March 4, 2004

The B- List

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Meg Ryan, I used to have respect for you. When I first saw When Harry Met Sally, I fell in love with your quirky ways and fluffy hair. I thought Joe vs. the Volcano was absolutely hilarious, and didn’t understand why so many people hated it: it was so bad it was good, seriously. Going back and watching Top Gun now, it’s amazing to see how she absolutely lit up every scene she was in, bringing a little fun to that heavy-handed movie.

While I’m not exactly a sappy romantic type, I forgave Meg for Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail because French Kiss is one of my favorite movies of all time. Courage Under Fire was heartbreaking and tense, worth all the emotion I poured into watching it. Even Proof of Life, which I thought looked like crap, turned out to be highly entertaining, and the reason I forgave Meg for Kate & Leopold.

And then Meg Ryan became unrecognizable because of plastic surgery, and then decided to up her sex appeal at the box office by starring in 2003’s In the Cut and now the newly released Against the Ropes. What the hell?

Yeah, Hollywood is a tough place to make a living, I can agree with that, and there’s extraordinary pressure to look and act perfect, and blah blah blah. These people choose to live their life by selling their talents for large sums of money, and this puts them in the public eye and under a ton of scrutiny, much like the scrutiny I’m putting Meg under right now. Yes, these people are paid to look good, better than the average person, so they work out a lot and get plastic surgery when they get older. Except that things don’t have to be this way. Faking your life does not have to be the answer for Meg and other actors.

I feel that too often actors are paid to look good instead of actually being good at their craft. Let’s take a look at an old standby, Tom Welling from the TV show Smallville. Yeah, he’s hot and everything, but I admit quite freely that he has as much depth as an actor as the puddle that I stepped in today on my way to class.

Actors do not always have to look super hot to get cast. Just one look at Tom Hanks will prove my point. And he’s not even a character actor, so there. In fact, there are lots of traditionally unhandsome people who do quite well in Hollywood, as well as beautiful actors who refuse to be sucked into unnecessary, expensive, and ridiculous plastic surgery.

When I watched the Oscars on Sunday, I saw Susan Sarandon, and realized once again just how much I love her. She is a woman who is not afraid of showing off her older body, and she refuses to have plastic surgery, preferring to age gracefully instead. I admire her for her stance on this issue of body modification, that women over the age of 30 do not have to feel guilty because they get wrinkles. I also saw Jamie Lee Curtis, who admitted a few years ago to having undergone plastic surgery, but later reformed and told More magazine in 2002 that such surgeries are frauds, they don’t work, and hurt women more than they help them.

And let’s not forget the incomparable Katherine Hepburn, who aged so gracefully that I can only wish to be a fraction as cool as that pants-wearing dynamo was. Anyone who can defy social conventions and retain dignity throughout their life definitely deserves to be one of my role models.

Not that it’s just women who engage in the mutilation of their natural bodies. Men are increasingly falling prey to feeling a little too old as well. Over the years, we’ve all witnessed the shocking transformation of Michael Jackson from a handsome man into whatever-the-hell-you-want-to-call-him he has now sadly become. The most disturbing side effect of this that I’ve heard about is how Jackson impersonator’s sometimes go through several plastic surgeries to look more like him than nature made them, since nature obviously has nothing to do with Jackson.

And let’s not forget Liza Minnelli’s latest ex-husband, David Gest. I think my favorite description of him came from entertainment journalist Dahlia Lithwick, who stated that Gest looked like Martin Sheen might come leaping out of him at any minute yelling “Surprise!”

So back to dear old Meg, whose face gets tighter with every red carpet she walks down. Perhaps Meg thinks she has to look like this to get cast in movies now that she’s over 40 years old, despite other actresses who still get cast and refuse to mutilate themselves.

Maybe Meg thinks she needs to appear sexier in order to continue appealing to a younger audience, even though she’s always been best playing those strong, cute, and quirky characters rather than glamorous, over-sexed bombshells who are replaced on a weekly basis.

Or maybe Meg is one of those sad people who are addicted to plastic surgery, a person who honestly thinks that she looks more attractive with eyebrows relocated to her forehead and lips bigger than Pamela Anderson’s.

All I can say is that I hope Meg gets a shot of sense to her head and realizes we love her the way she is, and not for the shape she can pay a physician to cut her into.

Archived article by Sue Karp