Renée Zellweger’s face: a storm in a teacup

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If you’re expecting an article further debating where Bridget Jones’s face has gone, you won’t find it here. For those without a clue, here is the cause of the internet uproar in one sentence: Renée Zellweger, the actress made famous for her roles in Bridget Jones and Chicago, recently stepped out of the dimly-lit Hollywood shadows with an unrecognisable face. We’re not talking a peculiar practical joke or a mediocre impersonator – a glamorous woman stood in front of the cameras, her name was Renée yet her appearance apparently disagreed with the public. The internet erupted. So rather than another incredulous article placed on top of the speculating mountain, here is why you shouldn’t even care enough to read this article in the first place.

On October 20, Elle magazine organised an evening for the Women in Hollywood Awards 2014, with guests including 56-year-old Annette Bening, 44-year-old Tina Fey and 45-year-old Renée Zellweger. Of the three more mature actresses, Renée was to be singled out as a “shock” entrance; “plastic-surgery” was the term on reporters’ lips. So a celebrity gets a little work done on her face – this is Hollywood, this is the industry, why has our attention been drawn to this case in particular? Bridget Jones fans refer you back to the plump, smiling-eyed actress doddering about the screen in her underwear – that charming face is her fortune. Therefore, do we care for the sake of her professional life? Already rumours are rife that she will no longer be Bridget Jones for the next installment, and this will undoubtedly cause upset amongst devotees of the films. Perhaps you should feel strongly if you consider yourself among the enthusiasts.

However, the actress herself has spoken out to People magazine saying that she was “glad” that people thought she looked different, that she felt “healthy” – and if she is happy with her appearance, then who are we to pity or chastise her? Furthermore, a film immortalises an actress in that character – it’s human nature for our faces to alter and develop as we grow older. There’s even a word for it: ageing. Renée Zellweger would eventually lose the doughy youth of her beloved characters anyway. We as spectators feel a ‘betrayal’ by a woman who few of us will ever know personally. So why do we care so much about celebrities in the first place?

The great and the good are now dehumanised to the extent where they can no longer be perceived to alter or age. A public sphere has been created in which they can be talked about and criticised. In this case, discussing Renée Zellweger’s possible eye surgery may be a more accessible talking-point amongst your acquaintances than your neighbour’s face-lift – it’s human nature to want to compare and criticise those around us; famous faces are just a more universal conversation topic. Perhaps we care so much because these unattainable goddesses become a little more human through our condemnation, thus we feel the need to critique them to make ourselves feel a little closer to their pedestals. This has been made worse by the increased use of Photoshop to perfect men and women to impossible standards, widening the gap between Us and Them. But these women are still women, with emotions and insecurities and working in an industry that is unforgiving when it comes to aesthetics.

So, here is what you should care about: the disparagement. We are now in a society that is caught in a no-win situation when it comes to ageing: plastic surgery is generally ridiculed, but to get noticeably older is also the subject of disdain. Perhaps this is because for us it is a reminder that the end of youth is inevitable, even for those who we deem impervious. We as students are growing into adults in a place where individuals’ choices are deconstructed to the point of derision, something we should ultimately be opposing. I believe that rather than scorning Renée Zellweger, we should be admiring her as a woman who made decisions for her own happiness. If she herself says she is happy and healthy, that’s show her lack of insecurity. And as for her face, or anyone’s face, here’s to hoping this opinion piece helped you form less of an opinion.

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