Frances McDormand is My New Hero After Saying ‘This is What 57 Really Looks Like’

Frances McDormand on aging, aging in Hollywood, Uma Thurman plastic surgery

I’m wondering how shocking it would be to see a nipped and tucked Carly at a presidential debate standing next to Hillary Clinton, who’s embraced her grandmotherliness rather than erasing it. Or, is that what it’s going to take to elect a woman to the White House — a pretense of youth to go along with the actual experience?

Frances McDormand is my new hero. In a world where every few months we’re presented with images of the latest Hollywood plastic surgery victim, she is a beacon in the wilderness  — an Academy Award winning actress who is stepping up to the plate to say, in essence, ‘This is what a 57-year-old woman really looks like. Deal with it.’

I’ll be honest. I’m not crazy about the aging process. I hate it, actually. So much about it reminds me of the time, not all that long ago, when I didn’t have to worry about doctors as often, didn’t know what those Advil commercials were really talking about when they mentioned “aches and pains,” and had a metabolism that did its job. Sadly, I’ve now become too familiar with:


Menopausal weight gain.

Crow’s feet and laugh lines.

Sagging jowls.

Cracking joints.

Hot flashes.

Less stamina.

Physical and hormonal changes that impact, shall we say, bedroom “activities.”

Age spots that could possibly become cancerous.


Shall I stop there with the list of terribles?

All of this is, as they say, better than the alternative. And having shared that list, I’m in pretty good health. I’m just not in “good youth.”

We’re a society that values youth — or at least youthful appearance — above so many other things, to a point where it’s damn near impossible to age gracefully. And that’s not a lot of fun because we are all aging.  We can’t stop it. Not with the creams and lotions and potions. Not with Spanx or clothes with magical seaming. Not with coloring our hair (which I do). Not with the new make-up that comes along promising to restore our youthful glow. Not with creative women’s clothing sizes — we’re smart enough to know we’re a medium or a large, and not the XS the label claims.

Nevertheless, as each of us gets older moment by moment, it isn’t often that I see someone on the small or large screen who looks more or less like me — in pretty good shape but certainly looking their actual age. And as we’re in the middle of red carpet and awards season, the latest example of age denial has arrived.

This time it’s Uma Thurman who appears to have given in to the plastic surgeon’s knife and wiped away the face she earned through 44 years of living. I suppose it shouldn’t be startling since just a few months ago we lived through basically this same story with Renee Zellweger, but it makes me sad — sad for them, sad for me and sad for my 15-year-old daughter that these truly beautiful and talented women, obviously feeling the pressure of finding fewer roles for women of a certain age, felt compelled to alter their looks so much that we have to do a double take to be sure who they are.

picisto-20150211153057-646927Zellweger and Thurman are two beautiful women who, at least to me, looked awfully good even in “Hollywood years” and were more beautiful before whatever procedures they had done. They’ve abandoned the lovely lines that made them who they were for a smoother, more employable version of themselves?

One of my favorite characters I’ve ever seen Uma Thurman play is “The Bride,” the masterful, sword wielding assassin of the Kill Bill movies. “The Bride” would never have given in to Hollywood pressure to remake herself surgically — not after being shot at her wedding, spending four years in coma, being buried alive, surviving multiple rounds of hand to hand combat, and rebuilding herself physically to seek revenge on anyone and everyone who had a hand in her torture.  “The Bride” would have said ‘Screw ’em if they don’t like how I look. I’ve earned every scar.’

The even sadder news is that this sort of faux fountain of youth restoration is creeping into the political world, as well. It’s a bit of an open secret that Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer have had a little work done. So I wonder — is that a requirement for political success? For the first woman president? Hillary Clinton has taken her share of jabs from haters about her wrinkles and tired demeanor, with Rush Limbaugh famously asking in 2008:

“Will Americans want to watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?  And that woman, by the way, is not going to want to look like she’s getting older, because it will impact poll numbers. It will impact perceptions.”

Maybe that’s why Carly Fiorina decided she had to do something about her 60-something lines and droopiness.

Some people say Carly looks good, but heaven help her if she runs for president, as some people claim is on her agenda.  She hasn’t confirmed that she’s had any work done on her face, but pictures don’t lie. But I’m wondering how shocking it would be to see a nipped and tucked Carly at a presidential debate standing next to Hillary Clinton, who’s embraced her grandmotherliness rather than erasing it. Or, is that what it’s going to take to elect a woman to the White House — a pretense of youth to go along with the actual experience?

picisto-20150211152750-150518As more aging women are deciding the give in to society’s demand for the appearance of female youthfulness, I’m thankful to one Hollywood actress who is decidedly not a glamour-puss, and I mean that in the most complimentary way — Frances McDormand.  I wish her recent interview on aging in the limelight would get the attention that Renee and Uma have gotten:

Quite the contrast seeing a coiffed and made up (and possibly Botoxed?) 58-year-old Katie Couric interviewing a resplendent and unadorned 57-year-old McDormand, isn’t it?

I’m not going to lie.  As I get older, hovering in my mid-50s, I have more moments where I look in the bathroom mirror, and pull the skin on my face taut to remember what it looked like without the frown lines. But I don’t feel ashamed of the living I’ve done that’s gotten me the furrowed brow and the dark spots on the left side of my face thanks to the hours of driving kids to soccer games and the swimming pool.

I’d love to have dinner with McDormand so we can compare our respective wrinkles and discuss whether, as Mick Jagger so famously sang, “Time is on my side.” I know you’re never supposed to say never, and maybe there will come a day when either McDormand or I give in to a filler or the Botox needle.  But I’m guessing not.


Joanne Bamberger is an independent journalist and journalism entrepreneur who is also the author of the book Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America. She is the founder and publisher of the The Broad Side. Joanne is at work on a forthcoming “surprising” anthology about Hillary Clinton. You can find Joanne on Twitter at @jlcbamberger. Also, follow The Broad Side on Twitter at @The_Broad_Side and on Facebook!

To schedule an interview with Joanne or book her for a speaking engagement, you can reach her at

Image via Depositphotos

  • lisasolod

    Well, you KNOW how I feel about my face and others. Frankly, this is a tough call. I think we can all decide for ourselves, but I hear you. I also think that when one is truly gorgeous it is harder to age “gracefully.” Frances’s looks have always been unusual and she has never been a movie star like Renee or Uma so I think that makes a difference. I think it is varying degrees of difficult for all of us an I think some make bad choices. But there is something rather…. sad… about feeling invisible. This is a societal issue that will take a long time to resolve.

  • Just hitting 45 I’m beginning that long stare into the mirror pulling at my face and being surprised by not the wrinkles but the droop every time I glance in the mirror. But I look at women like my mother who never touched their faces, and I have to say that there is something historically beautiful in a well aged face. However, it seems harder to see those beauties in yourself.

    • citizenP

      My mom is actually looking MORE beautiful as she approaches 80. I think there’s an aging “awkward” stage like early adolescence.

  • Ativa

    I look at my ever widening body as that of a mother and wife who is constantly giving. Aging is difficult, especially in these days of Facebook when your re-connecting with friends from 30 years ago who haven’t changed a bit! It’s hard to grow old and look in the mirror without cringing.

  • citizenP

    Frances is beautiful! maybe more than ever. Sad to see Uma, Renee, etc. unrecognizable. And uplifted eyes look freaky on screen. Sure would love the double standards to end too. Although men in politics will probably start turning into plastic freaks too.

    • Kathy1653

      Uma was without eye makeup on……NO surgery to her at all….Funny how people presume that when someone goes without the makeup.

  • TFS

    All Uma Thurman did was go out without eyeliner and mascara. I’m sure
    she’ll never dare make that mistake again, though, and has thoroughly learned her lesson about thinking she has the right to do what she wants with her own face.

    I think
    making a big deal out of famous women’s faces, whether because they
    don’t fight aging or do fight aging or don’t get plastic surgery or do
    get it, is all going to be inherently problematic as long as society
    sees attractiveness as the primary measure of women’s worth.

  • aikanae

    I notice how much different I’m treated. When I was younger; I used to be able to just smile and make a deal, didn’t have to wait for service, people in general were more interested in what or how I was doing. It’s not just looks but society tends to dismiss women past a certain age, starting at the grocery store. (Remember when Hillary tried to reform healthcare as first lady? The front page headlines were about her headband looked like a “school girl”.)

    • Jim Gustafson

      it happens to men too.

  • MissMJ

    Sigh. You know what I wish? I wish that women could decide how they want to look without other women deriding their choices. It’s a choice whether or not to have plastic surgery. I think it’s possible to write a positive article about McDormand’s choice without piling on actresses who make a different decision vis-a-vis their appearance. They are in no way victims; they are grown women.

  • Glenn Horvath

    She still and has always had a beautiful face.

  • Jono

    Why is it necessary to trash mouth people who make different decisions than you do?

  • Love her attitude. I’m with her in the idea that erasing our age, through plastic surgery, is in some ways negating the life we’ve lived. When I hear people say how great Jane Fonda looks for her age, I want to retort–she looks great for a woman who has had major plastic surgery. She doesn’t look her age, if she did she’d have a few wrinkles. Maybe we’re entering a future where we all have our faces altered so we all look alike and we all look about 40 years old. How sad!
    Like you and McDormand I look at the sags and feel an occasional shock at the aging process, but I’m keeping the real me. 60 years old, graying hair and wrinkles…

  • I’ve yet to see anyone who’s gotten plastic surgery, come out the other end looking natural and authentic. In fact, they’re countenance reflects a plastic face.

  • Amelia

    You’re just adding to horrible rumors about women to get your point across and it’s pretty frustrating. Uma Thurman didn’t get plastic surgery. At least not in the public appearance you’re referring to and that you have a photo of. She just changed her makeup – went without eye makeup.
    She went on the Today Show and talked about it after the fact. She looks the same as she always does.
    Maybe if women weren’t scrutinized so much by the media (people like you) who accuse them of plastic surgery when they don’t put on mascara, there would be less body image focus for everyone. Leave them alone.

  • amba12

    With all due respect, I beat you to the broad side 🙂 See the motto of my womanblog.

    • Thank you for your comment. I see your site is about being “broad minded.” Different from The Broad Side!

  • amba12

    Also, here’s an essay about the experience of aging, which is basically nature being through with you, moving on in search of fresh meat. As long as biology and nature are all we live for, aging will be nothing but suffering and humiliation. But this is a regression from a time when we aspired to be, and believed we could be, just a little bit more than just a very fancy animal.

  • deligoer

    I love each birthday! I went 61 this week, so did my twin.

  • Can totally relate…right now, at 52, I wonder what I will look like 10 or 20 years from now. I aspire to be like Helen Mirren and Judy Dench.

  • character_actor

    Francis is a CHARACTER ACTOR… she gets roles based on her “grandmotherly” looks, and acting ability. Other actresses rely or relied on their looks to get their foot in the door so to speak. Sorry,but a character actor MARRIED to a writer/director doesn’t get to shame those that get plastic surgery for whatever reason they feel they need it to work.

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