It's Time To Confront Our Obsession With How Celebs Look

We'd love to imagine that we live in a more progressive world, where an aging woman doesn't make headlines. Unfortunately, our cultural obsession with celebrity women's looks hasn't changed. We expect women to appear ageless well into their 40s and 50s while slamming them if they achieve this through "unnatural" means like surgery or fillers. Kristin Davis of "Sex and the City" is one example, but there are countless others who get lambasted for cosmetic procedures. Considering how ageist Hollywood is, what choice do they have?

When Madonna attended the 2023 Grammys, she got torn apart for her look. The New York Post published an op-ed written to Madonna claiming that she was freaking out her fans and had lost "the thread on aging." The article compared her to other celebrity women, like Gwyneth Paltrow and Drew Barrymore, who discuss aging openly and, according to this writer, were aging better — whatever that means.

Courteney Cox is another who's been blasted for getting work done and she backtracked on her efforts to look younger in an interview with The Sunday Times. "And I didn't realize that, oh sh*t, I'm actually looking really strange with injections and doing stuff to my face that I would never do now," she said. The standards are impossible. A celebrity woman (and arguably any woman) is expected to age gracefully and if she does choose to get work done, it's supposed to look like she didn't get work done. But if the work shows, she's "lost the thread."

Women are sick of the hypocrisy

The problem with our culture's obsession with aging celebrity women is that no one can win. If they get work done, they're resisting too hard and aren't aging gracefully. If they don't fight aging, they're giving up. It's a damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don't situation. More importantly, how does this mindset impact women who aren't famous? Not everyone has the resources to get work done, and not everyone wants to. And based on what we've seen around celebrities, are women who choose to get work done going to be roasted for doing so?

There are some celebrities who are deliberately choosing not to endorse these ideals. Helena Bonham Carter told BBC Radio 4's "Woman's Hour" that she was so tired of age as a topic for women. "It would be great if we could just change things as societal, you know, rules and say, 'Come on, we're in our prime in our 60s. We've got everything...and we've come into our power,'" she said. "At the end of the day, you can get really obsessed. We can't actually control what we look like, but we think we can, and in fact, there's so much else we should worry about." 

Patricia Arquette is another who is resisting the pressure to focus on aging saying, "I'd love to not have to talk about it anymore," she told Elle. "I don't think the men are talking about it at all. Aging is just normal! That is all there is to it." This is certainly a worthwhile philosophy to follow.

How it affects the rest of us?

While we can clearly see the ways in which our cultural obsession with aging impacts celebrities, what's much more important is how it impacts the rest of us. The unattainable practices create an impossible world for everyday women, with the potential to disrupt self-esteem. Many celebrity women treat aging like a part-time job and are able to throw considerable time and resources at it. But the average woman isn't able to do so. Byrdie calculated the cost of aging and skin care treatments enjoyed by celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Gwyneth Paltrow. They discovered that some spend several thousand dollars on products and treatments to look younger. How many women can really afford that?   

On top of that, not all of us want to, so where does it leave us? If celebrity women are condemned for not fixing their aging bodies, then we can be sure we will be too. And if women do choose to try different treatments, we can expect that there'll be backlash if the treatments don't appear natural enough. 

Women need to be supported and empowered at every age, especially older ages, to feel like they're valuable, that their life experience matters, and that their bodies don't need to be 'fixed' in any way. Should someone choose to get work, fine, but it has nothing to do with anyone's worthiness. We can't allow this cultural obsession to impact the self-esteem and well-being of women everywhere.