Bridget Jones has drifted into her 30s, lost the youthful face she once had and fat now naturally attaches itself to her hips. She hasn’t really accepted who she has become yet and at the same time she has. Her story is told in an honest, positive way and is one which, humorously, encourages women to think positively both about themselves and their bodies.
Hollywood, on the other hand, is a place in which growing old is demonised. A woman is only valuable and relevant as long as her face and body remain young and beautiful. Few films embrace the reality of aging and even fewer celebrate the natural beauty of old age. One only needs to turn to any of a handful of Disney classics to see the baddie – an evil, old woman, who lives alone and has grey hair and wrinkles – to know that growing old isn’t acceptable.
So, what message does it send when the woman who embodied the character who screams: “my legs only come up to here and yes I will always be just a little bit fat!” goes under the knife too?
American artist Lauren Crow’s life mission is to expose and change the way that bodies are presented in the media. Her work focusses on showing human life as it really is rather than how it often appears. She talks to us about how women might be affected by their role models succumbing to the knife.
When someone known for their embodiment of a character like Bridget Jones opts to go under the knife, what message do you think that sends out?
Bridget Jones was a character consistently battling her own internal issues with her body. Renée Zellweger opted to gain the weight for the role and – from what I’ve read – was around a size 14, which is actually the average size of an American woman. I think it sends an unpleasant message when we see Bridget calling herself a fat cow, which makes many viewers see her and themselves as such. These small cues from the media definitely contribute and whether they do it knowingly, they keep a lot of us within the confines of this mentality. That said, I would not at all say that I see Bridget Jones as a negative character. She herself is an average woman trying to work through her issues with herself and her body and in a way I do think it is inspiring to all of us who are on a continual journey of loving ourselves. She also definitely plays a positive role in pushing us not to accept bad relationships simply because they are available and that those of us who are ‘average’ are capable and worthy of love.
I think that in getting surgery in such extreme measures it comes across that Zellweger is simply insecure and wanting to change, which I don’t think is wrong or uncommon for an ageing woman in Hollywood/in the spotlight to feel.
Do you think that middle-aged celebrities having plastic surgery will start a ‘new wave’ of body insecurities?
I don’t believe that celebrities getting plastic surgery is necessarily anything new. In general, the appearances of celebrities/models will affect us regardless of how they modify themselves. Most of these people have stylists, make-up artists etc. that help them to look their best and when we see them in any media, those things are in place, as well as Photoshop – which I actually have more issues with than surgery.
The issue comes with these extreme surgeries and the pushing we constantly feel to have these surgeries.
What are your issues with Photoshop?
Photoshop is an amazing tool that some really outstanding work can be created with, but it can also be very damaging. When I’m working with portraits, I generally work with a mentality of ‘if you have a giant zit, of course I am going to clear it away so that you can look your best, but it is a slippery slope when you start liquefying and re-shaping bodies’. These Photoshop users create bodies that do not even exist, are unrealistic and create ‘ideals’ that no-one can get to. They create ideas that this is the norm, but one that no-one can reach: hairless, porcelain skin, hourglass and perfectly thin. It can be very dangerous.
Do you think there is a situation in which ‘cosmetic’ plastic surgery is empowering?
Yes definitely, I am not against plastic surgery at all. I think it’s important in the body positive community not only to empower the body you have, but that you are also allowed to change, but hopefully you are doing it for you and not to look how you think others want you to. I know women who got breast implants and feel so great and confident, I know people who have had nose jobs and feel great and I know older women who have gotten liposuction and feel great.
Would working with a woman who has had plastic surgery affect the way that you represented them in your art?
Not at all. All people regardless of any body mods deserve the same respect. I base how I represent/photograph someone on their looks/personality and now how they achieved this image.
How do you think Hollywood and the artistic community can work to incorporate and embrace bodies as they are?
I think we need to have a lot more representation of fat and even just average sized and ‘imperfect’ bodies within our media. More plus-sized models who have actual visible belly outline and cellulite and aren’t all hourglass shaped. More movies and TV shows with disabled and queer characters! More POC (persons of colour) shown with respect and not just as the token person. Why not give visibility to these people, but not making it about the issue? A nude image of me within my work is not always about my fat, but simply my body in general and my existence as a whole.
It seems as though Zellweger’s surgery can only be viewed in one of two ways. It is either another woman fighting to remain the ‘norm’ that media has created, and much like the character she brought to life, there lies an insecurity which has been built by a force out of her control. One can only hope that it is the second option, and that she had made these changes to be the best person she can be… herself.