Last night, at Elle's 21st annual Women in Hollywood event, Renee Zellweger showed up looking different. That's it. Her face looks different than it did before, and oh boy did the Internet ever LOSE THEIR SHIT ABOUT IT.
And wow okay I get it: girlfriend maybe got work done or stopped getting work done (or zzzzzz WHO CARES WAKE ME UP WHEN SEPTEMBER (OCTOBER) ENDS). This adult woman made a choice about her face and, odds are if you are reading this, you know that choice was her business. Her money. Her decision. She's a grown-up. If she wanted to tattoo an ice cream cone on her face ala Gucci Mayne, that would also be a bold move, but her move nonetheless. We, technically, get to shut the hell up.
"But we have to look at her!" is something I've heard used as a counter-argument by the worst people alive. And yeah! You do! But guess what: beauty is subjective, and Renee Zellweger might feel fly as fuck. She's also doing better than all of us. Do you know who walked the red carpet at Elle's Women in Hollywood event? Nobody here! I didn't. You didn't. That guy with the meme avatar who's spewing vitorol certainly didn't, either. Most importantly, in the words of Amy Poehler: who gives a fuck what you (the hater/criticizer) thinks? We know absolutely nothing about Renee Zellweger. And not to get all "leave Britney alone!" but think about it: the discourse we have about celebrities — female celebrities in particular — leaves a mark. Where do you think body image issues come from? Or even the fear of just making a choice?
Our warped beauty standards (and invisible rules for who and who is not deserving of meanness) sends a very dangerous message, particularly to younger women: make your own choices, sure, but if we, strangers, don't approve, you will be subject to everything from cruelty to being a Halloween costume. We do the same about weight, about hair, about fashion, about everything. Anyone in the spotlight we subject to our opinions despite nobody really asking for them at all. (Particularly if they're not actually helping the conversation. Like, "Renee Zellweger looks weird" is not a valid point.)
And criticism is important, don't get me wrong. Criticizing can be helpful and create important conversations. We criticize government, movies, music, TV, art, books, politicians, government, even celebrity views (see: Jenny McCarthy's anti-vaccination schtick) regularly, and those things can benefit from criticism. But people's looks? Their faces? Their LITERAL. FACES? Jesus. Why? Because you wouldn't make that choice? Because it "offends" you? So don't look.
You can't like everything, you can't like everyone, and you don't have to champion a choice you wouldn't make yourself. But there's a difference between "I'd never do that" and condemning somebody who would, regardless of whether it's about plastic surgery (or lack thereof) or how they do their hair.
But maybe what's the most fucked-up of all is that this Zellweger judgement stems from her appearance at an event celebrating Women in Hollywood. As if the women of Hollywood aren't judged enough; as if it's not judgement just like this that convinces somebody they need to look different. As if Renee Zellweger and the comments about her aren't the prime example of what being a women in Hollywood (and being a woman in general) is all about: aspire to invisible, fluid, beauty standards, and if they're not completely achieved, then congratulations — you're a punchline.
[image via CTV]