What exactly is ‘smartphone face,’ and what does it look like?

The internet is currently getting lost in a fascinating discussion about actors with so-called “smartphone face,” and it has people thinking about certain celebs in a whole new way.

According to Olivia L. (@olivialayne6), the whole “smartphone face” thing was first coined by a writer named Kleigh Balugo, who wrote a thought-provoking article on the phenomenon for Dazed Digital back in April.

In a nutshell, “smartphone face” refers to people who look as though they’re from modern times (aka 2023). But when placed in a different time period for a play, TV show or even a movie, there’s just something about them that doesn’t feel believable, even after the makeup and costume departments have worked their magic.

One of Balugo’s first examples of this is based on Amazon Prime’s American musical drama Daisy Jones and the Six. Main cast members include Riley Keough, Sam Claflin and Suki Waterhouse, who all play members of the same 1970s rock band, which is believed to be loosely inspired by Fleetwood Mac.

When Olivia L. later dove into the topic in her now-viral TikTok, she could immediately see what Balugo and others were talking about when she looked at the actors individually.

“A lot of people said that the actors’ faces didn’t feel like they belonged in the ’70s,” Olivia noted. “Particularly Camilla Marrone. A lot of people said that her face just doesn’t look like it belongs in that decade because she looks too much like an Instagram model.”

Other examples of this, according to Olivia, include Blake Lively in The Age of Adeline, where she played a woman who was supposed to be living in the 1930s.

“I feel like some people might not agree with me, just because everyone says that she has such an Old Hollywood sort of beauty,” Olivia said, before admitting that for her, she can’t really look at Lively’s face without seeing Serena Van Der Woodsen from Gossip Girl.

Also in this camp are plenty of dudes, including Ben Affleck, who played Ned Allen in Shakespeare in Love and Regé-Jean Page, the Duke of Hastings in Bridgerton.

On the flip side, there are plenty of actors who do have the period-piece face, according to Olivia — like Kiera Knightly and Saoirse Ronan, who have played women in various centuries. Same goes for Mia Goth, who Olivia feels has a naturally “old-timey face,” and James McAvoy, who played Thomas Langlois Lefroy in Becoming Jane.

But the modern faces — the ones who’ve definitely seen an iPhone before and know what Instagram is — just don’t seem to land with everyone in the audience.

Many people jumped in to share their own opinions on who has the smartphone face as opposed to those who don’t.

“Bella ramsey has the MOST period piece face,” one person wrote. “she’s perfect in renaissance roles.”

“Elle Fanning definitely has a victorian period face she’s so good for dated movies/shows,” another added.

“i think rachel mcadams doing the notebook and mean girls around the same time is a really good example of someone being able to pass for both,” someone else shared.

At the same time, others pointed out the actors who simply can’t — and won’t — pass for another time period. (At least, not one in the past.)

“Anya TaylorJoy looks like she’s from the future,” one person noted.

“Also pete Davidson,” added someone else. “He looks like he knows what a ipod is, he cant be in anything before 2004.”

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