“Is that you, Renee Zellweger?”
That was CNN’s oh-so-cheeky headline. Gawker opted for the subtle “Here are some photographs of Renee Zellweger”, while friend and ally of all women The Daily Mail chose the profoundly reserved headline “What HAS Renee Zellweger done to her face? Bridget actress looks utterly unrecognisable as she steps out with her boyfriend in LA”.
And when you look at the photographs they’re using, you’d probably wonder the exact same thing. “How does that HAPPEN?”
That happens on The Daily Mail because the photographs they used to illustrate the astonishing change were taken 13 years apart, with the ‘before’ taken when Renee was 15 kilograms heavier.
In Renee’s case, it’s not just selective picture editing, but collective memory too. Most of our recollections of Renee Zellweger are from years ago. The last movie anyone remembers Renee from was Miss Potter in 2006 (which would have been filmed a couple of years earlier), and the movies we remember her best in – Bridget Jones, Chicago, Cold Mountain – were even earlier.
Renee Zellweger is not a red carpet regular. Since 2010, she’s been out maybe three or four times a year. So we don’t remember her as she is, but as she was. When we see her now, it’s like running into a friend from high school that you haven’t really seen in ten years.
She looks really different. When you do a side-by-side comparison, it’s incredibly surprising. But in these side-by-side comparisons, there’s a whole lot more going on than some kind of totally face-changing surgery.
Let’s take News.com.au for example:
Yes, she looks completely different. But that's because those photos were taken seven years apart. From completely different angles. With totally different lighting. Of course, when we say "She looks different" that's not what we're talking about.
Want to know how much camera angle matters? These photos were taken two seconds apart.
My nose seems to be a completely different shape, I have a different number of chins. I appear to be a totally different weight, with different eyes and different lips.
That's two seconds. Now multiply that by seven years. It's easy to forget when you look at too many pictures of say, Jennifer Lopez, but our faces do tend to change as we age. Not only do we get fine lines and wrinkles, our noses and ears keep growing throughout our lives. Renee Zellweger's nose has grown, which contributes to how different she looks. Her face is also thinner - she is thinner.