Thursday, July 7, 2016

Aging, Plastic Surgery, Hollywood, Life and Being Flawed Human Beings

Vanity Fair’s Owen Gleiberman wrote about Renée Zellweger’s looks in an article, and hell broke loose. Before pointing out what’s wrong there, let’s point out the obvious:

What is a publication’s chief movie critic doing discussing an actress’s looks?

Why is he not talking about the trailer (of Bridget Jones's Baby), or the expectations from the film? Why is he spending so much time on her looks? He is not a paparazzo, or a celebrity gossip writer. What he did goes beyond his job description in a ridiculous way, and whether he embraced her new looks or hated them (he seems stuck in a weird in-between place), he has no business writing that.

But forgeting who he is, and what he is supposed to be for a minute, and let’s talk about aging, plastic surgery and being human in an honest way.

Zellweger. Image via
We feel differently about different things. You might think a person’s face is their business alone (and I agree with you), but you might also not be able to help yourself empathize, question and critisize. Not necessarily (with) the action, but what led to the action.

I’ll be honest with you. I don’t see the big deal. She has always looked gorgeous, and yes, she does look a tad different from her Jerry Maguire self. You kno, like maybe a few years have passed? 

It doesn’t really matter why or if she had work done. I just hope she is happy with the result. It’s her face. We don’t have to like it. She does. If she is happy, then we can all bugger off. If she isn’t, we still have to bugger off, because there is nothing we can do about it.

That said, we are flawed creatures. We have opinions on things, and sometimes, we even have opinions on things we don’t have nearly enough business having an opinion on. Enlightning personal essays, reaction pieces, encouraging reactions might help, but we are still going to have those opinions.

I agree with a lot of what Rose McGowan stands for, but we don’t know if Gleiberman has any personal experience with plastic surgery. Maybe he considered it himself, but didn’t have the guts for it. Maybe, he is against it, and wants women to stop feeling pressured. Maybe, he is just superficial. Maybe, he just wanted all these reactions and having a ball. I don’t have a clue.

But....didn’t you have an opinion when Renee Zellweger supposedly got work done? Be honest with me. Was your mind completely blank? Or were you 
1)Oh, she was so pretty, she didn’t need to do that. I wish she hadn’t done that, 
2) You go girl, you look beautiful anyway, 
3)You look so much worse now! What have you done? 

And if you were a writer with an audience, would you be able to stop yourself from expressing your opinion, whether it was positive or negative?

Yes, three is admittedly worse. I was team 1 for a second, and 2 for the remainder, but I wasn’t minding my own business either way. I was happy she got what she wanted. I believed she was happy, and I thought if it was a cosmetic job, it was a job well-done.

I’m not an actress. But I’m in my 30s. And I worry about aging. Not constantly, but I do. I forget putting on my moisturizer, and I feel guilty afterward. I eat too much sugar, and freak about potentially growing cancer cells, and to a lesser extent, my upcoming wrinkles. I do.

It doesn’t mean I don’t worry about terrorism or hunger or wars. I do.
But we all have a set of serious, and relatively-speaking, not-so-serious issues.

I don’t want to age. I don’t want to die. I always want to be, look and feel healthy. I want to feel alive and as young as possible. Maybe Hollywood ruined me. Maybe I just love how Jane Fonda looks and want that as an example. I can’t help but admire if a man or a woman has had the discipline, luck, means and the genes to look 5, 10, 20 years younger. I like that Liam Neeson dyes his hair. I like that Dylan McDermott looks only hotter than he already did in his The Practice days.

See? It’s not just about the women. Yes, women have it harder in Hollywood, but men, if/when they refuse certain rules, or get out of shape or out of line, they don’t get hugs either. (This is my reaction to The Daily Dot piece.)

Do you know that there is an article somewhere online about Mel Gibson called The Man without a Face? I read it, and I felt awful.

Look, he is my favorite actor. I grew up with his movies. No matter what he does or doesn’t do in his real life, he will still be the actor who made me want to write movies. Be in movies. Live with movies. (I belong to the club that the more we ignore celebrity private lives, the happier we will all be.)

The Man Without a Face is my second favorite movie, second to Braveheart. (The third is The Crow, if you have to know.) And the writer wrote that maybe all the crises Mel Gibson had, from the extreme faith to anti-semitic slurs to alcoholism, is a reaction to how he lost his looks, and I felt so bad. About life and people in general.

Mel Gibson, from The Bounty. 1984. Image via knoji.

Yes, I think he is no longer the hunk he was in the 80s and 90s. Yes, I think he helped himself age badly with all the stress and the drinking but.... Comparing his apperance to a movie where he played a wrongly-accused guy with a disfigured face? Wow.

Mel Gibson, now. Also, he is 60. Image via

If Mel has really lost anything, then I am going to blame the industry. That’s harsh. It took what most people thought to a whole new level...

OK, so Colin Firth. Maybe he will get to play the lover to much younger women (and many younger women won’t mind because:

a) They had a crush on Firth at some point in their lives 
b) He is a fantastic actor – it’s an honor to share the lead or any screen time with him, really. (And yes, I’d be one of those women.) 

But Colin Firth looks, as handsome as he is, more appropriate to play Emily Blunt’s and Emma Stone’s dashing father then the man they end up with.

Firth might not be stuck playing fathers and grandfathers, but he will be playing more and more of those. He won’t be playing Mr. Darcy. He aged, and his roles will be reflecting that. Maybe not to the level MaggieGyylenhaal is feeling and facing, but he will, and he is. You don’t think people look at him and Dempsey, and wonder if Firth (born in 1960) is where Dempsey (born in 1966) is headed?

Dempsey, aka McDreamy, aka potential Bridget Jones baby daddy.

Colin Firth.Image via closerweekly.

Getting old is horrifying so many ways. You lose more than the elasticity of your face. You lose the momentum of your metabolism. You increasingly carry more risks for health issues, even though you take relatively okay care of yourself. You start looking different, even if it is not necessarily bad, it still is different. But most importantly, you become more aware of the passing time, the opportunities lost, the brave leaps not taken...and you start losing people. People you know. People you love. Sure, it could happen any time, but it becomes more frequent. You start worrying about the people you might lose...and you try really hard not to lose it, and enjoy what you have while you still can.

So, Owen G. wrote an essay he shouldn’t have written as a movie critic. As a non-actor. As a guy, to a certain extent.

But aging freaks out a lot of people, not just Hollywood stars. I wish I was over and above all this, but I am not. And yes, a starving child is so much more important and horrifying than a star’s looks or mine. So is a billion other things.

However, we all have our fears, problems, phobias, hang-ups and other issues. We are flawed. We often judge prematurely, attack fast and don’t stop to take a breath.

Men, it is a bad idea to write about a woman’s looks – especially if you are white, middle-aged, well-off and NOT a celebrity writer. (It’s still not very cool if you are a gossip columnist, but then, you have the excuse: It’s your job.)

Women, let’s embrace everyone’s choices, but let’s not forget no one of is perfect. We are not saints. We make mistakes. We have politically incorrect opinions. We have shallow fears as well as significant ones. I will be just as happy about an actor/actress who aged naturally about an actor/actress who went under whatever operation and came out the other end victorious. I feel feel bad about people who seem to have lost their gestures and genuine laughter lines completely.

I will fear about aging. But I still want world peace.

I’m superficial in some ways, and not superficial in others.

Let’s take a deep breath, help Hollywood against agism, but give a little breathing room to not-so-thoughtfully written fluff pieces. The writer might not always mean harm. He might not be aware of his own privilege. But we also don’t know if he wanted to be a star, and never could be. Or maybe his editors  told him to come up with something controversial, reaction- gathering, politically incorrect...

You don’t know. Neither do I.

By all means, let’s fight agism and sexism in Hollywood. But you know, without bullying, attacking or ignoring if possible.


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