Renée Zellweger’s Unpopular New Face
Old is not ugly. Looking like a mask of your former self is ugly.
Poor Renée Zellweger. The Oscar-winner’s latest nip and tucks on display at Elle’s Women in Hollywood awards last week have caused a great gnashing of bleached teeth and hand-wringing among Hollywood pundits. While successful actresses past 30 already have a team of cosmetic surgeons on their speed dials, Zellweger raised eyebrows (at least among those who haven’t had too much Botox around the eyes) because she went a little scalpel-crazy. At only 45, her face had become almost unrecognizable: Is that really Rene? people asked.
Part of Zellweger’s charm when she catapulted to fame at age 27 as Tom Cruise’s co-star in the hit film Jerry Maguire was her natural and “unconventionally pretty” look. Her eyes were small and she had “chipmunk cheeks,” but she was talented and cute. With typical Hollywood hype, a few raved that her natural look made her the “it girl,” to which other ingénues would be compared. Bad luck: “unconventionally pretty” didn’t hold for Zellweger over the long haul. And in this industry of make-believe, “sag” can only be the acronym for Screen Actors Guild, never a physical sign of aging.
In Hollywood, “sag” can only be the acronym for Screen Actors Guild, never a physical sign of aging.
Who can blame the actress for taking a liking to liposuction? She hasn’t had a commercial success since she co-starred in 2005’s Cinderella Man. In most professions, continuing education or a new certification might bolster your bona fides. In Hollywood, you may need to get a new face. The outcry over Zellweger’s dramatically different face suggests that you do by all means still need to look unnaturally young, but your face still needs to resemble the one you had, the one people had once said they liked.
In Hollywood, gravity is something that only happens to other people. Actresses are supposed to age gracefully, “which in Hollywood is a euphemism for ‘good plastic surgery,’ the kind that successfully skirts an unarticulated line between sagging and frozen,” as Amanda Hess observed in Slate. Either way, the older a woman gets, the more she is forced to fake a youthfulness she no longer has.
(No wonder that in Hebrew, the word for face is panim, and is in the plural. Everyone shows the world more than one face, and our faces change over time, most naturally, and some unnaturally.)
War on Women
When I was a kid I wanted to be an actress when I grew up. I convinced my parents to enroll me in drama school, and my weekends in those classes were the highlight of those years of my life. I got as far as getting a few gigs as an extra on some TV sit-coms. “Extras” are the people in the background with no speaking roles. By the time you advance to a speaking part, you too may be required to get a face lift. In high school, I practiced sucking in my cheeks to see how cool I’d look with a chicly gaunt expression. But it was no use: with my gene pool and appetite, I would be miserable having to stay so thin. Who wants to live on egg white omelets and dry whole wheat toast (one piece only!), a slave to a personal trainer who would force me to spend three hours a day spinning, doing Pilates, and wrenching my body into yoga poses called upward plank and cobra? Feh!
I was happy performing in high school plays and had set my sights on a writing career, where you are allowed to eat donuts without having to do 400 sit-ups in penance. “To blepharoplasty or not to blepharoplasty?” would be the question for other women, not for me.
I definitely made the right career move, and I enjoy good movies and admire the talent of outstanding actors and actresses. But I wish Hollywood power brokers, including the most successful actresses and female producers, would spend less time on their usual political causes and do something about the “war on women” in their own industry, which makes women over 40 perform unnatural acts of cosmetic surgery. This doesn't just hurt the actresses; it hurts all girls and women who are told implicitly: old is ugly. No it isn’t. Trying desperately to look like a mask of your former self is ugly.
Let’s have these powerful Hollywood women band together and protest on Rodeo Drive, “Hell no, we won’t go back to the cosmetic surgeon!” “Free actresses from captivity in their size 0 dresses!” Did they ever think about what message that sends, that your dress size is a number that means nothing?
Obsession with Youth
At the 2014 Academy Awards, host Ellen DeGeneres poked fun at Hollywood’s youth-obsession. “I’m not saying movies are the most important thing in the world,” she told the audience. “I’m not saying that—because the most important thing in the world is youth.” Her barb hit a little too close to home when she welcomed “one of the most amazing Liza Minnelli impersonators I have seen in my entire life,” as the camera zoomed in on the 67-year-old actress’s recently remodeled face. Ouch.
The late comedienne Joan Rivers, whose own cosmetic surgeries made her look almost eerie in her last years, joked about her own obsessions over her looks: “I've had more reconstruction done than Afghanistan. I’ve had so much plastic surgery, when I die they will donate my body to Tupperware.”
I hope Joan Rivers rests in peace, and I hope that Hollywood elites will wake up from their make-believe world where women over 40 should be seen – but only after they’ve been sculpted into an artificial “ideal.”