Lookism & Halloween: witch or bitch face?

It is Halloween and the time that witch faces show up at parties and at neighborhood trick-or-treat outings. All sorts of other faces show up, too—esp some representing lookism gone wild (for example, sweet faces from Disney’s studios and  pretty ones from Hollywood’s glamor factories).

Among meme-loving sophisticates, moreover, there’s now the chance to put on a “resting bitch face” mask as well as a witch mask. In the last couple of years, both the New York Times and the Washington Post have dignified a meme known as RBF (resting bitch face) in serious and pseudo-scientific articles.

Resting bitch face, also known as RBF or bitchy resting face, is a term for a facial expression (or lack thereof) which unintentionally appears angry, annoyed or irritated. RBF all-stars include Anna Kendrick, Kanye West, Kristen Stewart, and  Queen Elizabeth. And—yes, even the AT&T ad actress, Milana  Vayntrub, if we’re to believe her words in an interesting Public Service Announcement. She’s generally quite endearing in the AT&T ads.  (More on her and the PSA later). 

Bust shot of actress in ATT&T commercial with annoyed face- Lookism?

Lookism & Lily Adams’ bitch face?

The cultural spread of this subspecies of lookism.

The RBF concept or meme has made its way into lifestyle and fashion magazines for women such as Cosmopolitan and Elle and been mentioned in published literature, both fiction and non-fiction. I’ll follow up regarding articles about the RBF phenomenon in a future blog, but a couple of brief references are worth noting here:

Hadley Freeman wrote that since it appeared in the PSA referred to above, RBF has enjoyed a stratospheric rise, and she pointed out that the male equivalent term Resting Asshole Face (RAF) highlighted in PSA has not received the same degree of comment.

Texas Women’s University’s Rene Paulson stated that those with resting bitch face have a stronger sense of self-awareness and a better ability to communicate.  New York University psychologist Jonathan Freeman carried out a study showing that slightly angry facial expressions make other people think you are untrustworthy.

Chloé Hogg, in a 2014 article in the journal Philological Quarterly, asserted that the RBF phenomenon is not new and offered Hyacinthe Rigaud‘s portrait of Louis XIV of France depicting his “bitchy resting face.”

Levels of resting bitch face can vary greatly with different magnitudes and amounts of fierceness. Some “angry looking” people with “V” shaped brows have had their eyebrows redone.  CBS News reported in 2015 that some plastic surgeons were using plastic surgery to help women with RBF.

Regarding the Public Service Announcement (PSA) noted above, it features American actress Milana Vayntrub. She is known for playing the character Lily Adams in a series of AT&T* TV commercials. She is also a  comedian, writer, and producer; and so it’s likely that the PSA  is a mock PSA.

Have a look and come to your own conclusion.


 Some of the surprisingly funny ads (featuring someone who claims to suffer fromRBF) include:

– AT&T TV Commercial, ‘Sleeping Baby’
– AT&T TV Commercial, ‘Signs’
– AT&T TV Commercial, ‘Professional Women’
– AT&T TV Commercial, ‘Hand Me Down’
– AT&T Commercials, ‘Closer’
– AT&T Family Pricing Commercials, ‘Gordon Ramsay’
– AT&T + Plenti Commercials, ‘Couch Potato’
– AT&T Rollover Data Commercials, ‘Negotiate’ Featuring Mark Cuban
– AT&T Rollover Data Commercials, ‘Negotiate’ Featuring Mark Cuban
– AT&T Commercials, ‘Special Offer’ Featuring James Van Der Beek


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