Renee Zellweger’s Unlovely Remodel

This is Renee Zellweger. Really (gawker.com).

This is Renee Zellweger. Really (gawker.com).

Whoa, that’s Renee Zellweger? The 45-year-old actress is literally unrecognizable in photographs from Monday’s Elle Women in Hollywood Awards.

Zellweger told People magazine, “I’m glad folks think I look different! I’m living a different, happy, more fulfilling life, and I’m thrilled that perhaps it shows . . . Perhaps I look different. Who doesn’t as they get older?! Ha. But I am different. I’m happy.”

As a long-time fan, I certainly wish Zellweger happiness. However, Zellweger doesn’t resemble any naturally aging women I’ve known.

So, why does this bother me? I’m not Renee Zellweger, I’ve never met her, and I likely never will. Feminist writer Sarah Seltzer offered a theory at Flavorwire, writing:

We’re not mad that she did it [plastic surgery]. We’re mad that we think we can see it so clearly. She’s broken the invisible pact that women are supposed to make: be beauty ducks, who look tranquil and eat hamburgers above the surface but are paddling beneath: working out, dieting, plucking, nipping, tucking, and buffing all the time just out of sight, so we can appear this perfect.

That’s an interesting idea, but I don’t relate. I’ve always considered Zellweger lovely, attractive in an approachable way. She’s played many appealing and relatable characters, from the single mother in Jerry Maguire to children’s author Beatrix Potter. And who can forget her winning portrayal of Bridget Jones as the lovable everywoman?

I still remember watching Bridget Jones’ Diary for the first time. By the time I left Arlington Cinema & Draft House, it was my new favorite movie. It was a fun rom-com, but what I most loved was Mark Darcy’s telling Bridget, “Perhaps despite appearances, I like you, very much. Just as you are.” That was exactly what I wanted for the heroine, and I realized that line encapsulated what I wanted too—a man who would love me just as I was.

Seeing Renee 2.0, I wondered whether Zellweger had liked herself just as she was. Our society can be very superficial, and Hollywood stardom emphasizes youth and beauty more than nearly any other career, but is her makeover an attempt to stay professionally relevant or an outward expression of inner turmoil?

There are endless articles about the importance of teaching girls to be “sex positive” and “body positive,” but what about being “soul positive,” which is what we might call teaching girls—including future actresses—to cherish their inner beauty?

While I want my young daughters to always feel beautiful, I also want to teach them that the best and most enduring beauty is the one we radiate through kindness and generosity of spirit. In most cases, how we appear to others stems from what’s inside us, and how we make others feel in our presence. I hope that the newly happy Renee Zellweger knows these things, and that if she didn’t previously, she can now see herself as her fans always have and learn to love herself just as she is.

This article appeared in Acculturated.

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