Pursed lips, raised eyebrows, eyes widened – that was the general reaction when Renée Zelwegger debuted a brand-new face on the red carpet this week. Gone is her trademark squint, replaced by rounder eyes and a more generic Hollywood look that falls somewhere between Naomi Watts and Katie Couric.
She later offered that her vastly different new look was simply a result of her living a “different, happy, more fulfilling life“.
If she’s happy in her skin, that’s fantastic – but I don’t think, as The Guardian suggested in this article by Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy, that people commenting on the fact the ‘Bridget Jones’ star could no longer feasibly play herself in the own biopic is in any way sexist or ageist. The Guardian (as much as I love it) has a stock in trade of taking a pop-culture moment and desperately shoe-horning it into the framework of some ‘-ism’ so people will feel duly outraged and morally superior. They propose that people were not gasping and forwarding the photo to friends because an actress no longer has a famous face to go with her famous name, but instead because she is a woman over the age of 40 who had a bit of a touch-up. Hmm..
Jennifer reckons, “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.” Discarding bodies? That sounds a little strong and alarmist. Losing interest in a celebrity is not equivalent to dumping a body in the bins behind the local Tesco. Plus I’m sure people have assessed the appearance of others ever since we began grunting and humping around on this earth. It is basic human instinct and not a “strange phenomenon”.
She continues “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 ageing and death – or at least the death of her career by physically becoming another person altogether?” Or did people just say ‘Holy fuck, Renée Zelwegger looks different – do you think she got her eyes done?'”
“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.” Who mentioned age? Nobody is banging on about a bit of botox – Jennifer look at the photo again, SHE LOOKS LIKE A DIFFERENT PERSON.
A simple test to see if this is indeed a sexist reaction – if George Clooney stepped out tomorrow looking like Dale Winton would anyone comment on it? I imagine they would. Do people comment on male celebrities bodies? Google ‘Justin Bieber shirtless’ or ‘Zac Efron body’ and see if people are similarly obsessed (then promptly erase search history). Is it ageist? I imagine that if Taylor Swift got a complete facial renovation under the knife as though she was in a dodgy straight-to-video witness protection movie people may have something to say about it. Are we commodfying Renée’s face because she’s famous? If the girl who always serves you down the shops got a face refit to look like Liza Minneli you’d probably remark on that too.
The fact remains, and it’s a simple one, people are discussing Renée Zellweger because a face they were familiar with now looks COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. If Stephen Fry got a nipple erected onto the middle of his forehead would anyone who commented on the unusual turn of events be homophobic? No, of course not. Commenting on Renée’s face is not sexist or ageist.
I’m sorry but on this one Guardian, I reckon you’re spouting nonsense.
I’m on Twitter @showbizgeek and @theroryjohn