Alright, are we really being Internet busybodies by talking about Renee Zellweger? Let’s be honest here since Zellweger and company haven’t been. The problems here are due to sexism, ageism, and lookism in the US entertainment industry, true. But her own comments make Zellweger complicit in this. She is not “revealing the hard work of beauty” but eliding it. By attributing her “new look” to tropes of aging and wellness, she’s leaving this look up to nature as if scalpels had nothing to do with it. A good rest–even spanning several years–does not stretch your skin tautly across your face, changing the shape of your eyes and nose. Audiences may not deserve to be privy to all the intimate details of cosmetic procedures, but to show up to an industry event–where you’re expected to be photographed and interviewed and to gain attention accordingly–and act like your “new look” won’t–or shouldn’t–cause a stir is ludicrous.
This is an industry-wide–indeed, culture-wide–problem and Zellweger’s just one part of it, but reflective of the changes that need to happen to make this a better business for women, on and off the screen. In teaching prep the past few weeks I’ve been watching doc after doc on women in the industry, and it gets tiresome after a while hearing these women talk about the dangers of Hollywood’s representations of women while seeing how little their faces move and how much bigger their cheekbones are than when they were in their 20s. Part of chipping away at the problems with these -isms is going to have to involve ending the conspiracy of silence around these fitness regimens and cosmetic procedures, and being honest about what “work” is really going into these bodies.