What If The 'New' Renee Zellweger Face Is In Fact A Radical Statement?

Yesterday morning, we all woke up to a new and sobering reality. Forget Ebola and ISIS—what the hell is going on with Renee Zellweger's new face?

Zellweger, after about four years out of the spotlight, stepped out on the red carpet for the Elle Magazine Women of Hollywood Awards to debut a boyfriend and a look so different from what we remembered, everyone just had to comment (they just had to!). Because as we all know, there's nothing like a "botched plastic surgery" (*conjecture, not proven*) to get everyone worked up. 

As Anne Helen Peterson smartly noted, the media isn't exactly a fan of noticeable, evident plastic tweaks—just as society urges women to stay pretty and youthful, it expects them to conduct necessary upkeep to maintain this impossible perfection discretely.

Not Bridget anymore. The horror!

Jennifer Lopez making a comeback on American Idol looking elusively better? Good. A B-lister's suddenly swollen lips? Not good. Get the job done, ladies, just don't make it obvious!

Another potential reason for outrage about Renee's transformation is even more childish—she doesn't look like that sweet girl anymore. She is not herself. Because, let's admit it—the new Zellweger isn't ridiculous or scary looking, nor does she remind us of those failed plastic surgery disasters reality TV loves so much. She has changed significantly, but nothing about her face is really that strange or unnatural—besides, of course, the fact that is doesn't look like her old face.

In light of the horror show currently taking place online—complete with a "slide me" exercise allowing readers to closely examine the visual differences between the "normal" and the "new"—it's quite possible to see the actress' plastic surgery as a radical move, designed to shove a mirror into our own faces. As women are pressured to keep things smooth, neat, lean and spotless, aging be damned, Zellweger seemingly did the unthinkable—she changed the very core of her looks. She didn't hang on to her face!

Her transformation runs counter to our ideal of "staying true to you"—a notion society ostensibly values but undermines every chance it gets, by pushing women to change themselves so they can conform to unrealistic ideals. Where's the thin line between constant tweaking and wrinkle-shaming, and replacing one's own face altogether? And is that line as evident as everyone who judges Zellweger assumes?

It should also be noted that the plastic surgery accusation is sheer conjecture, and Zellweger herself has claimed she hasn't gone under the knife. Said the woman who's actually privy to what's going on in this situation:

"I’m glad folks think I look different. I’m living a different, happy, more fulfilling life and I’m thrilled that perhaps it shows. My friends say I look peaceful. I am healthy."

Healthy and happy? While not magically defying the natural effects of aging? How dare she! 

How we looking in that mirror, society?

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