Talk in St Andrews

Date: 19th of November 2020 via Teams. All welcome.

Brews and Brows: Shaping Stories from Eyebrows to Scousebrows

Brews and Brows: Shaping Stories from Eyebrows to Scousebrows is an interdisciplinary project working across the Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences and Sciences. The team consists of researchers in Film Studies, Filmmaking, Human Geography, Facial Scanning, and Fashion Photography, and has worked with scholars in Queer Studies, Art Practice, Evolutionary Archeology, Brow Artists and Technicians, and Cosmetic Surgery.

The project started with a set of questions firmly placed in Film Studies, how do actors act with their eyebrows and how do they communicate to us the audience? These questions were subsequently expanded upon and broadened out to raise questions of identity – class, gender, race, age and sexual orientation in Liverpool, a city marked (and denigrated) by a specific eyebrow, the Scousebrow.

We invited the general public to join us for a “brew” and chat about their brows. For this, the project trained 6 PhD students in interdisciplinary methods, held an event and symposium at FACT, Liverpool and a subsequent event during the Homotopia Festival at the Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool. The project received funding from Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), the University of Liverpool (UoL), the AHRC North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership, engage@Liverpool, Methods Northwest, and the ESRC.

With a video contribution by Dr Sarah Shrimpton, this presentation by Dr Niamh Thornton (Modern Languages and Cultures, UoL) and Dr Liz Greene (Liverpool Screen School, LJMU) will discuss some of the initial findings from the project.

Brow Inspiration

Yesterday, Google created a Doodle for the Mexican version of the Mexican actress María Félix on the occasion of her 104th birthday. Her eyebrow movements were the original inspiration for this project. She was born and died on the same date – the 8th of April. The year of her birth is subject to some variation, depending on the source, but she lived a full life and died in 2002 in her eighties. She starred in 47 films and became known as La Doña – a term that denotes respect and authority – after her breakthrough role as the eponymous character Doña Bárbara (Fernando de Fuentes and Miguel M. Delgado, 1943). At the peak of her career (1940s-1950s) she was the best paid actor (male or female) in what was a flourishing industry in Mexico. Mexican film production at the time dominated the Spanish-language market in Latin American and Spain and was widely distributed throughout the world. She occasionally acted in Spanish, Italian, and French productions, but never in English. She lived a celebrity life full of scandal and glamour. By the end of her life she lived in opulent surroundings with her French husband in residences in Paris and Mexico City. Despite all of this fame and renown – or maybe because of it – her work is relatively understudied. For me, one means of understanding her work is to find new ways of discussing the brow so that I can get a keener insight into why, despite her considerable success and skill, women like her are not given the academic attention they deserve.

For more on María Félix see, here and here.

Niamh Thornton, University of Liverpool


Trailers and A/V essays

As part of our event at FACT we will have a trailer and an audio-visual essay co-created by Niamh Thornton and Liz Greene. We are currently working hard to edit material by vloggers and Instagrammers, and finding inspiration in the many film stars and celebrities who use their brows as part of their performances. After many hours of viewing, it has been fascinating to watch the similarities and differences in approaches and advice given. Pencils, stencils, threads, and products abound. The release date for our trailer will be next week.

The Most Famous Monobrow

When I mention that I am doing a project on eyebrows and I research Mexico, Frida Kahlo’s name is always mentioned. So, it is no surprise that in a review of an exhibition of her “intimate belongings” at the V&A her “ebony eyebrow pencils that she used to emphasise her monobrow” is included. For more, read on. Kahlo’s image is to be found on multiple objects that can be bought throughout the land. So, will the exhibit now encourage a new direction in brows, just as her Tehuana-style blouse has introduced a taste for embroidery?

Niamh Thornton, University of Liverpool


Eyebrows are a constant in the press and online, with many different opinions about whose works and whose doesn’t. We want to get away from eyebrow shaming and give you an opportunity to get your eyebrow scanned, talk about what your brow means to you, and shake off the negativity around the brow. We are interested in the choices you make when you pluck, sculpt, and position your eyebrows and to challenge the current negative press around the (Scouse)brow.