When photos were released of Hollywood darling Renée Zellweger on the red carpet at Elle's 21st annual Women in Hollywood Awards, the Twittersphere and blogosphere and any other sphere with an Internet connection was all like, "OMG what? LOL who iz this, is she like wearing a mask or sumthing, srsly, WTF happened to Jerry Maguire's GF?!?!?!?!"
Luckily, we live in a day and age when people can immediately dispense their every half-cooked and ill-conceived thought the very moment that it hatches in their brain space without being bothered with the filters of common decency or wondering whether anyone gives a shit about their opinion. It seemed like I barely had time to take a piss after the pictures were released before the Internet had a goddam meltdown over #ReneeGate (circle C, y'all).
Is it plastic surgery? Botox? Some kind of changeling? Who is Renée Zellweger? What's the sound of one hand clapping? If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to viciously ridicule what the tree is wearing or how it's aging, does it make a sound? These are all questions. Also a question: "Why would she do that?" Why, indeed! Why on Earth would a beautiful and talented woman alter her appearance so significantly so as to make herself practically unrecognizable? That's, like, totally crazy, right?"
I mean, it doesn't make sense that in an industry obsessed with youth and beauty and the notion that those things happen magically by the sheer might of a woman's will that a woman would do anything she could to maintain those things, does it? Why, in a business that requires people to be someone they're not and then criticizes them for who they really are, would a person want to be or seem unlike themselves?
It's a pretty sick game -- criticize someone and demand that they adhere to a certain standard, but recoil from them when you are able to see the efforts they're putting forth to reach that standard. It's like expecting someone's bathroom to be spotless and then being like, wait what, you're using bleach?! Um gross, that shit is toxic. Never mind, I'll go change my tampon somewhere else.
What, your flawless beauty isn't totally natural? Wait, your flawless beauty isn't even totally flawless? How have you not killed yourself already? No but for reals, how do you look in the mirror and see that you don't resemble Beyoncé or Jennifer Lawrence and not totally slit your wrists in self-loathing?
And lest we fool ourselves into thinking that an unattainable standard of beauty is a new phenomenon, let's not forget the story of Countess Elizabeth Báthory, who straight-up mutilated and murdered young virgins in her kingdom and bathed in their blood to retain her youth.
Read that one more time, with meaning. This sh*t runs deep.
But all is not lost. We can learn from situations like this one in an effort to move forward, better ourselves and make the world a better place for future generations.
Here's what we can take away from #ReneeGate:
- Care about your appearance, but don't seem like you care about your appearance.
- Go to incredibly drastic measures to change your appearance, but don't seem like you went to incredibly drastic measures to change your appearance.
- When lines inevitably appear around your eyes and mouth because you're not a wizard and are prone to the same aging process as the rest of us mortals, fill them with noxious materials so they go away, but don't let us see the puncture wound left by the needle because ew.
- Don't get older.
Finally, when you see pictures of celebrities like the one released of Renée Zellweger, stop for like two seconds and ask yourself, "Do I need to say this? Does this edify anyone?" If the answer is "no" (Hint: The answer will always be "no"), log out of Facebook or Twitter or HootSuite or whatever social network you're using because -- what do you mean, you don't know how to log out? Oh, for the love, gimme your phone. I'll show you.
Written by Lindsey Finn. This post originally appeared on The Second City Network.