Renée Zellweger: ‘We can do better’ than tabloid journalism – USA TODAY
Just because a celebrity opts not to comment on tabloid speculation does not imply confirmation,Â RenÃ©e Zellweger says in a Huffington Post essay.
The Oscar winner found herself in the tabloids’ crosshairs in October 2014 when a red-carpet appearance fueled speculation that she’d had cosmetic surgery on her eyes. And just last month, afterÂ seeing the trailer for her upcoming film, Bridget Jones’ Baby, Variety film critic Owen Gleiberman wrote an essay asking “DoesÂ RenÃ©e Zellweger still look like herself?”
For the record, the 47-year-old says she didn’t have plastic surgery, but that’s almost beside the point. “Not that itâs anyoneâs business, but I did not make a decision to alter my face and have surgery on my eyes. This fact is of no true import to anyone at all, but that the possibility alone was discussed among respected journalists and became a public conversation is a disconcerting illustration of news/entertainment confusion and societyâs fixation on physicality.”
When she didn’t go into detail when responding to either story, reporters took that as confirmation.
“I canât imagine thereâs dignity in explaining yourself to those who trade inÂ contrivedÂ scandal, or in seeking the approval of those who make fun of others for sport,” she says of her decision not to take the bait when the rumors first circulated. “Itâs silly entertainment, itâs of no import, and I donât see the point in commenting.”
But the tabloids interpreted her “dignified silence” in a way she did not intend.
“In our current culture of unsolicited transparency, televised dirty laundry, and folks bartering their most intimate details in exchange for attention and notoriety, it seems that the choice to value privacy renders one a suspicious character,” Zellweger says. “Disingenuous. A liar with nefarious behavior to conceal. âShe denies,â implies an attempt to cover up the supposed tabloid âexposed truth.â
And, she adds, to refuse to intervene and set the record straight often resultsÂ in “having the narrative of oneâs life hijacked by those who profiteer from invented scandal.”
So why speak out now? While Zellweger acknowledges the psychological harm of these stories, she is more concerned with re-establishing a line of demarcation between tabloid stories and actual news.
“Iâm writing because to be fair to myself, I must make some claim on the truths of my life, and because witnessing the transmutation of tabloid fodder from speculation to truth is deeply troubling,” she explains. “The âeye surgeryâ tabloid story itself did not matter, but it became the catalyst for my inclusion in subsequent legitimate news stories about self-acceptance and women succumbing to social pressure to look and age a certain way. In my opinion, that tabloid speculations become the subject of mainstream news reporting does matter.”
When mainstream news outlets pick up tabloid stories, she argues, “It increasingly takes air time away from the countless significant unprecedented current events affecting our world. It saturates our culture, perpetuates unkind and unwise double standards, lowers the level of social and political discourse, standardizes cruelty as a cultural norm, and inundates people with information that does not matter.”
Her modest proposal? “Maybe we could talk more about why we seem to collectively share an appetite for witnessing people diminished and humiliated with attacks on appearance and character and how it impacts younger generations and struggles for equality, and about how legitimate news media have become vulnerable to news/entertainment ambiguity, which dangerously paves the way for worse fictions to flood the public consciousness to much greater consequence. Maybe we could talk more about our many true societal challenges and how we can do better.”