‘People’ Choosing Julia Roberts as ‘Most Beautiful’ is Less Interesting Than the Response

I mean, the gifs are really good

(by LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images)

This morning, People announced that the 2017 winner of their long-standing “The World’s Most Beautiful Woman” title would be Pretty Woman’s Julia Roberts. That was the peg: Pretty Woman. As in, the film that came out 27 years ago, whose first-time theater viewers are now 40+. Two true things: Roberts is gorgeous (a dream, really) and this choice feels like a #tbt in cover form, and not just because she’s been around for a while.

“The stunning star is, for a record fifth time, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World – though she can hardly believe it,” reports People. “‘I am very flattered,’ she tells People’s editor-in-chief Jess Cagle in this week’s cover story.”

Roberts is 49. That’s cool — it’s nice to see what many women consider “the invisible decade” highlighted. And this cover will probably sell a lot of magazines. I mean, that smile. That glow! Less cool — and so obvious — is its blatant enforcement of and praise for a particular, narrow beauty standard. I guess it goes without saying that a “most beautiful” contest feels almost comically presumptuous and out of place in today’s conversations around beauty. To argue that it should have been someone else would probably just be missing the point. More interesting than trying to ascertain the motive behind People’s choice is the internet’s reaction it. Gone are the days of these decisions ending in a mailed subscriber/magazine stand vacuum. Today, they echo immediately, and in this case, the resulting back-and-forth delivered.

Here are some of the first reactions to People’s tweet, expressed via gif:

The choice’s déjà vu nature doesn’t seem to be lost on anyone:

And my personal favorite:

It’s not that images or designations like this have no power — they do, representation matters — it’s that, this time, the conversation is pivoting more around head-shaking and eye-rolling than anything else. The internet’s seeming desire to laugh this the fuck off says something about the relevance of this weird little beauty pageant. And, perhaps more importantly, my spending more time looking at gifs on Twitter about it than reading the article itself hints that across the board, these conversations are more in the hands of consumers than they’ve ever been. A story doesn’t just end at the final sentence on a page anymore. The reactions are becoming an equal playing part within the larger narrative. So we’ll watch as more reactions come in today, but something tells me this won’t stay top-of-mind for long. And in the context of this outdated competition, I’m not complaining.

How do you feel about it?

Photo by LOIC VENANCE/AFP/ via Getty Images.

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