Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Leave Renee Zellweger Alone: Thank You Rose McGown for Your Words


I need to deviate from the norm today. Fed up with a male critic's penned putdown of Renee Zellweger's looks in the trailer for Bridget Jone's Baby, activist Rose McGowan has written a response today in The Hollywood Reporter. I wanted to share her powerful words with you. But first here's Owen Gleiberman's June 30th column in Variety, scroll down to read McGowan's response.

Here is the original article written by Owen Gleiberman in Variety. 

"Renee Zellweger: If She No Longer Looks Like Herself Has She Become a Different Actress?" 


It’s a ritual of our vanity-fueled image culture. You go to see a movie that features an actress or actor — in most cases it’s an actress — you know well, and somehow she looks…different. Her nose is thinner, or her lips are fuller, or her lips are thinner and her cheeks are bolder, or her forehead is younger, or maybe you can’t even quite put your finger on what the difference is, but you know it’s there. Like everyone else, I’ve had this experience and then followed it with a makeshift seminar of perusing photographs on the Internet, scouring them for the before-and-after truth, which always comes down to one question: Did she or didn’t she?
As familiar as the situation is, though, I was caught off guard the other day when I saw the trailer for “Bridget Jones’s Baby.” The movie’s star, Renée Zellweger, already had her “Did she or didn’t she?” moment back in 2014, and I had followed the round-the-world scrutinizing of her image that went along with it, but this was different. Watching the trailer, I didn’t stare at the actress and think: She doesn’t look like Renée Zellweger. I thought: She doesn’t look like Bridget Jones! Oddly, that made it matter more. Celebrities, like anyone else, have the right to look however they want, but the characters they play become part of us. I suddenly felt like something had been taken away.
In mainstream media, we’re not allowed to say that a famous person has “had work done” (unless they own up to it themselves, à la Joan Rivers or Sharon Osbourne), because our coin of credibility is the reporting of facts and information, and the truth is: We do not know. This can, on occasion, result in absurdities of bending over backwards, as when the media felt compelled to say that Michael Jackson’s face looked like it might possibly, conceivably be, yes, maybe a shade lighter than it was in the 1980s — when his skin had, in fact, become the color of a fossilized dinosaur egg. In the case of Renée Zellweger, it may look to a great many people like something more than an elaborate makeup job has taken place, but we can’t say for sure. What we can say is that if that happened, it reflects something indescribably sad about our culture. For in addition to being a great actress, Zellweger, as much or more than any star of her era, has been a poster girl for the notion that each and every one of us is beautiful in just the way God made us.
She became that poster girl in a meaningful and quietly explosive way, on the movie that made her a star. In 1996, when director Cameron Crowe cast her opposite Tom Cruise in “Jerry Maguire,” the 26-year-old actress from Texas barely had the resumé of a next big thing. She’d had a walk-on in “Dazed and Confused” (even in that cast of unknowns, there are a dozen actors with tiny roles you remember more), and she’d starred in two no-profile pieces of indie grunge — “Love and a .45” and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation” — along with the innocuous “Empire Records.” She had barely entered that Gretchen Mol zone of theoretical future limelight.
So here’s the thing: You have to realize just how radical it was that this nobody, who looked not so much like the sort of actress who would star in a Tom Cruise movie as the personal assistant to the sort of actress who would star in a Tom Cruise movie, was suddenly…starring in a Tom Cruise movie. There was a Vivien Leigh in “Gone with the Wind” vibe to it. Zellweger had won the lottery, had been plucked from semi-obscurity by the movie gods (or, actually, by the daring of Cameron Crowe), but not because it was so unusual to see a non-famous actress starring in a major movie. What was unusual, to the point of breaking the rules, was the way that she looked. In 1996, Tom Cruise was still the biggest movie star in the galaxy, and he didn’t make films with just anyone. He worked with costars who reinforced his supernova status, through their fame or their beauty or both. Zellweger, with pillowy cheeks and quizzically pursed lips and that singular squint, was beautiful, but not in the way that a Nicole Kidman or a Julia Roberts was. She was beautiful in the way an ordinary person is (even that name sounded like it hadn’t been to Hollywood yet), in a way that came from outside the Tom Cruise paradigm. And that, in the end, was exactly what the movie was about: Could Cruise, as Jerry Maguire, leave aside his Cruise-control mystique to embrace something real? “You complete me” is one of the great lines in modern romantic movies because of the way it takes its inner meaning from who Renée Zellweger is. This is what completes you: someone who looks just like this. What completes you is reality.
Zellweger was no flash in the pan, but after “Jerry Maguire,” she struggled to find roles that could complete her. It wasn’t until “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” five years later, that she hit her stride by finding a role that jelled with her image as an extraordinary ordinary girl. It may sound like I’m being patronizing, but if you go back and look — I mean really look — at the old Hollywood stars, who we think of as some of the most incandescent people of the 20th century, the truth is that if you forget their iconic status for a moment, a lot of them were highly idiosyncratic-looking. To name two obvious examples: Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson. But more tellingly, on the actress side of things, just think of Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Fontaine, Bette Davis — radiant sensual goddesses all, but sorry, these weren’t the beauty contest winners. They looked like heightened versions of us.
Today, more than ever, movie stars look like models, and there’s a pressure on them to conform to certain “standards.” The amount of cosmetic surgery that goes on in Hollywood would shock almost anyone who learned about it, because the truth is that a great many stars who don’t look nipped and tucked, and who publicly decry plastic surgery, have had the work done. But that, by definition, is to keep them looking younger, to keep them looking like “themselves.” (That’s why you can’t tell.) The syndrome we’re talking about is far more insidious, because 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.
The recent flap over Zoe Saldana playing Nina Simone in the dreadful biopic “Nina” was a fully justified imbroglio — not because Saldana herself is anything less than a spectacular actress, but because the truth is that she doesn’t look remotely like Nina Simone, and so the very logic (or illogic) of the casting carried an imprint of racism. It said, implicitly: The people who are financing and making this movie don’t believe that an actress who does look like Nina Simone can sell enough tickets. Simone was beautiful, though in a powerfully unconventional way that doesn’t rise to the fascist standards of the new American beauty. And so what “Nina” did, through the casting of Saldana, was to give Nina Simone plastic surgery in hindsight. The film was so abysmal that its failure to do justice to the majesty of Simone’s artistry was an even bigger insult, but the point is that it reflected the new virus: the cosmetic-ization of reality.
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. You can’t prove it, but you know it when you see it. Our physiognomies express a great deal of who we are (that’s why we’re so hung up about them), and the redemptive comic spirit of the “Bridget Jones” films is the passionate drunk-girl-next-door everydayness of Bridget, the way that she’s no better than any of us — a spirit reflected, at least in the first two movies, in the slightly slovenly doughy-cuddly perfection of Renée Zellweger’s face. Yes, she gained weight for the role, but the added weight was still her. I’m one of the few critics who loved even the second film (the Bridget-goes-to-Thai-prison plot might have seemed absurd, except that Zellweger grounded it), and the third chapter is long overdue. I just hope it turns out to be a movie that stars Renée Zellweger rather than a victim of “Invasion of the Face Snatchers.” I hope it turns out to be a movie about a gloriously ordinary person rather than someone who looks like she no longer wants to be who she is.

Here's McGowan's response in The Hollywood Reporter

Owen Gleiberman, this is not a counterpoint. There is no counterpoint, there is no defense for the indefensible.
Renee Zellweger is a human being, with feelings, with a life, with love and with triumphs and struggles, just like the rest of us. How dare you use her as a punching bag in your mistaken attempt to make a mark at your new job. How dare you bully a woman who has done nothing but try to entertain people like you. Her crime, according to you, is growing older in a way you don’t approve of. Who are you to approve of anything? What you are doing is vile, damaging, stupid and cruel. It also reeks of status quo white-male privilege. So assured are you in your place in the firmament that is Hollywood, you felt it was OK to do this. And your editors at Variety felt this was more than OK to run.
You are an active endorser of what is tantamount to harassment and abuse of actresses and women. I speak as someone who was abused by Hollywood and by people like you in the media, but I’m a different breed, one they didn't count on. I refuse and reject this bullshit on behalf of those who feel they can't speak. I am someone who was forced by a studio to go on Howard Stern where he asked me to show him my labia while my grinning male and female publicists stood to the side and did nothing to protect me. I am someone who has withstood death threats from fanboys, had fat sites devoted to me. I've withstood harassment on a level you can’t comprehend, Owen.
I was so confused by the heaping tons of abuse, I actually forgot what I looked like. Which is awesome because I rose up from some serious ashes to finally have my say. Here's some truth: Men like you and the women who sit idly by and say nothing should know that aiding and abetting is a moral crime, and if it were punished in Hollywood, most of you would be in some form of jail.
Any studio that Renee Zellweger has made money for, any co-star she's supported or anyone who takes a percentage of her income should be doing what's right; they should be calling this harassment out.
As a woman who has been bullied for years by a vicious pack of lower beings, I can relate to this. Many are probably silent because they do not wish for the proverbial pen to be pointed at them; I say point away. Short of killing me, you can't possibly do more than what was done to me in my tenure as an actress. I don't care if you're afraid. Be brave. Do what's right, for once. I loathe fear. And this town is built on fear. Fear was instilled in me by the men and women of this town, just as I'm sure it was instilled in Ms. Zellweger. Fear of being blacklisted, fear of being branded difficult, fear of ... fear of ... fear of.
Well, guess what, Owen? I am not afraid of you or anyone. It is a small, small, myopic, self-fellating town that loves to love itself. I am here to ask you all to put the mirror down and look out at society, because whether you're aware of it or not, you too are part of society and by retreating to the standard go-to — silence — you are hurting all of us. Look at what you're doing and where you bear responsibility and culpability. Who are you all protecting and why? Who are you helping and why?
To illustrate what women in the public eye go through ad nauseam, I have replaced Renee Zellweger's name in your article with those of male actors.
The movie's star, LEONARDO DICAPRIO, already had his "Did he or didn’t he?" moment back in 2014, and I had followed the round-the-world scrutinizing of his image that went along with it, but this was different. Watching the trailer, I didn't stare at the actor and think: He doesn't look like LEONARDO DICAPRIO. I thought: He doesn't look like JAY GATSBY!
In the case of MATT DAMON, it may look to a great many people like something more than an elaborate makeup job has taken place, but we can’t say for sure. What we can say is that if that happened, it reflects something indescribably sad about our culture. For in addition to being a great actor, DAMON as much or more than any star of his era, has been a poster guy for the notion that each and every one of us is beautiful in just the way God made us.
“You complete me” is one of the great lines in modern romantic movies because of the way it takes its inner meaning from who TOM CRUISE is. This is what completes you: someone who looks just like this. What completes you is reality.
RYAN GOSLING had won the lottery, had been plucked from semi-obscurity by the movie gods (or, actually, by the daring of Cameron Crowe), but not because it was so unusual to see a non-famous actor starring in a major movie.
He worked with costars who reinforced his supernova status, through their fame or their beauty or both. ROB LOWE, with pillowy cheeks and quizzically pursed lips and that singular squint, was beautiful, but not in the way that a BRAD PITT or GEORGE CLOONEY was.
JOHNNY DEPP was no flash in the pan, but after 'Edward Scissorhands', he struggled to find roles that could complete him. It wasn’t until 'Pirates of the Carribean,' five years later, that he hit his stride by finding a role that jelled with his image as an extraordinary ordinary guy.
A spirit reflected, at least in the first two movies, in the slightly slovenly doughy-cuddly perfection of ANSEL ELGORT's face. Yes, he gained weight for the role, but the added weight was still him. I’m one of the few critics who loved even the second film (the ANSEL-goes-to-Thai-prison plot might have seemed absurd, except that ELGORT grounded it), and the third chapter is long overdue. I just hope it turns out to be a movie that stars ANSEL ELGORT rather than a victim of Invasion of the Face Snatchers.
Owen, the last line in your article, “I hope it turns out to be a movie about a gloriously ordinary person rather than someone who looks like she no longer wants to be who she is” is quite the mind f---.
Guess what? It is time to stop f---ing with women's minds.
Do you know what my interests are, Owen?
My interests are bigger than pondering a stranger’s face. My interest is destroying the status quo. My interest as a card-carrying member of society is to STOP the brainwashing Hollywood and the media have for too long gotten away with. The brainwashing that you have long been a friend to and a supporter of.
Let’s talk about Hollywood writers: Joan Didion, John Fante, Raymond Chandler, Robert Towne, Dorothy Parker, John Gregory Dunne, Preston Sturges, I.A.L. Diamond, Pauline Kael and Billy Wilder. These were writers on Hollywood.
You, Owen Gleiberman, are not they.
You are simply a bully on semi-glossy paper.'

Wow. 

It seems clear that Zellweger, fed up with the constant criticism of her looks, decided to do what she wanted to do about it. That's up to her. The entitled male-gazing judgmental society that forced her to take that action, is the same entitled male-gaze judging her now. It's time to say F. U. Leave Renee Zellweger and the rest of the world's women alone. These are our bodies, we'll do what we like with them. These are our faces, and yes, we will do whatever the fuck we want to with them too.

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