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A few reasons why Renee Zellweger's face looks so different

“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.

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Has she had cosmetic enhancements? Almost certainly yes, she has. So has almost every woman in Hollywood, and most of the blokes too. Probably a fair few people you know in real life get tweaks here and there, if they're economically fortunate.

But these changes are not as insane or dramatic as you might think from looking at the 'compare and contrast' photos. Right now people are trying to emphasise just how much Renee has changed, because it's a great way to tear her down for sport.

Why? Because in Hollywood, you're damned if you do, and damned if you don't. If the tabloids weren't talking about how different Renee looked, they'd probably be talking about how tired Renee looked. Because she's also a fairly private person who doesn't go out much, they're probably trying to wring a little extra hurt out of her to make up for lost coverage, too.

In the movie industry, the lead actors get older, while their love interests stay the same age. Renee used to be the cute, quirky young ingénue - and now she's not.

So Renee is being punished for ageing. And she's been punished for trying to stop herself ageing. At once. And the tabloids are using trickery to do it.

Check out these less selectively chosen images of Renee, over the last few years, and you'll see that her 'astonishing transformation', isn't quite so crazy after all. She doesn't look like "a completely different person".

She looks like a person who is ageing. As we all do. She's wearing different makeup. Her eyebrows are different, and okay, yes there are probably some other things going on too. She looks different.

But if you were photographed several years apart, at a different weight, wearing different makeup, with a different skin colour and different hair colour, you'd look different too. The only difference is - hopefully - you wouldn't be judged quite so harshly for it.

What's your take on this?

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