‘It’s my body and it should be my choice’, Jennifer Lawrence lamented in her Vanity Fair interview following the theft of her nude photos. This is by any means the truth for most women living in a Western democracy. Yet, it is questionable as to whether celebrities’ can truly claim ownership over their own bodies or whether the price for fame is their commoditisation to the public for them to scrutinize and criticise at their pleasure.
This question came into light last week when Renée Zellweger made her first public appearance in five year at Elle magazine’s 2014 Women in Hollywood event and the backlash that ensued because of the change in her appearance was cruel and unforgiving at best.
The horror was palpable everywhere from Twitter to CNN; ‘Where has Renée gone?’ people asked holding up the most recent photos of her next to photos of her in Bridget Jones’ Diary, taken eighteen years previously, not realizing the ridiculousness of the comparison and the fact that their disgust at her ageing transformation was indeed almost certainly the reason she probably resolved to undertaking plastic surgery in the first place.
Having been out of the public eye for so long did not work in Zellweger’s favour as any return to the public eye documented by the hordes of paparazzi, will then be digested by the public, picking up on any minor changes, from gaining a few extra wrinkles to pounds.
The pressure that is on famous women to maintain a youthful face is completely unrealistic. There is nothing wrong with Zellweger’s face, what is wrong is the opinion held by the public that effortless youth and beauty must be maintained.
‘Normal’ humans do not have to suffer the trauma of having their appearance picked apart nor do they have to endure the pestering paparazzi. We would object morally to both of these as invasions of our privacy and rights. What we would in effect consider the commodifying our bodies, rendering them to an almost meat-like status, for people we do not know to dissect and tear apart.
The upload of Lawrence’s photographs to Perez Hilton’s website was brushed off as mere carelessness. However, if we did not treat celebrities as object designed purely for our entertainment, this ‘carelessness’ would never occur.
Us Weekly’s ‘They’re Just Like Us’ column achieves the complete opposite results by highlighting mundane, everyday task such as grocery shopping that everyone must do, including celebrities, but by documenting it, it is making it special and exceptional. They are not like us because we do not treat them ‘like us’.
The cliché ‘they’re human beings, just like you and I’ is overused but is not stressed enough. They are humans who will age, whose weight will fluctuate, who will get cellulite, who will have breakups. The more we put them on a pedestal, the more they will try to achieve the ‘perfect image’ and the more unrealistic that will become. No one wins in this perpetual cycle of negativity and scrutiny, as we will simply have even more unrealistic role models to look up to.
Photograph: Justin Arce