Thoughts on the “victory smile”

Here’s an interesting thought (whether its true or not I don’t know):

In a recent conversation we talked about how everyone had to smile while taking pictures.  Ever since I was a kid this used to mystify me.  I was often bewildered when people used to get mad at me for not smiling.   . . . why must we smile? . . . why smile when I don’t feel like smiling? . . . why force a smile?  . . where did this come from anyways?  I’ve talked to a number of people about it.  A common statement is that it originates from the old style camera’s where you had to sit still for a few seconds for the picture to take.  Makes sense, but it doesn’t explain why we have to smile.  

Not only that, why do we have to smile at social gatherings?  You notice how most everyone has a ‘cheerful’ smile on their faces as they go around socializing?  This is particularly pronounced when its a formal gathering.  You hardly see foreignors or people from other cultures doing that.

Why must we smile all the time?

As we talked I began to speak of how the tendency of smiling in pictures and in social gatherings seemed like a post WWII American thing to me.  From what I can tell you didn’t really see it in the 1930’s or before nor do you see it in other countries, at least as near as I can tell.  This would mean that it has to do with WWII. 

But what happened in WWII?  We won.

Therefore, it has to be a “victory smile”, so to speak.  We’re all smiling because we won.  As a result, everyone in the 1950’s is all so happy, smiling from ear to ear and its continued on to today, though I don’t think it is as bad nowadays.  I can recall, in the 1970’s, that people would actually get mad at you for not smiling, as if it was a bad thing.  Many people learned to develop that ‘photo smile’ or ‘social smile’, bringing it up on demand, particularly girls.  I can recall how, in the 1970’s and 1980’s, people used to say funny things to make people smile when taking a picture.  A stepgrandpa of mine used to always tell us “say chockass”.  A common statement was “say cheese”, as that apparently made you make a smile-like expression.  You understand, it got to the point that we were being tricked to smile!  That strikes me as being so funny.  Even recently, I noticed how everyone had that ‘social smile’ at a formal gathering.  In a way, it was comical.  But I think what’s most comical about it is if it really is a victory smile, in response to WWII.  It just seems so funny to me that we would of done that.

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