Remember how everyone was convinced that Renée Zellweger had gotten plastic surgery after she showed up to ELLE's Women in Hollywood event looking different than usual? Photos from the event quickly flung across the internet accompanied by headlines suggesting she had work done on her eyes, and more. In response to the digital cacophony, Zellweger denied all plastic surgery accusations.
Fast forward to today, and certain critics still feel victimized by Zellweger's appearance. Case in point: Here's a highlight from Variety critic Owen Gleiberman's recent essay entitled, "Renée Zellweger: If She No Longer Looks Like Herself Has She Become a Different Actress?"
"Watching the trailer, I didn't stare at the actress and think: She doesn't look like Renée Zellweger. I thought: She doesn't look like Bridget Jones! Celebrities, like anyone else, have the right to look however they want, but the characters they play become part of us. I suddenly felt like something had been taken away."
So just today, Zellweger penned a powerful essay in The Huffington Post, stating once again that she "did not make a decision to alter my face and have surgery on my eyes." Moreover, she's appalled (and rightfully so) by the level of media attention her appearance has garnered, and what it says about how we still treat women as the sum of their looks.
I am not writing today because I have been publicly bullied or because the value of my work has been questioned by a critic whose ideal physical representation of a fictional character originated 16 years ago, over which he feels ownership, I no longer meet. I am not writing in protest to the repellent suggestion that the value of a person and her professional contributions are somehow diminished if she presumably caves to societal pressures about appearance, and must qualify her personal choices in a public court of opinion. I'm not writing because I believe it's an individual's right to make decisions about his or her body for whatever reason without judgment.
I'm writing because to be fair to myself, I must make some claim on the truths of my life, and because witnessing the transmutation of tabloid fodder from speculation to truth is deeply troubling. The 'eye surgery' tabloid story itself did not matter, but it became the catalyst for my inclusion in subsequent legitimate news stories about self-acceptance and women succumbing to social pressure to look and age a certain way. In my opinion, that tabloid speculations become the subject of mainstream news reporting does matter.
She goes on to say that while society has become more egalitarian in some ways, "the double standard used to diminish our contributions remains, and is perpetuated by, the negative conversation which enters our consciousness every day as snark entertainment."
She maintains that, contrary to popular belief, these tabloid puff pieces are not harmless.
It increasingly takes air time away from the countless significant unprecedented current events affecting our world. It saturates our culture, perpetuates unkind and unwise double standards, lowers the level of social and political discourse, standardizes cruelty as a cultural norm, and inundates people with information that does not matter.
Finally, she concludes by asking everyone to shift the focus of their conversations to the things that really matter. "Maybe we could talk more about our many true societal challenges and how we can do better." Zellweger, we hear you.
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