We should probably talk about Kim Novak's appearance at the Oscars on Sunday night.
The rarely-seen Novak, one of Alfred Hitchcock's iconic blondes and the star of Vertigo, joined Matthew McConaughey onstage. Her surgically-altered appearance shocked viewers and prompted a flurry of cruel tweets, including one from cretinous bully Donald "The Combover" Trump. “Kim should sue her plastic surgeon!” he wrote to his 2.5 million followers.
Novak's changed face is an extreme example of what can happen when plastic surgery or other procedures go very wrong. The Oscars are exactly the sort of event in exactly the sort of profession where looking good is the most important part of your job. The only important part of your job, some would say. The fact that even an august body such as the Academy can't tell the difference between Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz (they identified Cruz as Hayek in an Instagram post) suggests that it doesn't really matter what you look like, just so long as you are another pretty face.
And remain so. That's the tough part. What didn't work for Kim Novak is also not working for many other actors – Liza Minnelli was in the Oscars audience looking facially rearranged, and such celebrities as Meg Ryan, Dolly Parton, Darryl Hannah, Bruce Jenner and Sharon Osbourne are all on the obvious plastic surgery list.
Most everybody else is on the less-obvious-work-done list, remaining magically youthful year after year after year.
And they all committed the same crime: they aged.
Your face is your fortune? Ironically, even the most subtle work is almost impossible to hide from the camera. And the not-so-subtle work, like those store-bought breasts Kim Kardashian wore to the Oscars or the completely transformed faces of Joan Rivers and Lil Kim, looks bizarre.
What's the take-away here? When Kim Novak appeared at the Oscars, Rose McGowan was more shocked by the lack of respect shown to the legendary actress than anything else. She tweeted,
"Kim Novak! No standing ovation?! Self-obsessed and disrespectful, that sums up the Oscar audience." Amen.
(And here's Ronan Farrow's tweet: "Half the people being cruel about Kim Novak are ten years away from being Kim Novak," one of the more incisive observations of the evening.)
Time passes. So how do people age in Hollywood? The town seems to operate on The Logan's Run theory of life — you'd better be dead by age 30 — and allows most actresses only two role choices: bombshell or grandma. Lest we forget, the lovely and talented Sally Field, also at the Oscars last Sunday, played Tom Hanks' girlfriend in the movie Punchline in 1988.
Six years later, at age 46, she played Hanks' mother in Forrest Gump. He was 36 at the time.
The rule of thumb seems to be that you can alter your nose or your chin or anything else when you're young, and nobody will be any the wiser (unless they publish before and after pictures.)
But heaven help you if, once the bloom is off the rose, you're caught trying to look younger.
And heaven help you if you fail to look younger.
You can see the problem.