It’s time we stop focusing on whether or not Renee Zellweger had plastic surgery, and instead appreciate her outstanding acting skills.

Second year English student from (just outside) London. Interests in literature, photography, Middle Eastern politics and musical theatre - not necessarily in that order.
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Renee Zellweger, 45, shot onto the scene back in 1996 in Jerry Maguire and is probably best known today for her hilarious portrayal of Bridget Jones in 2001. Amongst other accolades, she has won an Academy Award, three Golden Globe Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, and a BAFTA Award. So why does a Google search of her name reveal an entire page of hits concerning her appearance?

When Zellweger stepped out at Elle magazine’s 21st Women in Hollywood awards in Los Angeles, looking different from how she had previously, critics rushed to cry, ‘Plastic surgery!’ and ‘Mid-career crisis!’ Indeed, speculative lists of possible procedures are already circulating online, with claims attributed to several US surgeons.

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

Zellweger herself has refuted accusations of surgery, telling People magazine that she has not gone under the knife. ‘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,’ she said, attributing her changed appearance to a healthier lifestyle and a more relaxed approach to her schedule.

In the Guardian, Jennifer Gerson Uffalassy criticised the knee-jerk response to Zellweger’s transformed face. She points out that it is ‘troubling to see how effortlessly we rush to say something about that transformation’, and accuses both the media and the general public of ‘commodifying a woman’s body even as you seemingly champion it’. She goes on to criticise today’s demands for an ‘unobtainable and effortless beauty’ in celebrities.

Yet whilst she may feel that she is challenging our obsession with appearances, Ms Gerson Uffalassy is actually buying into the hype too. She is simply debating the other side of the argument. What I want to know is: why should there be a debate at all?

Appearances change. Why is it that we can accept this up to a certain age – and that age undeniably varies depending on certain factors, including gender – but once a certain decade is reached, we expect people to stop changing?

Rightly or wrongly, celebrities are subject to more scrutiny than the general public – perhaps because we can all observe how they change from the comfort of our own homes, and we can all participate in discussions about it. But even non-celebrities are criticised for wanting to change their experience, and there is a definite stigma surrounding plastic surgery whoever you are.

Why should a nose job be any different from dying your hair? And why should dying your hair be any different from painting your nails? Really, they are all of as much relevance to anyone else as each other. To be clear, I’m not talking about the odd person who gets a boob job on the NHS not for emotional or medical reasons but because they ‘fancied it’ – if you ‘fancy it’, save up for it, just like you would a new car or laptop, and don’t use vital NHS funds unless you need them. But if you can afford it, why on earth do people care so much about other people’s appearances?

Rightly or wrongly, celebrities are subject to more scrutiny than the general public

The only reason I can think of is insecurity. When gossip columnists rush to highlight the differences in Zellweger’s face last week and this week, I genuinely think that they are desperately searching for flaws in order to make themselves feel better about the traits that they regard as their own physical shortcomings. Quite aside from the fact that celebrities are often airbrushed and have stylists, makeup artists and personal trainers and diet regimes, we need to recognise that each and every person is an individual. Physical features should be no different from personality traits – unique. This applies to people in the public eye and out of it.

It’s time for us to stop focusing on whether or not Renee Zellweger had plastic surgery, and instead appreciate her outstanding acting skills. We need to stop wondering whether we would look better after a nose job, and start recognising that the shape of our bodies is just one part of what makes us who we are. And the next time you hear about a celebrity who may or may not have undergone surgery, remind yourself that if they’re happy with their appearance, great for them, and if they want to change it, good luck to them – but either way, it shouldn’t matter to you.

– Hannah Sharon