Bridget Jones’s Face
It’s been a relatively slow long weekend on social media, which was bad news for Owen Gleiberman, author of the ridiculously misogynistic Variety article about Renee Zellweger's face in the new Bridget Jones trailer. I really thought about whether or not using that word was hyperbole, but it’s not. Here’s why:
Glieberman’s central argument is that, in his opinion, Zellweger doesn’t look like Bridget Jones anymore, and that takes something away from the audience. He spends a long time being patronizing about how incredible it was that Zellweger became successful even looking like she did back in the day, before moving on to explain what upsets him so much about celebrities who have plastic surgery:
“The most toxic thing about “having work done” is the feeling it can create that someone doesn’t look dramatically different from the way they looked before so much as they look…less. Less vivid, less distinctive, less there.”
That feels like a blanket statement that is categorically untrue, given that most celebs have work done somehow, but moving on, he also feels qualified to tell you about the psyche of a celebrity who has had anything done, to wit:
“When you see someone who no longer looks like who they are, it’s not necessarily the result of bad cosmetic surgery. It’s the result of a decision, an ideology, a rejection of the self.”
Oh, okay, got it. Gleiberman casually criticizes and psychoanalyzes Zellweger, accuses her of ‘reject[ing] the self’, and attributes her success to her former ‘ordinary’ face. Leaving aside whether or not looking ‘ordinary’ is an insult (it’s clear he thinks it’s at least a difficulty to overcome), he neglects to mention her actual talent as an actress, implying it’s irrelevant to whether she can do her job. As an actress.
But the part that makes me most infuriated, after accounting for ‘how about she can do whatever she wants with her own face and body which in no way belongs to you’, and ‘your pathetic attempts to not make your article all about women are transparent and lazy’, is that Glieberman thought, when he saw the trailer…
“She doesn’t look like Bridget Jones!”
Wait, what? Who says she doesn’t? How the hell does he know?
Bridget Jones’s Baby is being released twelve years after Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. You know what’s happened to Bridget in the intervening dozen years since then? I have no f-cking clue!
None of us do, since the movie has clearly departed from the books at this point. (Super-spoilery, careful if you google!) So who gets to say what Bridget Jones looks like? What changes have happened to her face, either as a result of aging or stress or choices Bridget made, including the 95,000 Silk Cuts she always meant to give up but was never quite able to?
What he actually means is ‘she doesn’t look the way she did 12 years ago’, so I guess that means he expects her to look exactly the same now as she did then. Which is, A, a completely unrealistic expectation and judgment of the way women age, B, a judgment that is not placed on men, as if you didn’t know, and C, the very definition of why there’s a thriving plastic surgery industry, because there’s only one way people—by which of course I mean women—are supposed to look. Forever.
The extra-infuriating irony here is he doesn’t dare imply any ill-effects from these alleged problems he’s identified. He doesn’t claim the movie won’t do well, since Zellweger is a star and the movie will be huge and he knows it. His whole reason for writing is because he personally got his feelings hurt by someone’s face, as if that’s anyone’s problem but his. Which I strongly suspect Renee Zellweger, whose face has been criticized for years upon years now, totally knows. She feels like Bridget to me. She giggles like Bridget. She chews her lip in a way that Bridget herself probably hoped she’d grow out of but hasn’t. There’s no issue here.
I know I’m always the one looking for something to get mad about, but I’m actually pleased about this one, because Owen Glieberman has given us a tidy object lesson on why, when it comes to other peoples’ opinions, especially about the way you look, it is completely unnecessary to give a f-ck.