Saturday 21 April 2018

Face-shaming Amanda is missing the point

Botox has become a fact of life for women in the public eye, who are free to do whatever they want with their own bodies, writes Flic Everett

'Like a waxwork", "you could run a bow across it and play a tune..." are just two of the more printable assessments of actress and presenter Amanda Holden's recent appearance. She's not living in a tank of formaldehyde like a Damien Hirst installation, or even demanding that bees sting her to plump up her epidermis. She's just done what thousands of middle aged women do every few months, and taken advantage of a little cosmetic tweaking, seemingly via Botox.

But the attacks on Holden are just the tip of the facial freezing iceberg. Others who have long been criticised for taking advantage of chemical and cosmetic treatments include Nicole Kidman, (who apparently has 'bunny lines' at the top of her nose due to being unable to frown), Kylie, Madonna, a clutch of Kardashians, Courtney Cox and Carla Bruni, not to mention every actress, singer or model who has tried to stem the ravages of time temporarily, with a little help from a discreet doctor.

But what sticks like a capsule in the throat isn't so much their willingness to create a cartoon version of themselves - eyes widened, skin smoothed out like a Manga drawing, lips puffed into an inflatable armchair - middle-aged women aping the appearance and expressions of nubile teenage girls. It's the fact they feel they need to that should give us pause.

The TV, music and movie industries are fuelled by young blood. They also want experience - so stars who have proved they can sell out cinemas and stadiums are essential. But they can't look as if their career began before their fans were born, so they're required to bring all their skills and wisdom, while looking as if they've just stepped off the greyhound bus from Hicksville high school, ready to hit the casting couch.

We have created a world where a woman who looks her age is judged somehow to have failed - she hasn't managed to locate the trick which will keep her suspended in chemical amber indefinitely, and has let time win. And those women - the ones who remind us that mortality is real, and who wear their age without shame - generally slip out of the entertainment business the way questionable associates slip out of the Mafia.

"Keep young and beautiful, if you want to be loved," has never been truer than it is in Hollywood or on prime time TV. So anyone over 35 feels the pressure to have 'a couple of tweaks,' or a mini-facelift, or a brow-lift, and after that, there's no going back, because you look 10 years younger than your real age, and you can't suddenly appear on set with a face like a withered balloon because you missed that month's Botox appointment.

And as the stars get older alongside the rest of us, just as with any drug, they need more to get the same effect - and by extension, keep their job.

So laughing and pointing at an older woman who has allowed her face to be manipulated by surgeons or injected with mild poisons is like laughing at a man for wearing a suit to work. It's not only expected - in many workplaces, it's a requirement.

The enormous sexism inherent in this is a given. But these women are no fools. Kylie is no longer a blinking ingenue, but a businesswoman at the top of her game, who knows what her fans expect. Madonna's ongoing success is in the creation of illusion, through fashion, music and her 'look', while every TV presenter over 25 knows her face is her fortune.

The chill wind of ageism is also blowing through the business world - bankers have Botox too, as 'looking good' becomes part of every high-powered job description. Any woman, in fact, who prefers to look as youthful outside as she feels inside can be tempted by a little help that goes beyond a good moisturiser and an early night. But the stigma remains.

Now, it's not acceptable just to look a decade younger - it has to be natural too. But this face-shaming has to stop. Because we no more own anyone else's face than we own the right to their bank account. And if the world demands imperturbable beauty and eternal youth from its stars, we can hardly turn and shame them when they give us what we wanted.

Irish Independent

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