TIME psychology

I Think the Internet Is to Blame For Renée Zellweger’s New Face

Actress Renée Zellweger arrives at the 21st Annual ELLE Women In Hollywood Awards on October 20, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California.
Actress Renée Zellweger arrives at the 21st Annual ELLE Women In Hollywood Awards on October 20, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. Jon Kopaloff—FilmMagic

What if, for 18 years, millions of people have been snarking Zellweger's face, and she thought she ought to do something about that?

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

How many times do you have to hear something in order to believe it’s true? How often do you need to be told something about yourself before you internalize it and accept it part of your identity, part of your fundamental being?

After her appearance at the ELLE 2014 Women in Hollywood awards, everyone (well, everyone who hadn’t kicked it off the night before on Twitter) started talking about Renée Zellweger. The commentary was largely of the “that is NOT Renée Zellweger” variety, though some of it has finally veered into the “leave Renée Zellweger alone” territory.

There is one theory — that this “new look” (it’s not really new, reports of her face looking very different started cropping up last year though reports in general might be exaggerated: our own Jane saw her repeatedly in person and never noticed a difference) is down to the pressure placed on women (particularly famous women) to always present a youthful face. Plastic surgery is, the Washington Post posits, only a problem when people get caught having it but they are most assuredly having it. They seem to think Zellweger was fighting the onset of age, trying to look young and glam even as photos get more and more high def. The Guardian rightfully points out that there is nothing wrong with her face — there is only something wrong with a public who feels entitled to effortless beauty.

I am not entirely convinced by that, though.

Jerry Maguire came out in 1996 and was the ninth top-grossing film of the year. It was nominated for five Academy Awards, three Golden Globes and three Screen Actors Guild Awards. It was also Zellweger’s breakout role — and it was the first time a lot of people were totally smitten by her face.

Bridget Jones’s Diary came out in 2001. I was dragged to the movie by some friends who loved the book (I did not love the book) and I was surprised by how delightful Zellweger was — by how sympathetic I found her character to be. There was so much earnest good intention combined with bad decisions, and it was all there in that distinctive face.

Her face was distinctive then, yeah — and what people seem to be conveniently glossing over now is how often Zellweger was the subject of truly cruel commentary.

I could list a lot of things that people have said about Zellweger’s face. I suspect you’ve heard or read most of them though — possibly even said some of them yourself with varying degrees of appreciation. I’d rather not have this be one more place where those critical adjectives get applied.

It’s been 18 years since Jerry Maguire brought the world’s attention to Zellweger and her uncommon face (uncommon in Hollywood, at least). Maybe it really is, as the WP says, about a fear of aging. But what if it isn’t?

What if, for 18 years, millions of people have been insulting Zellweger’s face and telling her she ought to do something about that?

If that’s the case, then it’s basically the Internet’s fault that things have come to this. (And the extent of “this” probably isn’t even as severe as wild Internet speculation spread around. None of us actually know and guessing is just as insulting as all the current insults.)

The Atlantic ended their weirdly invasive questions to Zellweger with a quote from Bridget Jones’s Diary about liking her just the way she was. And obviously she is a movie star so her face had appeal to lots of people.

But as a mainstream American culture, we seem to lack any degree of empathy for our stars — we love to watch them fall, right? And I can’t help but think about the power of being told over and over and over again that some part of you is hideous, that some part of you is flawed.

When I was in high school, a nerdy kid fresh back from Thailand, I was pretty sure that I was fatter than my peers but I wasn’t really worried about it. My thighs rubbed together a little bit and my grandmother took me to shop at Cato’s and the plus-size department of K-Mart. But people kept telling me I was fat all the time — family members and a couple of boys at school and some “well-meaning” adults.

Even though no one came right out and said that I was going to die alone and unloved (mostly because there was no such thing as Internet trolls yet to fill that gaping need in my life), the subtext was clear. Why would I be encouraged to work so hard not to be fat if it weren’t going to ruin everything that was good in life?

It was confusing because I didn’t hate my body then — but I tried to be better and thinner and prettier because I wanted my family to be happier with me. I wanted them to feel like I was worth loving. And, slowly, they convinced me. Eventually, I felt like a monster.

I hated my body — and by extension, my self — because I learned that I was supposed to; there was no other option. No one was there to tell me that there were alternatives. Instead, everyone was there to reward me for hiding in baggy jeans and skipping meals.

There is some fairly basic psychology going on here: bad stuff almost always makes for a stronger memory than the good stuff. This is why negativity bias is a thing. If enough trusted people tell you that you’re a hideous beast who can’t be seen in the light of day, it’s really hard not to internalize that message.

Even if you manage to fight some of it off, you’ve used up a lot of your energy — you have put all of your efforts into defending yourself, and then there isn’t anything left for building yourself back up.

At the end of the day, Zellweger has the same body autonomy that anyone else does. She gets to make her choices for her own reasons. Anyone saying she made a mistake really ought to sit down — Zellweger is the only one who can judge that (and here is your obligatory Jennifer Grey link).

But the people offering constant commentary on her face (and also her body because she’s often been targeted by people who want to call her fat and make fun of her) have created the environment and atmosphere in which Zellweger made her choice.

No man is an island, no one lives in a vacuum, all that philosophical claptrap. We are all connected and there is no such thing as being completely unaffected by the weight of that much public commentary.

Every individual I know who is into snark (and there is no denying that has become part of our entertainment culture) defends it as being just for fun. It’s suggested that people simply ought to grow a thicker skin.

I disagree. I think snark, especially on a cultural level, is actively damaging. I think it tells people, over and over again, that they are monstrous — for whatever reason — until that idea is inescapable.

How many times do you have to hear something about yourself before you believe it? I look back at pictures of me in high school. I was, in fact, fatter than my peers. But the person I was taught to see in the mirror is not in the few photographs I have from that time period. There is no monster in those photos.

There’s just a body that I learned to hate because I believed what I was taught.

And, hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Zellweger’s wide-eyed gaze has nothing to do with the incessant caricaturing of her signature (adorable) grin. But even so, I hope that we, as the collective Internet, think for a moment about how responsible we are for teaching people what to see in the mirror.

And I hope Zellweger is happy with what she sees, no matter what.

Marianne Kirby is a Weekend Editor at xoJane.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME psychology

10 Ways Science Can Make Anyone Sexier

Science and woman
Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Good looks help, there’s no denying. We make up our mind about people in 100 milliseconds and decide whether they’re hot in 13 milliseconds.

Beautiful people are more successful. We’re more likely to forgive attractive people. Cute folks are less likely to be convicted of a crime and more likely to get a shorter sentence.

Have people’s opinions toward appearance changed over the years? Yes, we value attractiveness more than ever.

So what can you do to make sure you’re looking good during that critical first impression?

  1. Beauty sleep? Yeah, it’s real. Get some.
  2. Red clothes. Men, women, whatever. Wear red.
  3. Glasses make you look smarter but less attractive.
  4. Your left side is your best side. Here are tips for making yourself more attractive in photos.
  5. Happiness is attractive in women but not in men. Pride is attractive in men but not in women. The fundamentals of what we find attractive do not change as we age.
  6. A strong sense of meaning in life makes people more attractive. Here‘s how to work on that.
  7. Eat right. More servings of fruits and vegetables made people more attractive.
  8. Tattoos are interesting. One tattoo isn’t very telling. Multiple tattoos and highly visible tattoos are highly correlated with deviant behavior. Students like college professors with tattoos more than those without ink. People with tattoos and body piercings have sex at younger ages, have sex more often, have more oral sex, and are far less likely to be religious.
  9. Eye contact can make people fall in love with you. You can tell which couples are in love by how long they stare into each others eyes.
  10. Is none of this helping? Here’s a trick that doesn’t ask you to change anything about yourself: bring along a friend who has your basic physical characteristics (similar coloring, body type, facial features), but is slightly less attractive than you. It works.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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Related posts:

10 ways science can make *men* sexier

10 ways science can make *women* sexier

10 ways science explains why James Bond is so irresistible to women

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME gender

I’m Beautiful, But Hire Me Anyway

Physical attractive ought not work against you—but in HR offices it might
Physical attractive ought not work against you—but in HR offices it might Johnny Greig; Getty Images

Employers often discriminate against attractive women. Here's why—and what the women themselves can do about it

It has ranked among the top ten irritating TV ads of all time. “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful,” pouted actress and model Kelly LeBrock back in 1980, tossing her hair coquettishly as she shilled for Pantene shampoo. What few people realized at the time was that the tag line came close to describing a real type of discrimination. It wasn’t in the form of jealousy from other women, as the commercial implied; that trope has never really held up to much scrutiny. But beautiful women do face other challenges; a study published just the year before the Pantene ad ran showed that attractive women often encounter discrimination when applying for managerial jobs—with beauty somehow being equated with reduced authority or even competence. The authors called it the “beauty is beastly” effect.

What the study didn’t address, says Stefanie Johnson, assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is what women are supposed to do about it. Neither did a study she herself conducted in 2010 which showed that the effect applied to a wide range of jobs normally thought of as masculine.

But a new study Johnson and two colleagues just published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes does tackle the question more directly. The improbable-sounding conclusion: if you’re beautiful and female, acknowledge it. Simple as that.

Well, not quite that simple. The research doesn’t suggest attractive women say straight out, “Yes I know, I’m gorgeous.” It is, says Johnson, “a little more subtle than that.” What she and her colleagues did was to recruit 355 students, male and female, and ask them to evaluate four fictitious candidates for jobs in construction—three male and one female. The applications included photos, and the female applicant was either unusually attractive or unusually unattractive—qualities evaluated by an independent crowdsourcing group.

In some cases, the attractive woman made no reference to either her appearance or her gender in the written application. In others, she referenced her appearance, but subtly, writing something like “I know I don’t look like a typical construction worker, but if you look at my resume, you’ll see that I’ve been successful in this field.” In still others, the attractive woman referred to her gender in a similar way (“I know there aren’t many women in this industry”), but not her beauty.

The unattractive female applicants did the same (although the “I known I don’t look…” part was may have been seen as a mere reference to her gender). In general, the “employers” tended to hire attractive women more often if they alluded either to their gender and to their beauty. With the unattractive woman, referencing gender directly made no difference—but referencing appearance made them less likely than average to be hired.

The study does have holes—rather gaping ones, actually. For one thing, the construction industry is not remotely typical of the field in which gender bias usually plays out. Like it or not, there is a real reason most construction workers are men—and that’s because they are, on average, physically larger than women and have greater upper body strength as a result. It’s the reason we have women’s tennis and men’s tennis, a WNBA and an NBA and on and on. As with the less attractive candidates in the study, the attractive ones’ reference to their appearance might well have been interpreted to mean simply that the typical applicant appears—and is—male. Johnson’s findings would carry a lot more weight if her hypothetical candidates were applying for the kinds of positions in which the gender wars really do play out—vice president of marketing in a large corporation, say.

Still, as a starting point, her research has value, and she does appear to be onto something. “What we think may be going on,” Johnson says, “is that the person doing the [hiring] has an unconscious bias.” But when that bias is brought to the conscious level, triggered by the woman’s addressing it head-on (sort of, anyway), it loses force. “Once you acknowledge it,” says Johnson, “it goes away.”

The takeaway message, she argues, is not that you should feel sorry for good-looking women, since attractive people, both male and female, have all sorts of advantages overall. “It’s more that we’re exposing a more subtle form of sexism,” she says. “People are still stereotyping women.” That, all by itself, is a form of discrimination, even if in this case it’s a form few people think about.

TIME beauty

This Video Proves Just How Ridiculous the Concept of a ‘Thigh Gap’ Is

"Because you aren't good enough."

In a brilliant send-up of the ‘thigh gap,’ a disturbing beauty goal that encourages girls to be so thin that there’s a space between their thighs, sketch comedy group JustBoobs released a parody ad for the Gap’s new competitor — Thigh Gap.

The video promotes the sale of Thigh Gap jeans (just $69.99!), which come with a wooden rod that forces your legs apart, creating an elusive space.

“I thought a thigh gap was an unattainable body myth championed by the media to lower women’s self esteem and make them easier targets for advertising!” one woman exclaims when she sees her friend looking fabulous and pained while wearing her Thigh Gap jeans.

The friend cheerfully replies, “The scars are a constant reminder of the sins of my womanly figure!”

Watch the video and see the thigh gap for the ridiculous trend that it is. Because after all, beauty is pain?

 

TIME beauty

Here’s Kim Kardashian and North at Fashion Week

All black everything

PARIS : Kim Kardashian, Kanye West and North West at the Balenciaga fashion show.
Kim Kardashian, her husband Kanye West and their Daughter North West go the Balenciaga fashion show, in Paris on Sept. 24, 2014. Antoine Cau—Sipa

The reality star favors no-frills, no bows, monochrome outfits for baby North, that often match her own high fashion looks. Kardashian’s no-pink-on-my-daughter stance is good because it shows that everything doesn’t have to be ‘for boys’ or ‘for girls,” says Lori Duron, author of the blog RaisingMyRainbow.com about making traditional gender definitions less rigid.

TIME beauty

Miss America Responds to Hazing Allegations

FOX News Anchor Gretchen Carlson Interviews Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev
Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev on September 16, 2014. ( Rob Kim/Getty Images) Rob Kim—Getty Images

Said she didn't haze, except if you count what's "under the broad definition of hazing"

Newly crowned Miss America Kira Kazantsev appeared on Good Morning America Tuesday to deny allegations that she was kicked out of her Hofstra University sorority for hazing, but admitted that she did mistreat new pledges “under the broad definition of hazing.”

“Well, unfortunately these allegations, first of all they’re just not true,” she said, before adding: “Under the broad definition of hazing, yes I was involved with some of those activities while I was at Hofstra.”

“I came in as an impressionable freshman, everybody wants to be a part of something, and at the time unfortunately that was just the culture of the university. I was hazed. I was kind of brought up through the organization thinking that that was appropriate behavior.”

Jezebel first reported Monday that Miss America Kira Kazantsev was kicked out of Alpha Phi sorority at Hofstra University in April 2013 for hazing pledges while she was supervising the initiation process. She allegedly hazed pledges to the point of “bruising and exhaustion.”

Kazantsev says she was kicked out of her sorority not for hazing, but for joking to sorority alumni that she would make the evening “scary” for pledges. “All I can do is sit here and be honest and share that yes, I was involved under the broad definition of hazing at some point, but never ever in a million years what this is claiming.” She said she never physically harmed anyone, but just tasked recruits with things like reciting information, or staying up all night “crafting.”

When asked how these hazing revelations might affect young girls who look up to her, Kazantsev said she still hopes she can be an example. “I’m gonna take this negative and turn this into a positive,” she said. “I’d say it’s okay to make mistakes. That’s life.”

MORE: Watch John Oliver Debunk the Miss America Pageant’s Scholarship Claim

 

TIME beauty

Soon You’ll Be Able to Get Married in a Frozen-Style Wedding Dress

Frozen, Let It Go
Disney

Though brides who do may be liable to get cold feet

Almost a year after the movie’s release, bridal designer Alfred Angelo is teaming up with Disney to create a Frozen-inspired wedding dress. The dress will be based on Elsa’s look in the movie and available in stores starting in January 2015, according to InStyle who got an exclusive look at the designs.

Some people just can’t let that movie go.

[InStyle]

TIME beauty

What Your Fingers Say About You

Samantha Hahn
Samantha Hahn

It’s not all about the palm. Kay Packard, the director of the American Academy of Hand Analysis, shares how to dial into the subtleties of your digits

This post originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

Does Each Finger Carry Its Own Meaning?

Yes. Just as with the palm, the fingers on your dominant hand typically showcase your work and public personality, while the fingers on your other hand relate to your behavior at home and in close relationships. Every person has some strong fingers and some weak ones. The stronger a particular finger, the more likely you are to exemplify its personality traits.

Here are the associated characteristics for each digit:

Thumb: Drive to succeed.

Index finger: Power, authority, vision, and influence.

Middle finger: Accountability, efficiency, security, growth, and wisdom.

Ring finger: Creativity, self-expression, and a yearning to be in the spotlight.

Pinkie: Communication style.

(MORE: How to Improve Memory)

How Can You Tell Which Fingers Are Strong and Which Are Weak?

Weak digits are bent, crooked, leaning toward another finger, bending forward, or have areas that are damaged in some way. If your finger stands up straight and tall, it’s strong.

What Does the Shape of the Fingertips Reveal?

Round fingertips: You desire harmony and avoid disapproval.

Square or flat fingertips:
You strive for precision and loathe vagueness.

Spatulate fingertips (broad and flared): You love originality and despise routine.

Pointed fingertips: You like to put off practical affairs in favor of pursuing the unusual and the mystical.

Can You Learn Anything From the Spaces Between Your Fingers?

Yes. Rest your hands naturally on a flat surface, or hold them up comfortably up in the air. If your fingers are widely spread apart, then you’re probably independent and open to new experiences. If your fingers are held tightly together, you may be cautious, guarded, and self-contained. If your middle and ring fingers are spread apart, you’re not easily influenced by popular opinion. If those two fingers are close together, you tend to bend to societal expectations and rules. Look at the space between your pinkie and ring finger, too. If it’s extremely wide, that’s a sign that you’re dodging important conversations and that your relationships at home or at work could be suffering as a result. If the pinkie and ring finger are an average space apart (compare them to friends’ hands for a gauge), that means you’re an independent thinker.

(MORE: Surprising Cleaning New Uses for Old Things)

TIME beauty

5 Beauty Tips Women Can Learn From Dudes

man-groomed
Getty Images

This post originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

When we’re looking for expert beauty advice, there are certain sources we always turn to. And, typically, the men in our lives don’t make that list. It’s not because we don’t trust them — it’s just that we don’t think they have any idea what they’re talking about regarding beauty (with a few notable exceptions, of course). Really, does your brother or boyfriend or best guy friend actually know the best way to craft a perfectly tousled beach wave?

While they might not know how to make Gisele hair happen for you, these dudes do prescribe to a few key beauty theories we might learn a thing or two from. We know. So, we quizzed three experts on some of the guy tips we can and should adopt. Ahead, what men do behind (closed) bathroom doors — the lessons you can take away may just surprise you.

Exfoliation

image

Since men shave their faces, they’re getting regular exfoliation — without the extra step. “Exfoliation helps to get rid of the top layer of dead skin cells, called the stratum corneum, and in doing so, it helps to force the skin to turn over,” says Dr. Anthony Rossi, a New York dermatologist. “By shaving, men are actually causing slight trauma to their skin, causing it to repair itself. It’s just like what dermatologists do when they perform a dermabrasion or laser resurfacing — we’re causing a controlled trauma that forces the body to make new collagen to repair it.”

Is whipping out your razor the answer? Not exactly. (Though, it’s safe. More on that in a second.) Rossi does urge women to exfoliate regularly — even daily, if you can get away with it. “Try using an exfoliating beard scrub, like Jack Black Face Buff Energizing Scrub. Products like this can really help women exfoliate — this one has vitamin C and menthol in it.”

Getting back to the topic of razors, Rossi says it’s perfectly fine to shave your face — there is no scientific evidence to show hair grows back thicker or faster. “Some patients may feel that, after shaving, the quality of the hair may change, but there has not been scientific evidence to prove this,” he says. “There is no proof that if you shave, it will come back thicker.” So, shall we finally put a pin in that complaint, ladies?

(MORE: Beauty Cheat Sheet: 10 Shortcuts For Lazy Girls Everywhere)

Keep It Classic

2

Ever notice how there doesn’t seem to be a ton of variety with regard to dudes’ coiffs? “This isn’t a fact, but I think probably 80% of men’s haircuts are the exact same shape,” says hairstylist Ashley Streicher, who has worked on the manes of Jason Segal, John Krasinski, Andy Samberg, and more. “Sure, lengths and textures differ. But, a classic men’s haircut is usually the base of all haircuts.”

Keeping this in mind, Streicher advises women to stick to timeless haircuts. “I think that women can learn that timeless is pretty,” she says. “Rather than always fighting to be avant-garde, sometimes just a really well-done, classic haircut can be different and gorgeous, whether it be a bob, beautifully cut layers, or a blunt fringe.” When in doubt, stick with what never goes out of style.

Moisturize

3

Slicking on some lotion after we shave is standard practice for us. But, men also hydratebefore their razors get anywhere near their skin.
“A preshave oil creates a barrier on your skin from the blade of your razor, preventing ingrown hairs, razor burn, and bumps,” says Tony Sosnick, founder of Anthony Logistics. “Women can really benefit from a good prehsave oil, like Anthony Pre-Shave Oil, which is formulated with essential oils and healing calendula, to achieve a flawless shave.” Not only will the oils soften your skin, they’ll also soften your hairs, which makes them easier to shave.

(MORE: The Korean Secret to Poreless Skin)

Go With The Flow

4

Natural texture? Not something we ladies always like to deal with — as evidenced by the fact that we started straightening, curling, and beating our hair into general submission early on in life. But, Streicher says most men figure out the texture of their hair right away and then just learn how to deal. “They learn their texture and work with it,” she says. “Women are constantly fighting curls by blowing them straight. Or, if their hair is fine, they fry it with a curling rod.”

Basically, we’re never satisfied. So, instead of pulling out your tools every time you wake up with frizz, work with what you’ve got. Undone hair is pretty in right now, anyway, so you’d be doing yourself (and your hair) a favor.

Steamy

5

Now, this doesn’t mean you should hop into a steam room daily. (Although, we admit that sounds heavenly.) “Men oftentimes use warm face towels to steam the facial skin to release trapped hairs and make it easier to shave,” Rossi says. “It’s a technique that’s been used by barbers for many years and gives a better shave.”

(MORE: 44 Magical Beauty Buys That Will Sell Out)

You can certainly get steamy by making your own barbershop towel at home, but there’s an even easier way. “If you don’t have time for a hot towel, shaving in the hot shower can produce a very similar effect,” Rossi says. Just be careful not to stand in the direct stream of hot water — it can scald your skin and dry you out.

 

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Skin Whitening Candy Is Coming

Want to keep your skin safe? You can glug a glass of drinkable sunscreen—which, yes, is a real product that had experts raising their eyebrows back in May.

If slurping SPF isn’t your bag—or if you’ve already got some sun damage you’d like to undo—you’ll also be able to kick things down a shade by popping skin-whitening candy, according to the maker of a new dietary supplement maker called Melagenol, based in Spain. It promises lighter skin with a daily 300-500 mg swallow of plant extracts claiming to interfere with melanin formation. By sucking on a candy or downing a pill or capsule containing melanin-inhibiting extracts, you’ll get “lighter skin from within,” the press release promises, banking on its lab study that found melanin-producing cells made less when the formula was applied.

The skin whitening and lightening industry, which, critics contend, prey on insecurity and the idealization of pale skin, will be worth nearly $20 billion by 2018, according to an estimate by Global Industry Analysts, fueled mostly by whitening creams sold in Asia. “Asian people are very much concerned about skin lightening,” Fernando Cartagena, marketing manager for Monteloeder, tells TIME. “They like to keep their skin as light as possible because it’s a way to show your class.” Even though the product isn’t yet on the market, he says he’s gotten calls from companies that want to carry it in Malaysia, Taiwan, South Africa, and Australia, a country that sells to many countries in Asia. (No bites yet from the United States.)

This won’t be the world’s first oral skin whitener—similar tablets are already sold in Japan—but the market is growing. Cartagena says his company came up with the idea for oral skin whiteners earlier this year. “We received a lot of feedback from the Asia office telling us that there’s a huge demand for these kinds of products,” he said.

As skin whiteners grow in popularity, so does the backlash against them. Groups like Dark Is Beautiful in India try to combat the obsession with fair skin and whitening products by raising awareness. The safety of these ingredients when ingested is not currently known.

Cartagena says he hopes we’ll be seeing a product with Melagenol on shelves—“especially in Asia”—within four to six months.

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