19 Des 2010

The panic about Johnny Depp's face

I was on one of the celebrity/movie forums the other day, and didn’t know if I ought to be appalled, amused, anxious, or just cave in to an age-old case of ennui.

In certain Juvenile Fangirl circles there’s a bit of a panic on. It’s all about Johnny Depp’s face.

You would not believe (well, maybe you would!) the things they’re saying about him. The remarks would be called spiteful, hurtful, if they weren’t simply so stupid that you can just visualize the vapid little creatures making them – and, well, one doesn’t get cross with the intellectually challenged for being intellectually challenged. Or, one shouldn’t.

It’s all about how Johnny looks in the new movie, The Tourist. Apparently, according to these fangirls, his face looks “bloated and wrinkly” – in fact, according to two of them (and no one else argued the point) he looks like Pavarotti. One curious little creature remarked, “I think my heart just imploded,” and another commented, “I never thought the day would come when Johnny Depp would be unattractive to me.”

The bottom line is, “What’s wrong with his face?????!!!!!”

Oh , dear.

As anyone who has spent more than a handful of years living on this planet knows with painfully acuity… sorry dudes, it’s perfectly natural. It’s so natural, it has a name. We call it “the ageing process,” and it happens to everyone at some age between about 36 and 45.

Johnny Depp is now 47. He doesn’t look like he’s 34 anymore. Short of plastic surgery, there’s nothing much you can do about it, and as a lifetime smoker he’s not going to get plastic surgery … well, not and have it heal properly. Whacko Jacko, here we come, if we’re not careful.

Mother Nature was uncommonly kind to Johnny. Other guys’ looks blow out when they’re in their late thirties – and the early warning signs are frequently there when they’re far younger. Johnny hung onto incredibly young looks for a whole decade longer, and that’s probably due to genetics, because he sure as heck hasn’t been kind to his body. Substance abuse is not a prescription for longevity (nor is longevity the same thing as looking young into your 50s).

But time is passing, my children! Even for Johnny. In fact, unless your name is Peter Pan or Dorian Grey, this is one of life’s most challenging realities. Even if people stay very fit and very healthy, the ageing process is ticking away in the background. You can be as fit and healthy as you were at 30 or 35, but at 50 or 55, the changes will show in your face, because the shape of the face changes with every decade we live. The prime example of this is Jackie Chan, who is so fit at 56, there ought to be a law against it ... but human genetics decide the shape of one’s face at 25, at 40, at 55... and being in-shape has nooooothing to do with it:

A loooong time ago, in my mostly misspent youth, I actually qualified as a beautician. Didn’t go through to beauty therapist, because I started to get terrible allergic reactions to the chemicals in the cosmetics; also, over six months of classes, I never saw one of the expensive salon cosmetic treatments actually work to retard anyone’s ageing. It all started to look like a big con job, and since I was sick of having rashes, itching and sneezing at the toxic (!) chemical goo people paid $100 to have plastered on the thinnest skin on their bodies … suffice to say, I quit while I was ahead. But I came out of the experience with enough certificates to work as a beautician if I wanted to (which I don’t), and also with a clear understanding of why the face changes as we get older.

But you wouldn’t be interested in why. To quote Threepio, “Don’t get technical with me!” So we’ll look at the “how,” not the “why.” And I asked an artist mate of mine, who has the fundamental artist’s eye -- and who specializes in depicting faces and bodies -- to write the next paragraph. So here’s Jade, to tell you in as few words as possible, how the human face changes over time:

“The visible change is due to how tissues “drape” on the facial bones. Soft tissues are held in place by skin that never stops growing, long as we live. The older we get, the more skin we have, and the less “firm” the tissues become inside the skin. You start to see baby jowls at about 35. By 40 the force of gravity is starting to get obvious. In your 40s, for some reason (no one knows why; it just does) your face fills out. It spreads sideways, so your cheeks fill out. Gravity pulls it down, hence the jowls. By 50, most people are heavy-ish in the jaw. By 60, most are thick-faced, jowly. The neck seems to be thickening – part of it’s facial tissues heading south due to gravity and skin which is now far too slack (there’s too much of it) to hold the face up where it used to be. Meanwhile, the always-growing skin makes the eyes start to look smaller, because the lids get bigger. Your eyes aren’t shrinking, but eyelids droop because they’re growing. Top lids close over the eyes, making them look smaller; bottom lids get baggy. The face looks “tired.” By 70, everyone’s skin is thinning – even guys, whose skin starts out far thicker than female skin. You start to lose complexion around 55 – 60; by 70 European skin is usually pale or (if you’re olive skinned) sallow, with a tendency to “age spots” (skin pigment irregularities. The process starts in your 40s, but you confuse them with freckles), and when you tan you start to look like brown paper, not healthy young skin. Cartilages also keep growing. By 60-65, everyone’s nose and ears are visibly bigger. Meanwhile, sun, smokes and booze cause wrinkles. You can always avoid wrinkles (don’t do drugs, smokes and booze, and stay out of the sun. Duh), but even if you never get wrinkles, your face will be different in every decade of your life due to skin growth and gravity.”

...and let's poodle down memory lane across about 25 years, to see this in action:

Thanks to Jade for that. She’s not a beauty therapist, she’s an artist. Check out her art blog here, to see the breadth of her experience in making, and depicting, human faces. She knows intimately how the human face ages, because of painting, drawing and modelling it in 3D.

And there you have it, folks. Johnny Depp is 47, and the only way he’s going to look 34 again is plastic surgery. Here’s the downside: smokers are considered poor candidates for plastic surgery, because they don’t heal properly. Smoking destroys your peripheral circulation. Johnny’s a life-long smoker, so the risks of surgery are too high. Also, press and general public alike love to ridicule men who have plastic surgery for youthening, and when it goes wrong you’re widely touted as one of the biggest idiots on the street, and also guilty of the sin of vanity. Uh…huh.

So … sorry, dudes, here’s your bottom line: Johnny Depp looks like an absolutely drop-dead GORGEOUS 47. Which is exactly what he is. There is nothing wrong with his face. It’s perfectly normal. It happens to us all at about 45, plus or minus a couple of years for whatever reason, and the surgeon’s knife is the only alternative … but not for smokers.

To Senior Fangirls of my age (I’m 50. Ish) we recognize aaallllll the signs, because they’re happening to us too. To Juvenile Fangirls of 20 who have not yet lived on this planet for long enough to know the realities, what can I say?

It’s time to find out if you’re in love with the man or his face. If you love the man, you’ll see that he’s drop-dead gorgeous … he just isn’t all that terribly young anymore, and you’ll love him to bits for many other reasons beside the cheekbones and eyes and lips that have changed with time.

And incidentally where is it written than he must remain young, when only Dorian Grey and Peter Pan ever beat the clock?!

If it turns out that you were actually in love with sculpted cheeks, vast, lustrous eyes, a shaggy mane of thick dark hair, and sensuously pouting lips, rather than being in love with Johnny Depp himself … it’s simply time to hitch up to another young star with quite similar qualities. I suggest you have a look at Ben Barnes (29 last August) … but be prepared to switch again in about 15 years, because the same thing is going to happen to Ben.

It’s one of the natural parts of being human. Older fangirls know all about this, kids. It’s a tough lesson to learn, innit?

But for the ultimate stupidity, and the note on which I’ll close today I’m going to defer to a complete berk commenting on a YouTube video of a retired sportsman, a former cricketing hero who is now 56. “I hate seeing people like [him] grow old,” said our guest idiot. “People like sporting heroes, rock stars and actors should have the decency to die young…”

And that takes the cake, leaves you dumbfounded, doesn’t it? We have laws about expressing prejudice regarding color, race and religion … where’s the law controlling the spiteful, hurtful and outright stupid dialog we permit regarding the prejudice against the natural human ageing process? Where’s the regulation stating that it is against the Code of Practise of public websites to say that premature death should be prerequisite for anyone born with the attributes of Orlando Bloom or Christopher Plummer (there, that’s confounded you, hasn’t it? Because he’s 84 years old now … and I remember him near stark-naked, dressed in gold jewelry and feathers, with a hip-length mane of raven hair, and a lissom bronzed body to die for …)

Message to Johnny: “Ignore ’em, sweetheart. You’re gorgeous, and you know you are. Let ’em grow up, and if their memories are long enough they’ll blush at the stupidity they’re posting today.”

Message to Christopher: “Some of us have long memories, and … nothing is forgotten. Nothing is even halfway forgotten. [insert yummy sound]”

Message to Ben: “Go for it kid – give ’em hell, and have a grand time doing it! Don’t tarry … d’you know the poem? 'The bird of time has but a little way to fly, and lo, the bird is on the wing.'”

And here, have a couple more pictures ... on the mouse, as Captain Jack would say: