Towards the end of “The Lost City,” a surprise 2022 blockbuster based on the charms of its two stars, Channing Tatum looks deep into the eyes of Sandra Bullock. “This is the first time I’ve seen you without fear,” she says, “and alive.” It’s supposed to be a life-changing moment for Loretta Sage, Bullock’s romance novelist, who has finally embraced into her own life the sense of adventure she had long written for her characters. But she doesn’t land, largely because Bullock’s face doesn’t change much. And that, for the 58-year-old star, may well be by design.
It is a systemic problem, not a moral failure. And like other cultural trends, it has crystallized in the entertainment industry.
Bullock remains a beloved, beautiful, and highly bankable Hollywood mainstay. And yet today it seems practically frozen in time. For me, this aesthetic, which is by no means specific to Bullock, serves as a reminder of the intense cultural pressures that no hashtag or well-intentioned “natural” makeup campaign has been able to diminish.
Cosmetic surgery, fillers, Botox and Botox alternatives, which apparently exist so that people can say with a (very) straight face that they don’t have Botox, are, if anything, more and more popular and they are being used even at younger ages. Surveys suggest Botox injections for people in their The 20s have risen nearly 30% since 2010. Women now scrape fat off their cheeks, a procedure known as buccal fat removal that creates a seemingly pleasing vacuum (until, of course it doesn’t).
It is a systemic problem, not a moral failure. And like other cultural trends, it has crystallized in the entertainment industry. Once the wrinkles appear, Hollywood starts pigeonholing leading ladies and pushing them into supporting roles, if they’re lucky. Exceptions like Frances McDormand are depressingly few and far between.
What people do to your body is your business, but the ubiquity of injections, fillers, and surgery in Hollywood creates a seepage problem. The whole paradigm of age in pop culture is changing. Carey Mulligan’s performance as a woman who lures men into sexually assaulting her to teach them the error of her ways in “Promising Young Woman” was criticized by some who thought she wasn’t young or sexy enough to pull off the scam. She was 34 years old at the time of filming.
In the meantime, social media and working from home are, anecdotally at least, helping power beauty trends. According to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 1.4 million cosmetic procedures were performed in 2021, an increase of 40% over 2020. polls show that the increase may be related to the so-called Zoom effect, that is, the anguish of looking at each other’s faces for more than a year. But that doesn’t rule out the impact of Hollywood. The more you look at your face, the more you see that you don’t look like your favorite actor or influencer.
In another catch-22, stars are also at risk of backlash if they to do get cosmetic surgery, or if fans think they have. When Nicole Kidman posted a photo on Instagram from the set of her new Amazon series, “Expats,” some fans expressed their disappointment in the comments. “You don’t look like you,” said one. Bullock, like kidmanhas previously denied having plastic surgery (although she has talked about using something called epidermal growth factor).
It is worth noting here that these pressures are not exclusive to women. As women are expected to look younger and younger, men in the age of superheroes look bigger and more protected. As with cosmetic surgery, there’s no way to prove that an actor has taken anabolic steroids, for example, but those who know the limits of the male body, especially as he enters middle age, can spot the signs. Steroids have the same pernicious impact on Hollywood as cosmetic surgery, artificially raising physical expectations and increasing peer pressure to keep up with the new standards. This, in turn, makes fans feel worse about their own bodies, and can even limit the narrative impact of movies if actors lose the characteristics that make them appear human and relatable.
Solutions to systemic cultural problems, especially those so closely tied to our anxieties about aging and mortality, are not easy to find. But the business-as-usual approach isn’t working. The gap between those who are capable of artificially stopping the natural aging process and those who are not seems to be widening, but transparency is not keeping pace. This lack of clarity has muddied the waters in a way that literally helps no one but hurts quite a few.
jane fonda, Juana Rios Y parton doll They are three stars who have opened up about their operations and procedures, both the positive and negative aspects. For many others, it remains a taboo. And that’s a shame. Owning your identity and aesthetic choices can be personally empowering, as Parton has articulately noted. But right now, we still exist in a culture that wants women to look like they’ve stopped aging, while denying that they’re trying to stop aging. It’s almost impossible, and the evidence is everywhere.