Over the last few years, Renée Zellweger has come to symbolize a lot of things to a lot of different people. To the tabloids, she’s a nifty cash cow whose image they can lazily splash across a page on slow news days beneath the headline, “What Did She Do to Her Face?” They can guarantee the clicks will keep coming when nothing else sticks. To a number of women who are angry about how society treats aging women, the Academy Award winner is either a role model or their worst nightmare — a woman whom they suspect has secretly gone off and gotten plastic surgery, thereby betraying them.
In an essay she recently penned for The Huffington Post entitled “We Can Do Better,” Zellweger makes it perfectly clear that she is none of those things. She is not yours or mine or the property of any news outlet — and she is not the problem; we are.
Despite her impressive body of work and the numerous awards she has won, Zellweger hasn’t been able to attend a single event since 2014 without waking up the next morning to see her name and the words “plastic surgery” in every article covering the event. When asked about her changing appearance a few years back, the Bridget Jones actress had a very reasonable response: “Perhaps I look different. Who doesn’t as they get older?! Ha. But I am different. I’m happy.”
In other words: Eff off, folks.
But perhaps she wasn’t clear enough. Zellweger admits in her essay that she understands her celebrity leaves her open to “humiliation” at times but that this is getting ridiculous. She points out that silence and privacy are so rare these days, what with so many celebs and reality stars open to exposing their dirty laundry in exchange for more fame, that her decision not to address rumors that she had work done to her eyes paints her as a “liar with nefarious behavior to conceal.”
Here’s her perfect response to why she refuses to bow down to tabloids (it’s worth mentioning that Zellweger calls out respectable media outlets for dumbing down their content to appeal to a wider audience): “In the interest of tabloid journalism, which profits from the chaos and scandal it conjures into people’s lives and their subsequent humiliation, the truth is reduced to representing just one side of the fictional argument. I can’t imagine there’s dignity in explaining yourself to those who trade in contrived scandal, or in seeking the approval of those who make fun of others for sport. It’s silly entertainment, it’s of no import, and I don’t see the point in commenting.”
Hell yes, Renée. But then, why oh why did she, a few paragraphs later, comment on her appearance with this statement? “Not that it’s anyone’s business, but I did not make a decision to alter my face and have surgery on my eyes. The fact is of no true import to anyone at all, but that the possibility alone was discussed among respected journalists and became a public conversation is a disconcerting illustration of news/entertainment confusion and society’s fixation on physicality.”
Zellweger implores us and the media to “do better” by focusing on the problems in society that truly matter, rather than pining for a 25-year-old Zellweger and debating whether she has a really good plastic surgeon. Her essay is important — but, sadly, the fact that she commented on whether she went under the knife took away some of its power. Because she’s right: Her face shouldn’t matter — and she doesn’t owe anyone an explanation.