A month after Variety published a piece from chief film critic Owen Gleiberman titled “Renee Zellweger: If She No Longer Looks Like Herself, Has She Become a Different Actress?,” the actress has taken to The Huffington Post to pen a personal essay that addresses both the piece in question and the wider issue of body-shaming-driven “tabloid journalism.”
Zellweger’s essay starts, “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. Sometimes it means resigning to humiliation, and other times, understanding when silence perpetuates a bigger problem.”
The actress goes on to detail how, in October of 2014, a tabloid newspaper reported that she’d had surgery to “alter” her eyes, and while she later debunks that story, she does use it as an entry point into a culture of body shaming and exploitation that plagues not just women in the public eye, but women everywhere. As she writes, it was “just one more story in the massive smut pile generated every day by the tabloid press and fueled by exploitative headlines and folks who practice cowardly cruelty from their anonymous internet pulpits.”
While Zellweger writes that she has mainly stayed silent in the past — “it’s silly entertainment, it’s of no import, and I don’t see the point in commenting,” she writes — she no longer feels able to do that, seemingly on the heels of the Variety piece, which garnered a tremendous amount of attention and debate (and all apparently inspired by the release of a new trailer for Zellweger’s upcoming “Bridget Jones’s Baby,” the most benign of marketing moves).
“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,” Zellweger writes. “I’m writing because to be fair to myself, I must make some claim on the truths of my life, and because witnessing the transmutation of tabloid fodder from speculation to truth is deeply troubling.”
Zellweger widens the scope far beyond one individual piece or one individual career, instead choosing to focus her energies on the destructive attitudes that continue to plague women.
She continues, “It’s no secret a woman’s worth has historically been measured by her appearance. Although we have evolved to acknowledge the importance of female participation in determining the success of society, and take for granted that women are standard bearers in all realms of high profile position and influence, the double standard used to diminish our contributions remains, and is perpetuated by the negative conversation which enters our consciousness every day as snark entertainment.”
By the essay’s end, Zellweger doesn’t call for the total end of “smut” journalism — though we suspect she wouldn’t balk at the idea — but a total reevaluation of the way women are judged and consumed by the world at large. In Zellweger’s words, “we can do better,” and who could possibly argue with that?