem: your face is in this movie, Kristen Stewart. And your face? IT POSES A PROBLEM.

Let’s flip through your range, here, Kristen Stewart. Here’s fear:

kristen_robert_new_moon

Okay. Here’s overwhelming lust:

kristen_robert_new_moon

Here is your puckish sense of humor:

kristen_robert_new_moon

And here is, I don’t know, “existential crisis caused by realizing that your parents lied to you about Santa Claus and you believed them and therefore reality may ultimately be subjective and unverifiable and how do you know what you know? Do you trust it? Maybe you shouldn’t! Oh my god, I am so high! What if I have brain damage???? FROM ALL THE MARIJUANA“:

kristen_robert_new_moon

I trust you begin to see the problem. And, trust me, in a film which relies to any substantial degree on your face, said problem is EVEN WORSE! Like, in Twilight and Twilight: New Moon? Whatever. These are Twilight movies. Bella Swan is specifically constructed so as to have nothing resembling a human personality, and “I have nothing resembling a human personality” is something that your face communicates. Quite well! And, honestly, Robert Pattinson can’t do all that many things with his face either. So you are evenly matched! But in Adventureland? This surprisingly almost-good movie, marred only by the presence of and/or lack of movement within your face? Eh. Like, there is this whole scene – it seems to stretch out into infinity, although I would be surprised if it were in fact over fifteen seconds long – where your character has just been in a car with the whiny upper-middle-class white guy who is, for real, SO DISAPPOINTED that he has to have a job. And we are supposed to be witnessing some emotion on your face, as you drive home from this encounter. The issue? We cannot, by any facial indicators, discern what that emotion is supposed to be. Is it, “goodness, I feel the stirrings of an unexpected crush,” for example? Or is it, “I am quite conflicted about this crush I feel stirring within me?” Or is it, by any chance, “if this upper-middle-class white guy does not stop whining about  how his parents made him take this job instead of giving him a shockingly huge cash-wad – this job that I ALSO HAVE, and have SUBSTANTIALLY LESS CHANCE OF ESCAPING, because I will not be attending GRAD SCHOOL AT COLUMBIA and having someone else PAY MY MOTHERFUCKING RENT while I’m there, for the sake of the SWEET VIRGIN MOTHER’S SANCTIFIED CUNT-HAIR – I will take each of my socks off and cram them down his throat, one by one, just to shut him up?” That would be an interesting emotion! But since it is on your face, this is what we get, more or less:

kristen_robert_new_moon

Or maybe the point of your character is that we can’t tell what she’s thinking, or whether she’s thinking, or whether she does, in fact, know what a “thought” is. Sure! That’s fun! I wish the question were resolved, at some point, but whatever! If I were in a more analytical, feministical mood, Kristen Stewart, I would talk about this whole freaky wave of non-expression-having, pseudo-hipster love objects – from Margot Tenenbaum to Zooey Deschanel to Scarlett Johansson to, Jesus, Sofia Coppola herself, whose face did not apparently come equipped with expression-making software as far as I know – and how this reflects the desires of a certain variety of (probably) upper-middle-class, (probably) white, (but definitely) male person, which is the desire for a woman precisely as subordinate, empty, hollow, and one-dimensional as the woman Tucker Max or your standard anime geek is probably masturbating over right this second, a fantasy woman which makes them precisely as ill-equipped to deal with a real female person as any or every fantasy woman created by a sexist culture, but with some weird coating of “cool” over the surface, like an ill-fitting slip cover on your grandma’s couch, a “cool” which is not actual cool because actual cool comes from having A PERSONALITY, that personality being something to which none of the above-listed women EVER SEEM TO ASPIRE. But I’m not in that mood, Kristen Stewart! It’s New Year’s Day, and I am drunk, and I just want more prosecco, to be honest! So I will just say this:

You are playing Joan Jett, Kristen Stewart. Yes, my own personal inspiration, imaginary lady-friend, and quite possibly wife: Joan Jett. Do you know one thing that is indisputably, verifiably, historically factually accurate and true about Joan Jett? SHE MOVED HER MOTHERFUCKING FACE. A lot! And it was awesome! I will NOT ALLOW YOU to profane my lady Joan Jett, Kristen Stewart.

So, please. Please, please. Please, for the love of God: take your face. And, somehow – it may be slow, it may be painful – MAKE IT MOVE.

Love,

Sady.

24 Comments

  1. Zoe wrote:

    Never realized this until now but this is definitely something that bugs me about her: her inability to express regular emotions. Damn. You got it.

    Friday, January 1, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Permalink
  2. Roxie wrote:

    She does move her face a lot, actually.
    To do one of two things (some times as a combo):
    1. Like her lips
    2. Biter her lips

    I present to you, exhibit A:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtgIKJPUK0w

    Friday, January 1, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Permalink
  3. Jean wrote:

    Your pseudo-hipster love objects paragraph made me think of this list of “The 15 Sexiest Female Musicians That Don’t Suck”. It will piss you off on a few levels. I am linking to ONTD rather than the original post because of the 27 pages of outraged comments calling out how sexist, racist, and all-around creepy the list is. There is absolutely a trend right now where the hottest thing a woman can do is stare blankly into the camera with all the personality of a real doll, and the guys who get off on that think they’re somehow more sophisticated than the guys jacking it to Playboy. We need to start a fund to buy Kristen Stewart acting lessons, because I honestly like her for some reason and she deserves better than being the hot girl who won’t get all uppity because she has no emotions.

    Friday, January 1, 2010 at 6:39 pm | Permalink
  4. Roxie wrote:

    GEEZE!
    “Licks” *not* “likes”

    Friday, January 1, 2010 at 7:06 pm | Permalink
  5. snobographer wrote:

    Why oh why was she given the Joan Jett job? WHY!? It appears Ms. Jett has been spending some time with her though. Maybe she’s spending that time teaching K Stew how to move her face.

    Jean – you refer to “sexy face,” which is that slack-jawed, dead-eyed stare you see so frequently on Maxim covers and Natalie Portman.

    Friday, January 1, 2010 at 7:12 pm | Permalink
  6. emjaybee wrote:

    To be fair, Keanu Reeves has the exact same problem; he also cannot convey emotion in his voice. So does Jennifer Love Hewitt in Ghost Whisperer (or as we call it, Ghost Jiggler) who is often confronted with howling undead demons while wearing improbable nightgowns, and yet instead of terror, all she can manage is “mildly gassy” or “may have smelled something untoward” as an expression.

    Friday, January 1, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Permalink
  7. Sady wrote:

    @Jean: My favorite comment on the (original) article? It is by a fellow by Steve Standiford, and it reads, IN ITS ENTIRETY:

    “umm, what about Zooey Deschanel?”

    This comment was so important to Steve Standiford that he had to post it twice, under different screen names.

    Ha ha, yeah. WHAT ABOUT Zooey Deschanel. Do you like the Smiths? I LOVE the Smiths! But I won’t make anything resembling a facial expression to convey this love. Nor will my voice in any manner change in tone or pitch as I drone their lyrics at you. I just trust you to TAKE IT ON FAITH, how much I love that Moz.

    Friday, January 1, 2010 at 8:08 pm | Permalink
  8. emily wrote:

    A critique of a woman fillintheblank that doesn’t resort to sexist jabs is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

    Friday, January 1, 2010 at 8:16 pm | Permalink
  9. Emjaybee:

    In fairness, you might get kind of blase about howling undead demons too, if it were happening to you every week for twenty years or however long that show’s been on the air.

    Friday, January 1, 2010 at 9:24 pm | Permalink
  10. Jean wrote:

    Steve Standiford knows what he likes, and what he likes is She & Him singing “You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me” as if the “you” in the song referred to the Hypnotoad.

    Friday, January 1, 2010 at 11:30 pm | Permalink
  11. Bilbo wrote:

    Unfortunately this seems to be a fairly common trend of late, throughout society in general as opposed to being limited to the movie world. Why do people find slate-faced people attractive?

    Saturday, January 2, 2010 at 6:52 am | Permalink
  12. Eneya wrote:

    I have no idea why this absence of facial expression is so popular and interpreted as sexy but it is pretty common nowdays in the acting world.
    I can point more actors who can’t than actors who can move their faces.
    Are the world actors so bad in playing emotions or this is some weird way to persuade the audience that showing emotions is not a good thing?

    Saturday, January 2, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Permalink
  13. RLC wrote:

    (Please excuse the awkward wording, it’s 7am here and I haven’t slept.)

    I’m certainly not a fan of hot girl actresses who seem devoid of personality and/or emotion (Mischa Barton, anyone?) and it creeps me out that people find this attractive in women. But I feel like there is a distinction to be made between your typical hot girl/zombie actress and characters like Margot Tenenbaum and certain roles played by Zooey Deschanel. I should point out that I am not a particularly big fan of either Gwyneth Paltrow or Zooey Deschanel, so I’m not here to avidly defend them or their work. And I do think Zooey could do with moving her face a wee bit more (though I think Margot Tenenbaum’s vacant facial expression was pretty suited to her character, and is not something exclusive to women in Wes Anderson’s films. See: Jason Schwartzman and Adrien Brody in ‘The Darjeeling Limited’ and Bill Murray in all of them.)

    A lot of dude characters I’ve watched and fallen a bit in love with (as well as real life dudes) have had the same blank expression and spoken in the same sardonic drawl. And it’s come across as appealing because it suits the characters, who are mostly either quirky, witty and endearingly cynical, or tragic, Troubled Artist types. These are all things that are mostly seen as charming and alluring in men but rarely in women.

    All the characters I’ve ever seen Zooey D play have been quirky, witty and cynical, and Margot Tenenbaum had that tragic, Troubled Artist thing going on. As I said, these are not things I often see played up as alluring features in female characters, despite how often I notice girls (and gay guys) swooning over the same traits in dudes. Hell, the quirky, witty and cynical thing was what attracted me to my current boyfriend. On the other hand, I was always a quirky and cynical girl (with odd bouts of wit and Troubled Artistry) and *that* was never seen as charming or sexy…it seemed to me that people saw those characteristics as adorable in guys but weird or boring or depressing in girls. I guess I’m just pleased to see some female characters that are well-written and just as cool and charming as my favourite male characters – and for the same reasons.

    Saturday, January 2, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Permalink
  14. whitty wrote:

    Delurking after many months just to say that “SWEET VIRGIN MOTHER’S SANCTIFIED CUNT-HAIR” is my new go-to curse word.

    Also this whole post is excellent and makes me want to see Adventureland, even with Ms. Stewart’s immobile face.

    Saturday, January 2, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Permalink
  15. kristyn wrote:

    I love your analysis of the pseudo-indie girl as a character, and as someone who is a real-life genuine indie girl and has dated/considered dating a lot of indie guys, I feel that this is very accurate. It relates to this quote by RLC.

    ”On the other hand, I was always a quirky and cynical girl (with odd bouts of wit and Troubled Artistry) and *that* was never seen as charming or sexy…it seemed to me that people saw those characteristics as adorable in guys but weird or boring or depressing in girls.”

    True facts, to which I can personally relate. Indie boys, especially quirky cynical witty and/or troubled indie boys, don’t always like those same traits in girls. Or even any traits at all. Many of them like stony-faced, dead-eyed, emaciated waifs who occasionally crack sardonic one-liners before retreating into a disinterested haze. Sometimes they substitute ”sweet and random” for ”sardonic” and ”perky” for ”disinterested.” For the first archetype, see Kristen Stewart. For the second, Zooey Deschanel.

    When these boys are reminded that they are talking to or drinking with or fucking a real live girl who has real live opinions and feelings, whether by her anger or her laughter or her words or her leg hair or GEZUS CHRIST her facial expressions, they get weirded out and retreat. I think those guys secretly wish they were fucking a RealDoll that has Nico’s face and a Karen O haircut.

    This is probably because a lot of modern ”indie” guys are actually middle- to upper-middle-class white guys who grow up surrounded by decidely un-indie guys who beat up sensitive guys and jerked off to Maxim or to anime. Some actually were those guys, before they realized how popular Conor Oberst was with women.

    Viewed through that lens, it all becomes much easier to understand. Also much harder to get dates.

    Saturday, January 2, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Permalink
  16. CJP wrote:

    Your cut-ups of all things Twilight are so awesomely hilarious that I may have to actually see Twilight so that I can laugh all the more.

    I think that point of that vacant stare is to allow the naive viewer to project onto that person whatever emotions they, the viewer, wants them to be having. Hence the popularity of such actors, lady or otherwise, over actors who can project highly specific emotions (also called “better actors”). Hence also the unfortunate popularity of such individuals in the dating lives of kind tenderhearted souls.

    (Word to the young: if your love object seems so cool that they are UNRUFFLED BY ANYTHING, assume that they are in fact VERY DEEPLY RUFFLED ABOUT MANY THINGS BUT EXISTENTIALLY AFRAID TO LET IT SHOW. Because, as the Buddhists say, life is suffering, and anyone who doesn’t show it is hiding it, and you have to ask why.)

    However, this explanation (blank faces reflect our desired back at us) does not at all invalidate your point, given that, as long as we continue to live in a sexist culture, the use of men’s faces (and bodies) as blank screens on which to project the viewers’ fantasies will remain, relatively, an EXCEPTION while similar use of women remains, unfortunately, the NORM.

    Sunday, January 3, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Permalink
  17. kristyn wrote:

    ”Word to the young: if your love object seems so cool that they are UNRUFFLED BY ANYTHING, assume that they are in fact VERY DEEPLY RUFFLED ABOUT MANY THINGS BUT EXISTENTIALLY AFRAID TO LET IT SHOW. Because, as the Buddhists say, life is suffering, and anyone who doesn’t show it is hiding it, and you have to ask why.”

    Genius observation, and ever so true. It evokes an exchange from the Bob Dylan movie by Todd Haynes! About how maybe the whole projection of nonchalance by hipsterlike people is perhaps just a defense mechanism to make them look cool! And incidentally about the fact that Bob Dylan was pretty much of a d-bag.

    Personally, I try to express emotions that I feel, because the other option is not as healthy for me. But that tends to get me branded as crazy. I’m not sure why, entirely. Maybe it forces people to confront my humanity.

    Sunday, January 3, 2010 at 11:38 pm | Permalink
  18. bex wrote:

    the problems with moving one’s face, when one is an ingenue in hollywood, is of course that what produces “expressions” also has a tendency to produce what are known as “lines”, and everyone knows that having a face that is less plastic-ly smooth than barbie in hollywood is a CAREER-ENDING DISASTER, since there are only enough older*-yet-not-grannyfied roles to keep one actress busy at a time, and Meryl Streep got there first.

    (*which is to say, over 23)

    Monday, January 4, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Permalink
  19. CJP wrote:

    Kristyn – I’ve noticed that people trying to repress their own emotions often get upset by those who don’t because it makes maintaining their own repression more difficult.

    Monday, January 4, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Permalink
  20. CJP wrote:

    Thusly are repressive social relations maintained, through the emotional and symbolic costs of naming them for what they are. So, good for you, for putting yourself out there – it helps to change the world.

    Monday, January 4, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Permalink
  21. kristyn wrote:

    CJP, true facts. However, I feel like, since no one seems to take me seriously as a human being because of these messy emotions that are attached to the stigma of mental illness and to the dreaded Hysteria … it will be pretty hard for me to change the world. Not that I’m not going to try.

    If I didn’t have a vagina, though, I could be Jack Kerouac or Hunter S. Thompson. Hey, remember Hunter S.? He was crazy emotional all over everything, and while people DID call him crazy, some passionately loved him anyway.
    The odds are heavily in favor that he would have gone to a loony bin if he’d been born without a dick. The female equivalent of Kerouac did. And then she flung herself out of a fourth-story window because she was no longer allowed to write. It was considered unfeminine. There are definite parallels to certain situations that arise to this day, is what I’m saying.

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 1:07 am | Permalink
  22. CJP wrote:

    Very true!

    Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 10:18 am | Permalink
  23. Justyna wrote:

    Oh my god. I just laughed so hard I couldn’t stop!
    That’s so true what you write. I had a friend once with the same facial issue( well unless Kristen’s issue is botox)but he at least was not an actor, just an IT guy.

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 7:13 am | Permalink
  24. Dude wrote:

    I’m surprised you focus so much on Stewart without mentioning her undead counterpart. When I was coerced into seeing Twilight (I’m a good boyfriend), I couldn’t believe how little Edward (I don’t care enough to look up the actor’s name) showed emotion. I mean, granted, he’s a vampire. But I was shocked that he managed to get any lines out of the rigamortis in his face. The two of them were practically made for each other, in a creepy dehumanizing sort of way.

    Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 11:05 am | Permalink