No woman is an island, and judging another diminishes us all. OK, so it’s not quite what John Donne said (he was mainly focussed on men, and, well, death).
Sex always sells, but in the last year or so, it seems as if feminism sells as well. Beyoncé has ‘feminist’ writ large in lights on the stage behind her as she shakes her shapely derriere while belting out the hits, and well known figures are falling all over themselves to identify with feminism. Although the Pope has not yet declared whether he’s a fan of Germaine Greer, surely it is only a matter of time.
But despite the lip service to solidarity, it seems that what sells best of all is judgement. Although many of us have dumped the magazines of shame with their screaming red headlines pointing out ‘beach bulges’, ‘under the knife’ and ‘sweat marks’, the judgement has moved online.
On the internet, nobody can hear you scream. Particularly when you are a celebrity ‘flaunting those curves’ (doing your shopping while being female) ‘showing off your beach body’ (going to the beach while owning boobs and a uterus) or ‘wearing an unflattering tracksuit’ (going to the gym, also while being female).
The cheek of these people, going about their daily lives looking less than Oscar-night perfect. I mean, the least you could do while bringing the dog to the vet is put on four inch heels, Spanx, and a ball gown.
We just love to judge other women.
The latest woman who has been tried and convicted by the court of public opinion is Renee Zellweger. She won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 2004 for Cold Mountain, in which she played tough-talking farmhand Ruby.
But it’s for the role of chaotic singleton Bridget Jones, for which she had to put on four stone, that she is best known. Silly, untidy, ’chubby’ Bridget is something of a cultural icon. And, like so many familiar characters, in the public mind, she is Zellweger, and Zellweger is her, and a possible Bridget Jones 3 being in the off makes her newsworthy. She probably wishes she’d never heard of Bridget, because the role put public attention so firmly on her body.
When pictures of Zellweger appeared all over the internet after showing up at the Elle Women in Hollywood Awards last week looking somewhat different, the internet, collectively, gasped.
I am guilty myself here. Upon first seeing the photos, I too gasped, and immediately reposted them on my Facebook with the comment that nobody would suggest I look like her now, as an ex once did. He meant ‘Renee as Bridget’, that is, with the addition of four stone. Like the resemblance and that extra four stone she put on, he is long gone.
The loss of resemblance is mainly because she is back to her normal dress size (8 – I can only dream) but also because she appears to have had some work done.
Her full-lipped, rosy-cheeked, pretty face has been flattened. She looks very much less like herself and very much more like a mannequin.
No doubt, there are numerous reasons why she felt this was necessary. She is not the first, nor will she be the last.
There are so few decent roles for women in major movies that if you can’t play the pretty young thing – usually opposite some ould fella with a receding hairline and a pot belly – you’re out.
I’m sorry she felt this was the best way of dealing with the rubbish that women in the public eye must live with, but I’m sure she doesn’t care what I think, because her face is nothing to do with me, or any of us.
If I had spent my adult life looking at unflattering pictures and commentary about every pound I put on or lost, every weird face I made in a picture with a red circle around it and giant arrows pointing at my tummy every time I left the house, I’d probably live on an island in the Outer Hebrides and eschew all human contact.
But because she’s a professional, and her work depends on her face, she’s getting on with it as best she can, as we all must. Bring on Bridget Jones 3 and more, meatier roles for a great actress who can only get better with age.