By Tanya Inkintero
The entertainment industry is one that famously (or
notoriously) privileges youth and beauty. This seems to be
especially the case these days, particularly if one looks at the
artists who are dominating today’s pop charts: people like
Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers,
and Tokio Hotel.
Therefore, it is no surprise that many stars have decided to
take measures to look younger. Nicole Kidman, for instance, is
one high-profile actress who appears to have resorted to Botox
or other fillers in order to rejuvenate her appearance. However,
not everyone agrees that she succeeded. Stephanie Zacharek, a
senior film critic at a respected culture magazine has written
that she rather dislikes Kidman’s new look. Other stars have
taken somewhat more drastic surgical measures, as we can
pinpoint with Rupert Everett and his brow lift.
In fact, the pressure to stay young-looking is so strong that
people often say that those who never go the opportunity to grow
old were, in a way, lucky. Entertainers who die young, such as
Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and Jim Morrison tend to be
romanticized by popular culture. Actually, this is not
necessarily a recent trend, and can be traced further back to
people like silent movie star Rudolf Valentino, or (in the
pre-cinematic era), to Percy Shelley, who, along with Lord
Byron, could be considered one of the rock stars of English
Romanticism. Such people supposedly have the “good” fortune to
be immortalized as forever young and beautiful.
This pressure was memorably skewered in the comedy Death
Becomes Her starring Goldie Hawn, Bruce Willis, and Meryl
Streep. Here, a select few can buy and drink a potion that
rejuvenates them and makes them immortal. Unfortunately, it does
not prevent or repair injuries, so any people who try to take
advantage of the potion risk being stuck forever with bodies
that have fallen apart—a great metaphor for the predicament
faced by people who get heavy plastic surgery done.
Of course, it is hard to say whether society affects celebrity
culture to promote ageism, or the other way around. A cyclical
scenario seems far more plausible.
Still, the emphasis on being and acting young is not all bad.
It does have the very positive effect of promoting health
consciousness. People may put in more effort into good nutrition
and regular exercise, if it keeps them looking younger. Habits
that age a person, such as smoking an excessive tanning, seem
less attractive. In a way, vanity can lead to physical
well-being. The desire to emulate a celebrity one looks up to
can also lead to healthier habits. For example, around the start
of the new millennium, Madonna’s youthful figure helped to spark
a yoga craze.
Still, it is important for us to occasionally take a step back
to evaluate prevailing attitudes about youth and aging. These
attitudes feed into and are fed by our popular entertainment.
Not even the most beautiful celebrities can stay young forever.
When we forget this, we put cruel pressure both on them and
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