entertainment

It's not OK to do this to a face. Even if it's your own.

It’s not nice to make fun of people for the way they look. I think we’re all clear on that. But watching the Oscars last night and clicking through red carpet shots of the after-parties today, I’m really troubled by something and I don’t know how to say it without being offensive. So I’m just going to do my best:

Celebrities need to stop mutilating their faces in the name of beauty. In case you didn’t watch the Oscars or the red carpet coverage, this is what I’m talking about:

 Kim Novak after presenting on stage.

Liza Minelli on the red carpet.

Donatella Versace (with Gaga) at the Vanity Fair after-party

Kim Novak is 81. Liza Minelli is 67. Donatella Versace is 58.

And they are just the extremes. There were many other women over the age of 25 last night who had clearly had work. I was particularly disappointed to see Portia de Rossi’s frozen face – it’s a look all too familiar on the red carpet, that blank-faced stare where nothing moves and all expression has been erased by needles and fillers.

It’s a slippery slope – especially when you start having cosmetic surgery in your 30s or even your 20s. By the time you hit your 40s and 50, things can get downright scary.

Last night, Kim and Liza and Donatella looked scary. Because what else can you call it when a woman pays thousands – probably hundreds of thousands – of dollars to slice, sew, suck, fill, paralyse and pull her face until she is not only unrecognisable as herself but almost unrecognisable as human.

A young Kim Novak

And this is the part where people will chide me. “Stop shaming these poor women!” they will say. “Stop judging! It’s their choice and feminism is about having a choice!”

Well, with all due respect, I think that’s bullshit. I think it’s become the Emperor’s New Clothes where a well intentioned reluctance to shame, mock or ridicule these women (and the occasional man, hello Baz Luhrman) has morphed into a complicit silence.

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By not saying, ‘hang on, it’s not OK to do that to a face even if it’s your own’, we are tacitly condoning and even endorsing this kind of mutilation. Because that’s how standards of beauty change. Facial piercings or pink hair used to be shocking. Then they were less shocking and now they’re normal.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Hair can be dyed. Piercings can be taken out. But altering your face in the way women like Kim Novak and Donatella and Liza Minelli have done is permanent. Awful and permanent.

And as for ‘having a choice’ — do they really?  “I’m not saying movies are the most important thing in the world,” Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres said in her opening Oscars monologue. “I’m not saying that—because the most important thing in the world is youth.”

A young Liza Minelli.

Hell yeah. The pressure felt by women in Hollywood to look forever young is simply an extreme version of the pressure most women in western society feel. To stay relevant in that profession, you have to look young. And while women like Meryl Streep (64) and Sally Field (67) are universally praised for ‘growing old gracefully’, it’s clear they’ve both had work. Just better, less extreme work than some of their peers. And the same goes for other actresses hailed as looking ‘fantastic for their age’  like Sandra Bullock (49) and Sharon Stone (55) – what we really mean by ‘fantastic’ is that they look years, even decades younger than their actual age.

Surely it’s time we started having some honest conversations about how there’s something wrong with a culture that makes women so scared of getting old that they’d prefer to mutilate their faces. And a culture that demands women do whatever it takes to stay young and then mocks her when she goes too far.

I think it’s important to have this conversation. And by doing so, I’m certainly not mocking or ridiculing the women mentioned in this post. I’m simply saying, “But wait, the Emperor is wearing no clothes.”

Take a look at the gallery and tell us what you think…

What do you think about the level of plastic surgery some celebrities, such as Kim Novak, have had? Do you think extreme plastic surgery is a dangerous precedent to set for young people?

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