Billie Elish walks the red carpet at the Oscars 2020

Oscars 2020: Billie Eilish’s ‘resting bitch face’ has gone viral, but there’s more to this than meets the eye

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words – so it makes sense that this Billie Eilish footage has launched a 1,000,000 tweets.  

Billie Eilish’s spine-tingling rendition of The Beatles’ Yesterday made headlines at the 2020 Oscars. Unfortunately, though, her performance was eclipsed on social media by irate viewers ranting about the award-winning singer’s “stank face”.

It all kicked off when Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph stepped up to present the award for Best Costume Design. Being the stellar comedians they are, the duo did the serious bit, before launching into a hilarious song positively laden with references.

“You’ve got the look,” sang Wiig and Rudolph, showcasing some retro Abba-esque dance moves as they did so. 

“Oh devil with a blue dress, devil with a blue dress on. Vogue, vogue, vogue. Lady in red.”

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During the performance, cameras cut to Eilish screwing up her face in confusion. And, while her fleeting expression took up less than a second of the ceremony’s three hour-ceremony, it made a big impression on Twitter.

Some have suggested this was because, at 18, Eilish wasn’t “old enough” to “get” Wiig and Rudolph’s references. Others claimed that the singer had just caught sight of her face on the over-sized TV screens, and wasn’t sure why her reaction – above all other reactions – was being chosen to illustrate the comedic moment.

The majority, though, claimed that Eilish’s expression was intended to indicate her displeasure over the song. That it was, for want of a better and less ugly phrase, a “stank face”.

Check it out:

It’s worth pointing out here that, as well as her “confused smile”, Eilish’s “resting bitch face” also made headlines at the Academy Awards: once as she posed on the red carpet, then again as she watched Eminem’s performance of Lose Yourself.

“The RBF Award goers to Billie Eilish,” wrote one.

“Billie Eilish just lost all respect with that face she made during Eminem’s Oscars performance,” added another. “Bitch can just suck a dick.”


Billie Eilish attends the 92nd Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and Highland on February 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
Billie Eilish attends the 92nd Annual Academy Awards.

You don’t need me to point out that this level of scrutiny over a teenage girl’s face is… well, it’s disgusting. And it all feeds into the same insidious social narrative: that women exist purely as decoration. That we should always have a smile pasted on our faces. That we are, above all else, there to be adorable and biddable, while men get on with The Big Stuff.

As Professor Susan Krauss Whitbourne tells Psychology Today: “A woman who doesn’t smile is assumed to be in a bad mood because women are expected to smile at all times.”

Whitbourne goes on to note that, through “cultural conditioning”, women have learned that they have to wear a smile if they want “people to like them”.

“Men who look thoughtful are seen as serious,” she adds. “Women with the same expression are perceived as unfriendly and unlikeable. We already know that men are more likely to stand in poses that convey power and women to stand in a deferential way so as not to seem threatening to others.

“Now, it seems we have to add the face to the equation.”

Eilish shouldn’t have to govern her facial expressions but, even if she did, she wouldn’t win. In just one night, Twitter has proven that the singer is damned if she does crack a smile, and she’s damned if she doesn’t, too.

With all of this in mind, is it any wonder that Eilish is incredibly nervous about her upcoming Apple TV+ documentary?

“I’ve seen no part of it,” she said. “I’m freaked out. They’ve been filming since July of 2018… who has that much footage of them that they’ve never seen? I’m terrified.”

We don’t blame her, quite frankly. All we can do is hope that audiences (for once) seek some modicum of context before ripping into the singer’s mood. Because, let’s face it, every single one of us who’s been hit by the “resting bitch” label knows that there’s more to us than the microscopic movements that flits across our faces.

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