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By The Numbers

Resting face makeover: Plastic surgeons weigh in on a mocking viral video

Daryl Paranada Jul 16, 2013

You know the expression: It’s written all over your face? Well, that’s because we all make judgments based on appearance.

You see someone with beady eyes and think, ‘hmm, are they distrustful?’ Or look at someone’s thin, pursed lips and think: ‘Mean and unapproachable.’

A humorous viral video framed as a public service announcement, purportedly aimed at helping women, has put a spotlight on an allegedly unfortunate condition the video calls “Bitchy Resting Face” (BRF).

Released by comedy group Broken People, the video features a mock public service announcement about a disorder where women look mean or unpleasant when their face is at its natural, resting state. The video was written by journalist and comedian Taylor Orci.

NOTE: The video below includes profanity and may be considered not safe for work.

Since debuting in May, the video has been viewed nearly 3 million times.

While the video pokes fun, some plastic surgeons are pointing out that there are actually different procedures to improve people’s facial features, known appropriately as “expression surgeries.”

“It’s a variation of types of surgery that make people look younger by changing their expression — to keep someone from looking old and grumpy or unpleasant or unhappy,” says Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, a plastic surgeon based in Beverly Hills, Calif. “Expression is generally made by the mouth and the eyebrows. However, all the features of the face are responsible for expression.”

Ellenbogen says the cost of such surgeries can range from $500 to $30,000 — all in an effort to change one’s expression.

“There are many things that you can say about a person’s face and their physical features and translate that into personality traits that they have,” says Ellenbogen. “Your attitude with someone that you meet even before they speak is determined in the first 10 seconds. You look at someone’s face and compute that they’re going to be difficult, judgmental, harsh. You can’t read a book by its cover, but it many cases you do. You have to.”

Ellenbogen gives a rundown of various facial features and how they might be perceived:

  • Thin lips = mean
  • Beady eyes = shifty
  • Deep folds in the face = angry
  • Low eyebrows = tired
  • High eyebrows = giddy
  • Low eyebrows folded towards the center = judgmental

The focus on plastic surgery that has emerged from the BRF video has irked Orci.

“It is not a semi-real condition to be treated medically as much as fart jokes are a prescription for Pepto-Bismol. Yes, it’s funny because it’s true, but that’s all comedy,” says Orci, the video’s creator. “This is about the expectations we put on people and women in particular to be pleasant and nice, and how that compares to how we all actually look when we’re not actively trying to be pleasant and nice.”

Orci says the video is not about aging, crow’s feet or marionette lines, but a sketch about the shame we feel about the way we naturally look.

“What the sketch prescribes is that we shift our expectations, not change our faces,” says Orci. “I think that’s why the sketch resounded [with] so many people. It makes you laugh and say, ‘You’re OK just the way you are,’ and maybe that person you think is a bitch, you should give a second chance. Or spend $10,000 to change the way your face looks, whatever works.”

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