I was never a big fan of Renee Zellweger, except literally as I’m quite fat. I didn’t like the Bridget Jones movies at all; watching a really mean Colin Firth gradually come to love Bridget because I don’t know, she drops things? wasn’t really my idea of a classic. But she was fine-to-good-to-great in the role, depending on whom you asked, as she also was in cult classic Empire Records, and hit movies Jerry Maguire and Chicago. Even though I never warmed to her completely, when I was going through her IMDB page I realised I had still seen almost every movie she made from 1995 to 2006. She was a bona fide movie star for a solid ten years, but hasn’t really been in anything since 2009. And so if you had told me in 2009 that in 2014 I would spend a lot of time on a social media platform arguing with strangers about Renee Zellweger, and I was the one defending her, I would have been ‘Blind Sided’ and called you an ‘Inglorious Basterd’, both movies from 2009 thank you I am very clever. But alas, it was to be.
This all came about because Renee dared to appear in public at a Hollywood event looking different than the person we’d (analysed and snarked about and criticised for her fluctuating weight gains and different looks during the filming of the Bridget Jones movies 10 years ago) loved back then. It is apparent that she has had some amount of plastic surgery done, and she does indeed look different. That is true, congratulations to all the Sherlock Holmes out there with the ability to differentiate between two photos of a person separated by a decade. I am not denying that she had work done, and probably extensive work. I am not denying that she looks different. What I take issue with is the hundreds of (mostly unfunny) jokes I read through in my twitter feed dedicated to making fun of her for it. Or the tweets insulting her for going too far. Or the ones for calling her gross. To me, this is kicking in the wrong direction. Renee Zellweger was a very successful young actress, and she is now still only 45 years old. If you look at her face and the first thing you feel isn’t overwhelming anger at the pressure our society puts on women to stay looking young, and beautiful BUT FOR THE LOVE OF FUCKING GOD STILL LOOK NATURAL OR YOU ARE WORTHLESS, then you and I are very different.
That pressure exists and is damaging enough for women who are not in the entertainment industry. It is unimaginable within that sphere. All you need to do is to take a quick look at how leading men are allowed to age with no repercussion, to see what is different for women. All you need to do is to see how those leading men age into their 50s and 60s still playing sexy leading men, while their romantic on-screen partners stay 25 and 30 years old, to understand what is unfair here. Have a look to see how many great parts are written for older women. Have a look to see what age actresses are when they stop being cast as the love interest, and start being cast as the mother of actors younger than them in real life. Think about the value we place on women, and how easily discarded and replaced they are, once their skin starts to sag in a way we find unpalatable. Then think about all those reactions to Renee Zellweger’s face you saw.
We demand that women look a certain way, and we discard them like garbage when they stop. We demand they stay the same, and then we judge them for choosing to use plastic surgery. We comment if they look fat, if they look thin, if they look old, if they look like they've had work done. When women try everything in their power to hold onto those brief moments where society found them appealing enough to look at on a screen, when they try to stay looking the same because they know we will discard them as soon as they are out of date, we turn on them then, as well. Women can’t fucking win, because we won’t let them.
And I’ll keep arguing with you on twitter or any other format about this forever.