Yesterday, people finally stopped freaking out about a US Ebola non-outbreak to focus on something far worse. “You mean,” you say, “like the still horrific and actual outbreak in Africa?” No, of course not—I mean Renee Zellweger’s face.
Zellweger, like many a woman, committed a cardinal sin, one committed by so many women before her: she got older wrong. Her face became something we were not OK with, similar to how her old face was something we were not OK with, only way worse because she must not have loved herself the way we thought she was supposed to when she had the face we weren’t OK with and the body we weren’t OK with.
It’s all very hard to follow. But it permeates every element of the female Hollywood experience. OK, I hear you, god, shut up already, fine—sometimes men, too. But rarely, so pipe down.
Basically, a woman left her home the other night. She put on a dress, did her makeup, stepped into a sea of cameras, and then she made the whole internet explode discussing her, picking apart what was wrong with her, what was different. Was it her eyebrows? Her eyelids? Why didn’t she get her wrinkles zapped up, too? Nose job? Fillers? The internet was a weird place yesterday. Why did that happen? What did Renee Zellweger ever do to deserve that?
She was a woman. A woman with a face. And she did it wrong.
How does it affect our lives, our daily existence, to see Renee Zellweger look mildly different than she used to? How are we personally impacted by the sight of thigh cellulite or mineral makeup that photographs weird in high-def? What does any of this really matter? Deeper still, why does it happen at all?
We make jokes, we mean to be funny, but why *these* jokes? Why don’t we see the vicious cycle of vicious. Lady has face — face is weird — lady changes face — new face is weird. Point and laugh at lady. Lather, rinse, repeat.
And then, in addition to the jokes, there’s the concern trolls. They’re just worried is all. Is she healthy? Doesn’t she love herself? Is she mad at her doctor? All these kind, worried people are just as hideously cruel as everyone else—they’re just kidding themselves into thinking themselves goodly and pure.
A woman’s face and body is, for far too many people, her only relevant factors. It’s why complete strangers tell women to smile when they’re just trying to run to Walgreens for some milk. It’s why when someone is described as “a real woman,” it is only referencing her body. Think about that for a second—not to put any stock in those dumb generalizations, but when it’s “a real man” he’s taking care of his kids or staying true to his wife. What does a real woman have? Curves, allegedly. And even when people try to take back the narrative, it still comes down to this: you are defined by your physique. Be all about that bass, so superior to the treble. The inside doesn’t matter anyway. Are you happy with yourself? That’s great. The general public will be unhappy for you.
Yesterday, a lot of people brought up Bridget Jones—a woman somewhat discontent with her appearance. I thought of Claire Richards, her character in White Oleander, an actress so desperate, so deeply insecure she eventually kills herself. I don’t know if Zellweger has anything in common with this character, but even the most confident person would surely be dinged by this kind of scrutiny. It must be smothering. I don’t know how it can possibly be bearable. And I’m sorry I’ve participated in it in the past. I wish I hadn’t. I don’t think it’s funny anymore.
This whole thing can best be summed up by Renee Zellweger herself:
“I’m glad folks think I look different! I’m living a different, happy, more fulfilling life, and I’m thrilled that perhaps it shows,” Zellweger, 45, says of the attention she received after an appearance at the Elle Women in Hollywood Awards in Beverly Hills on Monday.
Calling the conversation about her appearance “silly,” she says she is choosing to address it because “it seems the folks who come digging around for some nefarious truth which doesn’t exist won’t get off my porch until I answer the door.”
“My friends say that I look peaceful. I am healthy,” Zellweger continues. “For a long time I wasn’t doing such a good job with that. I took on a schedule that is not realistically sustainable and didn’t allow for taking care of myself. Rather than stopping to recalibrate, I kept running until I was depleted and made bad choices about how to conceal the exhaustion. I was aware of the chaos and finally chose different things.”
“Perhaps I look different. Who doesn’t as they get older?! Ha. But I am different. I’m happy.”
So let’s leave it at that then, shall we?