Sunday, January 19, 2014

Baby face

I was stunned to see how aged Matthew McConaughey looks in a photograph from Friday's 2014 Critics' Choice Movie Award and had a MASSIVE realization about crash dieting. I've never been particularly *into* McConaughey but thought him handsome enough. He typically plays rather athletic, hale figures, so I found this transformation particularly striking.

2014 Critics' Choice Movie Award for the Dallas Buyers Club
Kevin Mazur/WireImage
At 44 years old McConaughey dropped 47 lbs for his role in the movie The Dallas Buyers Club. He plays Don Woodruff, an AIDS patient who began smuggling unapproved pharmaceutical drugs into Texas. Seeing the pictures of him in the role were startling, but knowing what he put himself through it was easy to say "well he's dropped so much weight, of course he looks rough". It was the after pics that really floored me though. I stumbled over this picture in my Pinterest feed and my first impression was that he looked like a considerably more aged actor who had gone through great pains to look young.

The Christian Bale emaciated role thing seems to be the new "serious" actor proof in Hollywood and I have felt for a while that these beautiful men (it always seems to be beautiful men) are aging themselves prematurely by this practice.

There is a fullness and softness to youthful faces around the eyes, around the mouth, along the sides of the nose, and in the temples. Ask anyone with an older family member who has had an acute illness, there are only so many times you can starve the youthful fullness out of a face before it stops bouncing back. This is why plastic surgery to fight aging involves tightening *and filling*.

So, male actors starve themselves "for their craft" and often start to look kind of terrible afterward. I have always rather fancied Christian Bale and have watched in over the years as he gradually drained the youth from his features, and so this is something that I worked out a while ago. Every time I hear about a new actor undergoing starvation prep for a role my theory seems to bear out.

But here's the connection I NEVER made before... many female actors starve themselves "for their craft" for their ENTIRE CAREERS. 

Small wonder why female actors seem to "age out" so much faster than male actors! Even leaving aside the stress of the double standard where the media chastises them one minute for being "fat" and the next minute for being "anorexic" it's a lifestyle practically designed to burn through their youthful beauty.

Julia Roberts as Anna Scott in Notting Hill (1999 - Universal Pictures)

This realization has really slammed home some perspective on the limitations of "looking better" through dieting. So much of the beauty message of our society is "be healthier and look better by being skinnier" but that's not the whole story is it? Appealing to people's health doesn't seem to work very well; despite the increasing evidence that crash dieting is unhealthy and doesn't particularly work, eating disorder rates keep increasing and the weird diet industry appears to be thriving.

Perhaps the answer is to fight vanity with vanity. I think it's good for me to have these kinds of concrete reminders of why the quick fix "lose X# of lbs and look better" attitude doesn't really work out, especially given the current pressure to look good "on my big day". Maybe it's time we start highlighting the more visible ravages of unhealthy attitudes toward eating instead of airbrushing them away? (Heads up: both links in previous sentence contain semi nude images and extreme weight loss).

I feel I have been blessed with some pretty amazing genetics when it comes to aging, but I am getting to a point in my life where I have begun to think about how I will be changing in the years to come and what I can do to help it happen gracefully. Again and again the answer seems to revolve around a balanced and nourishing attitude toward my body, which I am sad to admit I have not always practised.

Still, there is definitely something to be said for better late than never. Now here's hoping I can find that crucial nourishing balance point between treadmill time, yoga, and my undying love of fancy cheese.


  1. re: ... especially given the current pressure to look good "on my big day".

    The idea that you wouldn't look good on your big day is frankly baffling. I totally get how some of the pictures in the previous posts haven't worked for you, and the craft of refining how you look is its own skillset. I get these things. Still... baffling.

    1. It's this utterly bizarre insidious mindset but happily I think doing this style reboot has really made a difference in how I look at my appearance. I've had pictures of myself in the dress I bought for months and for a while every time I looked at them something didn't sit right. I've always loved the dress but something about the proportion didn't quite work and it was all too easy to blame myself. "I don't look good in this" vs "This doesn't look good on me".

      It wasn't until literally four days ago that I was able to look at the pics and go "oh, I can totally fix this! Make sure the bra I wear does X, pull in this part here like Y and this will look perfect" instead of "*flail* UGH my body doesn't look right".

      I was talking to recently about this and we figured out that a great deal of it is probably that I LOVE ultra formal clothing, but have no other opportunities for insane superfancy dress up. I feel like this has to count quintuple.

      Working on the same logic I think what that tells me is that I need to find more fancy-schmancy opportunities. :)

    2. Complete side note: The Gentleman and I were watching a brief interview with Dita Von Teese the other day and were suddenly struck by the number of facial similarities you share!