Renée Zellweger has said she understands “when silence perpetuates a bigger problem” and has written a lengthy essay to discuss Hollywood's beauty standards and what they mean for the world.
You may recall not too long ago, a Variety film critic published a piece titled “Renee Zellweger: If She No Longer Looks Like Herself, Has She Become a Different Actress?” It wasn't the first time a man in the entertainment industry passed judgment on a woman based on her looks and it won't be the last. But it was a horrible body-shaming post against the actor disguised as a call for more “normal” looking actors in Hollywood (but somehow aimed solely at women).
Months (and innumerable think-pieces) later, the actor herself has responded in kind with an essay at Huffington Post titled: “We Can Do Better.”
“I am lucky. Choosing a creative life and having the opportunity to do satisfying work that is sometimes meaningful is a blessed existence and worth the price paid in the subsequent challenges of public life,” she starts, “Sometimes it means resigning to humiliation, and other times, understanding when silence perpetuates a bigger problem.”
She goes on to call out the current culture of celebrity and tabloid journalism:
In the interest of tabloid journalism, which profits from the chaos and scandal it conjures and injects 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.
However, in our current culture of unsolicited transparency, televised dirty laundry, and folks bartering their most intimate details in exchange for attention and notoriety, it seems that the choice to value privacy renders one a suspicious character. Disingenuous. A liar with nefarious behavior to conceal. “She denies,” implies an attempt to cover up the supposed tabloid “exposed truth.”
And now, as the internet story contrived for its salacious appeal to curious minds becomes the supposed truth within moments, choosing the dignity of silence rather than engaging with the commerce of cruel fiction, leaves one vulnerable not only to the usual ridicule, but to having the narrative of one”s life hijacked by those who profiteer from invented scandal.
She's just getting warmed up.
I am not writing today because I have been publicly bullied or because the value of my work has been questioned by a critic whose ideal physical representation of a fictional character originated 16 years ago, over which he feels ownership, I no longer meet. I am not writing in protest to the repellent suggestion that the value of a person and her professional contributions are somehow diminished if she presumably caves to societal pressures about appearance, and must qualify her personal choices in a public court of opinion. I”m not writing because I believe it”s an individual”s right to make decisions about his or her body for whatever reason without judgment.
All of those are true but the actor says she decided to write the essay to claim some truths of her life. “Not that it”s anyone”s business, but I did not make a decision to alter my face and have surgery on my eyes,” she wrote. “This 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.”
“It”s no secret a woman”s worth has historically been measured by her appearance,” she writes, driving home the larger issue a hand. That this type of behavior seeming acceptable is damaging to the world at large.
Too skinny, too fat, showing age, better as a brunette, cellulite thighs, facelift scandal, going bald, fat belly or bump? Ugly shoes, ugly feet, ugly smile, ugly hands, ugly dress, ugly laugh; headline material which emphasizes the implied variables meant to determine a person”s worth, and serve as parameters around a very narrow suggested margin within which every one of us must exist in order to be considered socially acceptable and professionally valuable, and to avoid painful ridicule. The resulting message is problematic for younger generations and impressionable minds, and undoubtably triggers myriad subsequent issues regarding conformity, prejudice, equality, self acceptance, bullying and health.
Zellweger is right, we can do better. We need to do better. Do better.