The media has been obsessed this week with Renee Zellweger’s new face, with articles quoting plastic surgeons on why she doesn’t look like herself. Zellweger says she looks different because she’s happy now and doesn’t admit to having plastic surgery.
Most plastic surgeons are quoted saying Zellweger has had work done, agreeing that she had her eyelids “opened” and disagreeing about other possible surgery, like cheek or chin implants. Some pundits complain that the media obsession with her new face is sexist, that no one would care about changes like this if she were a man, and the emphasis on her face is hurtful to her and shows society’s priorities are in the wrong place.
The real experts on faces are cartoonists. Plastic surgeons can change flesh and bone, but cartoonists must know how to make someone really look like themselves. Cartoonists come face to face with America’s sexist realities every day. Caricature artists learn this right away when they draw couples together. We can exaggerate a man’s features and his female companion will laugh, say “that looks just like you” Most men will smile, or they will snort, say “OK,” and move on without feeling too insulted. If a cartoonist exaggerates a woman’s notable features, he’s only asking for trouble; both the man and the woman won’t like it. Caricature can be an insulting profession.
The solution is to draw every woman so that she looks like a “Disney Princess.” Ask her something about herself; perhaps she plays tennis; give her a Disney Princess face; keep the hairdo and draw her playing tennis; she’ll love it. Making a man look like a Disney Prince doesn’t work, men have to be drawn so they really look like themselves.
Caricature is a process of identifying interesting, distinctive features on a face and exaggerating them. Women don’t want exaggerated features. The standard for the most “beautiful” women is that there are no outstanding, distinctive features at all. The most “beautiful” women are the most difficult to caricature, because there is nothing there to exaggerate.
So it is with Renee Zellweger; her old face was the face of a pretty “girl next door”, not a fashion model. She had a chubby, cheeky face with “hooded” eyelids. The new Zellweger face has lost the old eyelids, opening her eyes up to be less distinctive. It looks to me like her nose has been shaved down a tad, to be straighter and a bit less full.
Another big issue in caricaturing women is weight. Most women want to be thin. No matter how slim they look, they will be happier if they are drawn to be thinner. Zellweger looks to have lost a lot of weight; she’s lost her signature chubby cheeks and full lips. The weight loss makes her chin and jaw line more angular.
Renee Zellweger was lovely as a girl next door, and she is still lovely now that she looks like a different person and has the features of a fashion model/Disney Princess. Many women are unhappy, obsessing about how they look, even if they look great already. Women can always be thinner. Every feature can always be less distinctive.
The real problem with Renee Zellweger’s lovely new face is that there was no problem with her lovely old face, and still she wanted to get a new face.