The reactions to Renee Zellweger's face say more about us than about her

Is it really any of our business what a women decides to do to her own body?

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The Independent Online

The jokes are rolling in already. People are tweeting “this picture of Renee Zellweger looks nothing like her” whilst attaching an image of a chair, or Turk from Scrubs. Yes, when she appeared at the Elle Women in Hollywood Awards in Beverly Hills on Monday she certainly looked different, but do we really need the internet's wags pointing it out and laughing at her?

In fact, the reactions to Renee’s 'new' face say more about us than they do about her. We want to know the personal reasons behind it, we remember her as size 12 Bridget with the plump cheeks, we decide that she "looked better before", we tweet an opinion. As if it is really any of our business what a women decides to do to her own body.

A similar thing happened when Tulisa Contostavlos’s show "The Price of Fame” aired earlier this year, and she had the audacity to show a face that looked as if it had been worked on. Within minutes of the show airing the hashtag #TulisaFace was trending. The same angry question marks, asking "what has she done? "

But I'm not sure who gave us permission to comment on anyone’s face, whether or not they are in the public eye. And if any surgery is a reaction to societal pressures, and our fixation on the aging process, then it’s us who need to have a long hard look in the mirror and stop commenting in the first place. What if we all didn’t click on the images for a good oogle? We need to go back to the start and fix the cycle.

Renee has always changed the way she looks for her roles, this is not new news. This also makes her a brilliant actress. In Bridget Jones it was a weight gain; in Chicago it was severe weight loss, in Cold Mountain  she wore masculine clothes and won an Oscar and BAFTA. Actors, both male and female, don’t look the same for a long period of time; we know this. We've seen Matthew McConaughey shed pounds for to play a man with HIV, Christian Bale for The Machinist, Natalie Portman as a ballerina in Black Swan.

These physical changes for roles are dramatic. Most of us yo-yo our diets in private but actors have to do it in the public eye, and for their job. But when the filming stops, the public scrutiny only escalates. It's as if because we have seen actors change themselves physically on screen, we believe we have permission to peer at their bodies off-screen as well. And this scrutiny has become vastly more cruel that the “too fat” or “too skinny” debate of previous years. Now, we enjoy counting every new wrinkle, calibrating the slightest change in nostril shape, and ironically it is this increase in scrutiny that adds to the pressure on these actors to stay physically perfect. And so it contines.

For Renee, the face analysis started 2008, when it was too shiny, apparently. In 2009 her eyes "seemed smaller". In 2013, Daily Mail ran a tacky piece asking “what’s happened to Renee’s face?” at the Academy Awards, where, by the way, she looked amazing. This was the first installment of Renee’s own plastic surgery witch-hunt. And it begs the question: why are people so obsessed with changes to people’s faces? How many times do we have to talk about it? Her face is not her brand.

It’s a vicious cycle, the more somebody is scrutinized, the less in control they feel and the more they will go about changing themselves in their personal lives. No one looks the same forever.

But perhaps it is Renee that has had the last laugh here. Today, she has said "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." And really, that should be all that matters.

Emma Gannon is social media editor at The Debrief

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