Sandra Bullock plastic surgery rumors shine a light on Hollywood’s scourge
Near the end of “The Lost City,” a surprise 2022 box office hit built on the charms of its two stars, Channing Tatum looks deep into Sandra Bullock’s eyes. “This is the very first time I’ve seen you totally unafraid,” he said, “and alive.” It’s meant to be a life-changing moment for Loretta Sage, Bullock’s novelist, who finally embraced the sense of adventure she had long penned for her characters into her own life. But he fails to land, largely because Bullock’s face doesn’t change much at all. And that, for the 58-year-old star, could very well be intentional.
It’s a systemic problem, not a moral fault. And like other cultural trends, it crystallized in the entertainment industry.
Bullock remains a beloved, handsome and highly bankable Hollywood mainstay. And yet, today, it appears practically frozen in time. For me, this aesthetic, which is by no means specific to Bullock, is reminiscent of the intense cultural pressures that no well-meaning hashtag or “natural” makeup campaign could alleviate.
Cosmetic surgery, fillers, Botox and alternatives to Botox – which seem to exist so that people can say with a (very) serious face that they are not using Botox – are, in fact, becoming more increasingly popular and are being used at even younger ages. Surveys suggest that Botox injections for people in their twenties have increased by almost 30% since 2010. Women are now scraping fat from their cheeks, a procedure known as buccal fat removal which creates a seemingly pleasant dip (until, of course, it doesn’t).
It’s a systemic problem, not a moral fault. And like other cultural trends, it crystallized in the entertainment industry. Once the wrinkles appear, Hollywood begins to categorize leading women and push them into supporting roles, if they’re lucky. Exceptions like Frances McDormand are unfortunately few and far between.
What people do to their bodies is up to them, but the ubiquity of injections, injections and surgery in Hollywood creates a trickle down problem. The whole age paradigm in pop culture is changing. Carey Mulligan’s performance as a woman who tricks men into sexually assaulting her to teach them the error of their ways in “Promising Young Woman” was criticized by some who thought she was not young or sexy enough to pull off the scam. She was 34 at the time of filming.
Meanwhile, social media and working from home are helping, at least anecdotally, to boost beauty trends. According to the American Academy of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery of the Face, 1.4 million cosmetic procedures were performed in 2021, an increase of 40% from 2020. Surveys show that the increase may be linked to this known as the Zoom effect – that is, the anxiety of staring in front of you for more than a year. But that does not exclude the impact of Hollywood. The longer you stare at your own face, the more you see how unlike your favorite actor or influencer you are.
In another catch-22, the stars also risk a backlash if they To do undergo cosmetic surgery — or if fans think they did. When Nicole Kidman posted a photo on Instagram from the set of her new Amazon series, “Expats,” some fans expressed their disappointment in the comments. “You don’t look alike,” said one. Bullock, like Kidman, has previously denied having plastic surgery (although she has talked about using something called Epidermal Growth Factor).
It should be emphasized here that these pressures are not exclusive to women. As women are expected to look younger and younger, superhero-era men look taller and more buffered. As with cosmetic surgery, there’s no way to prove an actor took anabolic steroids, for example, but those who know the limits of the male body, especially as they enter their 50s, may be able to spot the signs. Steroids have the same pernicious impact in Hollywood as cosmetic surgery, artificially raising physical expectations and increasing peer pressure to follow new standards. It makes fans feel worse about their own bodies, and it can even limit the narrative impact of films if actors lose the characteristics that make them seem human and relatable.
Solutions to systemic cultural problems, especially those so intertwined with our anxieties about aging and mortality, are not easy to find. But the business-as-usual approach doesn’t work. The gap between those who are able to artificially halt the natural aging process and those who are not seems to be widening, but transparency is not keeping up. This lack of clarity has muddied the waters in a way that literally helps no one but hurts quite a few.
Jane Fonda, Joan Rivers and Dolly Parton are three stars who have all proven famous on their operations and procedures – both positives and negatives. For many others, it remains a taboo. And that’s a shame. Appropriate one’s identity and aesthetic choices can be personally empowering, as Parton clearly noted. But right now, we still exist in a culture that wants women to look like they’ve stopped aging, while denying that they’re trying to stop aging. It’s almost impossible, and the evidence is everywhere.