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29th May 2024

Have we seen the end of period pieces?

Niamh Ryan

Have you ever watched a period piece recently and thought something looked a bit off about the characters?

Almost like they didn’t fit in well to the movie?

You wouldn’t be the first.

People online have coined the term ‘iPhone face’. It’s a phenomenon that occurs when characters in historic or period dramas appear too modern for their setting, i.e they look like they’ve seen/used an iPhone.

The term was popularised around 2022, when Dakota Johnson starred in the period drama Persuasion.

Source: Glamour

Upon the trailer’s release, people were quick to comment that she seemed out of place in the 1800s.

However, it should be noted that throughout the film, her character frequently breaks the fourth wall by talking to the camera – this is quite unusual for a period piece as it is.

Bridgerton season three

Season three of Bridgerton came out earlier this month, with the second part coming out on June 13th.

The third instalment has received some negative feedback on the makeup and costumes in the latest season.

Compared to season one, the makeup is much more dramatic and noticeable, with one commenter saying that Penelope and Francesca look like they “get their makeup done at Charlotte Tilbury.”

Source: Vogue

However, others pointed out that Bridgerton is not historically accurate anyways.

After all, the soundtrack features instrumental versions of modern music like Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande.

Why do some people look more modern?

So, why is it that some actors look more believable in their roles than others?

The biggest reason why period dramas may seem unrealistic nowadays is due to the large number of cosmetic procedures available.

It would be fair to say that most celebrities have had at least some work done.

While we don’t always notice things like veneers and botox in real life, when we see them outside of the 21st century, they can be very unsettling.

If you were to compare Kiera Knightley in Pride and Prejudice and some of the stars in this season of Bridgerton, there’s a noticeable difference.

Granted, they’re not attempting to be the same portrayal of one story, but as far as period pieces go, Pride and Prejudice looks more convincing.

Knightley’s slightly crooked teeth and barely visible makeup makes her seem believable as a young woman living in the Regency Era.

Is ‘iPhone face’ ruining period pieces?

While I agree it can be unsettling when someone looks out of place in a period piece, there’s other reasons why recent movies don’t look quite right.

Movies and television shows recently all seem to have that sharp and clean cut look to them.

Daisy Jones and the Six, for example, follows a slightly grungy rock band in the 60s.

However, they all have perfectly styled hair, excellent skin, and none of them seem to have seen the affects of chain smoking.

Source: Glamour

If they were real people they would have had crooked teeth, and definitely didn’t have the 10-step skincare routine they appear to follow.

No matter how excellent the casting may be, if the characters don’t truly fit into the time period it tends to end up looking cheap.

Movie nowadays don’t seem to have that natural element to them.

Everyone is always perfectly styled in tailored clothes, every apartment is decorated so meticulously.

The colour grading and camera quality also takes us out of the experience.

Without the grain and lighting we’d normally see in older movies, the cast just don’t look believable no matter how accurate the props and details are.

Maybe directors should have freedom with period pieces, and maybe there shouldn’t be strict rules, but there’s something about careful attention to detail that vastly improves any film.