Literally cast as an embodiment of aspirational beauty, Barbie star Margot Robbie is conventionally attractive by any reasonable metric. So when a handful of guys on Twitter labeled her “mid,” it sparked an argument about unrealistic beauty standards.
The topic kicked off with two tweets: One featuring a photo of Robbie “without makeup,” and one saying that there used to be women like this “in every Blockbuster video in 1995.”
Both tweets play into familiar trends in sexist commentary about women’s appearances, beginning with the potential misidentification of a no-makeup pic. The photo comes from an Instagram video where Robbie appears to be wearing lip tint, mascara, and possibly foundation.
The Blockbuster video comment echoes a meme where men either compare female celebrities to “naturally” beautiful cashier girls, or argue that average women were more beautiful in the past. As with other forms of nostalgia about historic gender roles, this often goes hand-in-hand with racism. So it’s not hugely surprising to see the Blockbuster guy criticize Robbie in the same thread for not being a natural “Nordic” blonde.
Of course, there is an element of truth to the cashier girl meme. Plenty of beautiful women do work in normal jobs like Starbucks.
But when men try to leverage these women (total strangers!) to argue that celebrities are comparatively ugly, they’re being sexist weirdoes. And when they talk about women being hotter in the 1980s or ’90s, they’re probably just feeling nostalgic for their horny teenage years. In the present day, they’re so brainwashed by photoshopped imagery and toxic misogynist messaging that their beauty standards no longer reflect reality.
The most notorious perpetrator of this phenomenon is the subreddit /r/truerateme, which claims to provide “objective” ratings of women’s appearances. It’s a hellscape of bizarre micro-judgements and phrenology bullshit, where the moderators routinely ban users for rating women “too high.”
This forum is full of incredibly beautiful women being rated 5.6/10 because they have a single forehead line or the wrong shape of nose—much like the imaginary flaws that led some people to label Margot Robbie “mid.” And when you embrace that kind of attitude, you will never know peace.