Twitter is buzzing about Sharon Osbourne after seeing her on the UK premiere for the show X Factor, and there’s one thing everyone is obsessed with: her face.
One man tweeted, “15 hours later and & I still can’t stop thinking about Sharon Osbourne’s face” — and he’s clearly not alone. Many simply point out that Osbourne looks “younger than she did in the ’80s,” while other jokes about her face are far more cruel. “I’ve figured out what’s wrong with Sharon’s face. The corners of her lips stretch too far across her face. Like The Joker’s,” wrote one user. Another said, “Sharon Osborne looks like she’s had concrete poured over her face.”
Osbourne has been refreshingly honest about her own plastic surgery and is often the first to joke about it. When The Talk host Julie Chen complimented Osbourne on her appearance in August, Osbourne quipped, “Well, I’ve got my third face on right now.”
But while fans may feel invited in on the joke, this doesn’t give people license to be cruel.
Why do we punish female celebs like Osbourne for opting to look as young as they possibly can for as long as possible, given the extreme ageism that exists in film and television? Meryl Streep spoke candidly about her industry’s preference for younger women in her 2011 interview with Vogue. She recalled that after turning 40, she was offered three separate offers to play a witch in the same year. “Once women passed childbearing age, they could only be seen as grotesque on some level,” said Streep.
Streep hit the nail on the head. Her feeling that aging is detrimental to a woman’s on-screen career is backed up by a 2016 study from Polygraph. Researchers analyzed more than 2,000 screenplays and found that, while already under-represented in film, female actresses are even more silenced on-screen when they leave their 20s. When women do have speaking roles, most of the dialogue given to women (38 percent) goes to women between 22 and 31. When women are between 42 and 65 years old, by contrast, they only get 20 percent of the lines written for women. Men in this older demographic, on the other hand, see their careers take off — 39 percent of words for male actors go to older men.
And the same goes for television. Just 1 in 5 on-air broadcasters are women over 50, according to data from a UK survey of major broadcasters.
So, while Osbourne may be joking about her “new face,” she’s also reacting to a painful truth. Most of the women we see in film and television aren’t 63 years old like Osbourne. Instead of shaming her for trying to look young, we’d be better off considering the factors that push women in her position to hold on so tightly to an ageist version of beauty.