Renée Zellweger Is Unrecognizable — But Don't Shame Her for It

·News Editor

Renée Zellweger in February 2014 (left). The actress in October 2014 (right). Getty Images

Renée Zellweger walked the red carpet on Monday night at Elle’s 21st annual Women in Hollywood Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif. The actress was wearing a black midlength dress with sheer sleeves and an exposed back, but it wasn’t her LBD that stopped gawkers in their tracks. Instead, it was her face, which appeared markedly different than it did just mere months ago.

But is that a cause to shame her? And be cruel?

The 45-year-old, who has been known to drastically alter her image for movie roles, has been the subject of the Hollywood plastic surgery rumor mill for years. Tabloids have assumed that the Bridget Jones star has had cosmetic enhancements such as Botox, fillers, an eyelift, a chin implant, a shift in brow position and jawline, and more. But it wasn’t until Monday night that others really noticed the drastic change and shared their thoughts on her look on social media.

Many joked about Zellweger entering “witness protection,” possibly having undergone a ”head transplant,” asking if she switched faces with Robin Wright, and even questioning whether the step-and-repeat photos really are of her. So many people tweeted their surprise that news outlets considered the transformation breaking news, and her name was trending on Twitter for hours.

"Women who receive recognizable, excessive, or bad plastic surgery get double-shamed," body image expert Dr. Robyn Silverman tells Yahoo Style. “The initial criticism is provided when their appearance starts to deviate from the high standards set by society and Hollywood. The second bout of shame comes after the process when the results are less than optimal or too obvious.”

While the majority of comments about Zellweger were negative and vulgar, some did jump to her defense. “If you look more youthful + attractive now than you did 10 years ago, then by all means keep slamming Renee Zellweger for experiencing aging,” Eli Braden tweetedJenn Murphy wrote, “Seriously, conversations like the one about Renee Zellweger are the reason so many women turn to plastic surgery. We need to stop!” Some people on social media also said to “leave her alone,” and others offered hugs.

As celebrities age, their changing appearances are photographed and picked apart daily. Just like Zellweger, actress Courteney Cox has received similar treatment for her reported overuse of Botox and fillers, and Jennifer Grey first came under fire when she had a rhinoplasty and again in 2013, when she apparently went under the knife again. Famous men, including Bruce Jenner and Mickey Rourke, are treated similarly. Silverman sums this criticism up succinctly: “Society seems to demand a forever-young appearance by way of zero effort and freakish genetics.”