The “shaming” of Renée Zellweger’s face is another reminder of our unrealistic expectations of how women should look and behave
It happens all the time in India, from trolling Anushka Sharma about her supposed lip-job to ribbing Sonakshi Sinha and Aishwarya Rai about their weight gain. But as the recent ridiculing of Renée Zellweger’s face demonstrates, the West is no different from the East when it comes to unrealistic – and unwarranted – expectations of the female ideal.
First, a quick recap. Zellweger, who has stayed away from acting for four years now, appeared at ELLE’s 21st annual Women In Hollywood Awards – but you wouldn’t have recognized her as the woman who has come to represent Bridget Jones in the public imagination. Maybe she got plastic surgery or botox or whatever it is they do these days, maybe she didn’t (Zellweger claims her new look is due to a happier and healthier lifestyle). It’s her life, so isn’t she entitled to do whatever she wants to her face or her body?
Of course not. The internet was rife with tweets and articles slamming her for undergoing some kind of facial treatment that dramatically altered her appearance. Were these people upset about a culture that is obsessed with perfection and youth when it comes to women, forcing female celebrities into an impossible regime just to keep up? No. The problem wasn’t what made Zellweger choose to undergo the knife (if at all she did). The problem was how she looked – or rather how she had aged. It just did not measure up to public expectations of how a 44 year old actress – who we remembered as a carefree and pretty young thing – should have matured.
As this commentary on Buzzfeed points out:
The performative surprise, disgust, and shame directed toward aging is super contradictory: It suggests that the ideal woman is young and without wrinkles, but attempts by women to maintain that ideal are subject to derision.
It’s not that women shouldn’t get plastic surgery; it’s that they should make every effort for that surgery to be invisible, seamless, unnoticeable. Good plastic surgery is OK, but “bad” plastic surgery — surgery that makes itself visible — now that’s abject.
Why? Because it shows that the work of performing ideal femininity is just that: work. And ideal femininity never illuminates itself as a construction; it must present itself as “natural.
And as this article on The Guardian rightfully reminds us:
We expect our celebrity women to truly have it all: beauty, youth, talent, humility and a conscientious disdain for how their appearances figure into their ability to practice their art unless, of course, it is somehow serving their art. 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.
Pity poor Renée Zellweger, we say, for she is supposed to know when a famous woman no longer meets our standards for unobtainable and effortless beauty. Spare us the sight, we demand, of what our hypocrisy wreaks on our all-too-human idols.
Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons