Renee Zellweger and Internet Arrogance

Renee Zellweger: before and after


Why does the internet think it has the right to someone else’s face? Sammy Jones reports from the eye of the media storm on Renee Zellweger’s right to change her appearance without judgement.

Internet hive minds are horrible things.

Internet hive minds are horrible things. Catching hold of the too pretty, too ugly, or too middling, there is nothing a comment section won’t tear to shreds. So when a facially-altered Renee Zellweger hit an event for the first time in five years last week, the internet went certifiably nuts.

Okay, so there’s a definite WTF factor here. There’s something different about Renee, sure, but she doesn’t look ill, or even bad- in fact she’s looking smiley and glowing. She does look different around the eyes, however. Plastic surgery has been suggested as the culprit, and Hollywood ageism as the root cause. She’s denying the rumours, but what if she had dabbled? Does it hurt anyone? Are you offended she’s taken away the face you once enjoyed? Responses like these can only lead to one conclusion: yes.

'desperately sad' tweet

'What has she done to herself?'


'She looks like SJP' Facebook comment

Lucy Liu rolling her eyes


As long as she’s happy in herself, people shouldn’t give two hoots.

Online anonymity breeds contempt so there’s a maddening amount of people calling Renee’s transformation various versions of ‘so, so, sad’ and a ‘huge shame’. That what, she’s living a lovely life and seems really happy? Give her some credit, guys- she’s a grown woman with her own priorities. She actually told People that she is ‘living a different, happy, more fulfilling life, and I’m thrilled that perhaps it shows’. I don’t know about you, but I’m more willing to believe her words than those of a thousand commenters baying for blood. As long as she’s happy in herself, people shouldn’t give two hoots. It is possible that she is now looking the way she planned to.

This obsession with how women look isn’t just damaging to the person in question.

This obsession with how women look isn’t just damaging to the person in question. This massive furore only adds fuel to the erosion of female self-respect. When my little cousin sees this, she’s not going to understand the nuances of the feminist argument against it, and will start to see herself more and more as a piece of property to be judged on appearance alone rather than a person with a brain.

So next time you see something like this, try not to completely wig out and get some perspective. A celebrity making their own choices and perhaps choosing a bit of remodelling? Not crazy. People reacting like she’s personally kicked over their grandmother’s ashes? Absolutely nutso.

It’s not all doom and gloom however. I’ll leave you with these comments from a more reasonable corner of the internet.

Guardian commenter


'None of our business' Guardian comment

The Blues Brothers


So what do YOU think about Renee Zellweger’s new face? Do you think the media has a right to report on it as much as it has? Seen any particularly cutting insights (no pun intended)? Let me know on Rife’s Twitter or Facebook, or on my personal Twitter

Support more young people to have their voices heard

Rife is Watershed‘s online magazine created for young people, by young people.

We offer paid internships and publish work by young writers, photographers, illustrators, and filmmakers from all sorts of backgrounds, helping them get into creative careers. Rife has reached over 8,000 young people through our workshops, over 220 young people have made stuff for Rife on topics ranging from mental health to identity to baked beans, and last year, over 200,000 people visited our website.

In these complex and uncertain times hearing from and supporting young people who are advocating for social change and contributing fresh perspectives has never been so important. 

Through supporting Rife you can ensure that this important work continues and that more young people have their voices heard.