Renee Zellweger has been the talk of tabloid land ever since images of her with obvious plastic surgery began to make the rounds this morning. This in turn led to the tabloids wondering what the 45 year old actress had done to herself and implicitly how much worse she looked for it. Yet the truth is she never stood a chance to begin with, not that any of us ever do when it comes to aging…
Reported salon in a thoughtful piece: The mouth is the same. The body posture is the same. The blue of the eyes is the same. But the face itself is narrower, the famously squinty eyes wider, the skin taut. To comment on the dramatic change seems cruel, while to not comment on it would seem an act of absurd denial. Of course, the more obviously tone-deaf sites have simply gone with the images and run with them, with TMZ announcing, “Renee Zellweger — You Look … Like Someone Else” and the Daily Mail declaring “Renee Zellweger’s face is unrecognizable.” Gawker simply ran the headline “Here are some pictures of Renee Zellweger,” letting the images speak for themselves. And Us, displaying either profound tact or straight-up trolling, called her “nearly wrinkle-free!” and said, “Renee Zellweger Returns to the Red Carpet With a Stunning New Look: See Her Fresh-Faced Appearance!”
And that in part is what offended us her fans, her audience, the actress’ temerity to dare change and preserve her youth but by doing so ironically no longer looking like the person she used to be or what we had come to imagine our Bridget Jones deity ought to be for us.
But what could the actress have done anyway? Like many actresses (never mind mere mortals) her looks were bound to be criticized as is the passing rite of any one of us in the public eye. Too fat, too skinny. Too taut, too wrinkly. Too fake too aged. Who can ever win in such a situation if one is forced to live for the sake of others expectations, which sadly is the lot of many women, especially once they reach past the age of 45 as they are reminded over and over their value is contingent on their sexuality (or still having it) and their youth.
A woman we are reminded must always approximate to these ideals because in America a woman is really only worth how good she looks in a bikini, how good she looks when the paparazzi are indiscriminately flashing lightbulbs at her, reminded that her currency despite what we in the media insist is otherwise is the sum of her ability to make us fall in love with the way she makes us feel. And the way she makes us feel is sadly heavily contingent on her looking a particular way.
Reflected actress 57-year-old Frances McDormand recently only too presciently: ‘We are on red alert when it comes to how we are perceiving ourselves as a species. There’s no desire to be an adult. Adulthood is not a goal. It’s not seen as a gift. Something happened culturally: No one is supposed to age past 45 — sartorially, cosmetically, attitudinally. Everybody dresses like a teenager. Everybody dyes their hair. Everybody is concerned about a smooth face.’
Everyone is concerned with a smooth face and a fantastic bikini look never mind being concerned with integrity of the idea that a woman is always more the sum of her appearances which she has every right to dictate for her own pleasure even if she feels overwhelmed to take to the knife lest she lose her fandom. Which of course in Renee Zellweger’s case might certainly have become the case…