Impossibly Beautiful

[Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven...]

Liss was kind enough to allow me to step in and contribute to her Impossibly Beautiful series after I wrote to her ranting about this cover shot of Reese Witherspoon I found on Go Fug Yourself. (Yes, I had a terribly productive afternoon.)

[Photo: Splash News]

(Note: what's after the cut is super image-heavy.)

Let me start by saying that personally, I think Reese Witherspoon is one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood. Plenty of people -- notably my boyfriend, who doesn't get this at all -- would disagree. But I think she's absolutely stunning. (I also covet practically everything I have ever seen her wear, which might have something to do with it.) So when my kneejerk response to this photo was, "THAT'S Reese Witherspoon? But she looks so... blah!" I knew something was wrong. And it wasn't just, as the Fug Girls suggested, that she perhaps looks upset "because she lost a sizable bet to Jake Gyllenhaal that Marie Claire would pull together only 350 hot spring looks this year. "

So I made with the Google. Here's your first reality check:

Here's another:

The funny thing is, the first couple of things I looked for turned out not to be (necessarily) the result of Photoshop. Damn it all, she really does have an insanely long neck and well-defined jaw! (Even if they've tilted her head at a totally unnatural angle.)

But then the problems become obvious. First of all, WHOSE NOSE IS THAT? Witherspoon's normal nose -- which, go figure, fits her face -- isn't adorable enough? You had to turn it into a cartoonish ski jump? As Liss pointed out, it makes her look like a Strawberry Shortcake doll. Hawt. (Not to mention, there's some speculation on the internet that she's already had her nose bobbed, so making it even smaller would certainly be bound to wreck her face. I honestly can't tell if she did or did not -- you can judge for yourself from the photos here -- but I'll just say that if she did, it was a damn good job.)

But what disturbs me even more -- and the sad thing is, I had to look at like 10 photos to figure this out -- is the total absence of her laugh lines.

That they all but disappeared her undereye bags (which seem to be consistently substantial, even in photos of her as a teenager, much like my own) is to be expected. But even other magazine covers have left at least a hint of her laugh lines visible.

This is a woman who pretty much defines the term "megawatt smile," and her face damn well shows it. She is also, no matter how much older she gets and how much weight she loses, a naturally apple-cheeked person.

Put those things together, and the lines around her mouth become an enormous part of what makes her face hers, instead of one that's soulless and interchangeable with a thousand others, like on the Marie Claire cover.

Something is seriously wrong when Photoshopping goes so far as to make a woman look not only less human and less unique but, for my money, less beautiful than she actually is, because a 31-year-old woman is not allowed to have a face that shows any evidence of a lifetime of compulsive grinning.

And on a related note, you know what else is seriously wrong? That, after having looked at a bazillion recent photos of her, when I saw that one of her and Alyssa Milano (presumably a promotion for Fear, which came out in '96), the first thing that popped into my head was, "Wow, I don't remember her being chubby."

This is ME we're talking about. A freakin' fat acceptance activist who spends half her life trying to talk sense into people about all things body image-related. And when I looked at her in that old photo, with a softer baby face, a body weight apparently higher than her current one but still significantly lower than the average woman's, and a somewhat unflattering sweater, the word "chubby" came to mind. CHUBBY. What is wrong with me?

Or maybe the question is, what the hell is wrong with this society, that actresses just keep getting thinner and thinner -- as they get older, no less, and after they've had two kids, in her case -- thus setting the bar for "chubby" lower and lower.

And then magazines slim them down even further for their covers. Because women can never, ever, ever be good enough just as they are.

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