Earlier this week, we published an article about Nicole Richie's new hairdo. The look immediately set off a firestorm of commentary around the Internet that was generally derisive toward not only Richie's hair, but also her overall appearance.
Obviously, online comments are rarely going to lead to a major burst in self-esteem, but this latest celebrity story has got me thinking about an overarching culture of taking women down. After all, Richie is only 34 years old, and she's already criticized for looking "too old."
It's no secret that Hollywood is not particularly welcoming to aging women, but I think it's high time that expectation is left in the past. So many talented, beautiful women have faced unbridled vitriol due to their appearance — whether it's the result of a wrinkle or a face lift, no one seems to be safe. This unfair treatment has affected actresses disproportionately, and it's had a major impact on their careers.
Bottom line: we can't keep expecting women to stay young forever and then demonize them when they try to stay young forever.
Renée Zellweger was mercilessly criticized for looking different in 2014
When Renee Zellweger walked the red carpet at the Elle Magazine Women in Hollywood event, all the great work women did that year was totally disregarded to focus on one thing: Zellweger's face. There was relentless criticism that had people speculating that she had aged badly or gotten too much work done, and it got so bad that she had friends and colleagues calling her up to ask her how she was handling the cruel attention.
Entertainment Weekly asked about how the experience impacted her, and she tried to see the positive.
"What good comes from knowing that something like that happened? Less fear. Sure."
Though she was generally aware of the hubbub, she actively avoided all the comments.
Uma Thurman scandalized the public when she debuted this look last year
Like Renée Zellweger, Uma Thurman was met with unreal amounts of blowback when people felt she looked dramatically different at a Vanity Fair event in 2015. Because her face caused such a scandal, Thurman had to address the issue while promoting one of her projects and blamed the supposed problem on an experimental makeup routine.
"I think that women should feel open and free to experiment with different beauty looks — it's only makeup, at the end of the day it all washes off."
No matter the reason, it's a little silly that a grown woman needs to defend her appearance, especially when her aim is to talk about her work.
Meg Ryan hasn't acted in a big movie since 2009, and people still insult her looks
Meg Ryan is the perfect example of just how fickle the general public can be. Once America's undisputed sweetheart, we hardly ever see Meg Ryan anymore on screen or on the red carpet. Just a quick Google search reveals headlines that outwardly condemn how Ryan looks these days and place the blame squarely on her shoulders for a supposed addiction to plastic surgery.
Though these are just a few individual examples, each story builds a larger problem that affects almost every actress in Hollywood.
Until the conversation changes, actresses will continue to struggle to find work after 40
These may seem like minute problems for extremely rich people, but this is important for a couple of reasons. First, what we see in the media is reflective of societal attitudes, and we shouldn't tolerate a culture that throws away women when they're no longer deemed sexually appealing by a corporate bigwig. Secondly, we've become used to men being allowed to age while women must either go to great lengths to stay young or lose out on their careers. Netflix series Grace and Frankie has been praised for casting Jane Fonda (78) and Lily Tomlin (76) as the titular characters, which is both progressive but simultaneously telling of the status quo.
I'm not sure what it's going to take to change this troubling trend, but confronting it is certainly a great start. Meryl Streep shouldn't be the only actress who's getting roles past a certain age, and maybe that will change when we stop valuing famous women based only on what they look like.