Nothing's Wrong with Renee Zellweger's Face - Something's Wrong With Us


To be a female celebrity is to lose at every turn. Dare to age? Face-shame at best and be out of work at worst. Get noticeable plastic surgery on your face to combat the inevitable aging? At best, you will be mocked for your narcissism and delusional attempts at hanging onto your youth; at worst, you’ll be out of work again.

The continued evolution of our obsession with famous people has birthed a strange phenomenon: the bodies of total strangers are considered collective public property to be casually evaluated, critiqued and discarded.

As disturbing as it may be sometimes to see a public figure physically transform before our eyes, it’s even more troubling to see how effortlessly we rush to say something about that transformation.

“Where did Renee Zellweger’s face go?”

To ask a question like that, as so many did on Tuesday is to cut in all directions, commodifying a woman’s body even as you seemingly seek to champion it.

What did Renee Zellweger do to deserve that kind of knee-jerk reaction? She attended Elle magazine’s 2014 Women in Hollywood event on Monday night to mark her first appearance in a film in more than five years. But no one, it seems, was happy to see her again: instead, on Tuesday morning, the media gatekeepers—includingmany women—were aghast at the appearance of Zellweger’s face, which seemed markedly different since her last memorable red-carpet appearance, which was more than five years ago. The outcry was loud and universal, which is exactly, sadly, the kind of thing a woman in Hollywood has learned to expect anytime she does anything to her appearance.

From fashion blogs to CNN, the horror and disgust was palpable: What kind of monster is this, the world seemed to beg, that would shed her skin so easily, hoping to avert aging and death—or at least the death of her career by physically becoming another person altogether? Heavy Internet-sighers bemoaned how akin Zellweger has become to Jennifer “No One Puts Baby in a Corner” Grey, who infamously cut off her own nose to spite her face, and—like a spooky campfire tale—supposedly never ever worked again.

Yet one trope was notably absent from the Greek chorus of judgment decrying Zellweger’s physical appearance. In all the hand-wringing and all the awfulness aimed at Zellweger, only a few finger-pointers noted that, the public doesn’t just feel entitled to freely comment on celebrity bodies and faces. No, the same public that apparently believes Zellweger did something untoward to her greatest asset (which is, apparently, not her acting chops) is also busy gasping even more loudly should any woman dare to let a wrinkle, a glimmer of cellulite or a bravely untoned abdominal muscle besmirch her appearance.

(Odd how it’s never mentioned that even the legendary Jennifer Grey elected to get plastic surgery only after she turned 30, which is also known as the age when the same women in Hollywood Elle was celebrating on Monday night so often find themselves challenged to find substantive work.)

The famous women who do dare to age at all—and beautifully so—are breathlessly glorified as possessing a talent so exceptional, so perfect, it allowed them to transcend their own decaying forms. Of course Meryl Streep is still working and racking up awardswe say, smiling respectfully every time a younger actress states that her greatest goal is to share the screen with Streep. Of course Jessica Lange is the new face of Marc Jacobswe nod, proud of our own progressive, subversive standards of beauty. We allow ourselves a few exceptional exceptions... if they’re pretty enough and we can believe that they would never sully themselves with a trip to a medical professional.

We expect our celebrity women to truly have it all: beauty, youth, talent, humility and a conscientious disdain for how their appearances figure into their ability to practice their art; unless, of course, it is somehow serving their art. Pity the woman so brazen as to pull back the curtain on these expectations by letting herself be seen in public past a certain age, with or without the help of the medical community.

Pity poor Renee Zellweger, we say, for she is supposed to know when a famous woman no longer meets our standards for unobtainable and effortless beauty. Spare us the sight, we demand, of what our hypocrisy wreaks on our all-too-human idols.

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