A worrying trend has started to emerge in the tabloid press over recent years. It began as an occasional shocking observation about how fortune, coupled with extreme excess and/or vanity can end in catastrophe and was illustrated by a soap opera star with a drug-dissolved septum or a former TV beauty with collagen-inflated lips.
Fair enough. Let it be a cautionary tale to all of us.
But now there seems to be no bottom to the paparazzi pit as pictures appear on a daily basis showing celebs with — shock-horror — minor physical imperfections or, even worse, actual signs of ageing.
In some papers and magazines, rarely a day goes by without a snap of a personality with a pimple or a diva having a bad hair day. While male stars get away with beer-bellies and bleary eyes and linear sprouting hair transplants without a single mention, their female co-stars are being scrutinised and criticised with ever-increasing cruelty.
There have been so many instances lately, that it would be possible to create an entire anti-fantasy female from all the ugly bits stuck together.
So, like a tabloid antithesis of the Bionic Woman, here are her components from head to scrawny toe:
She will have the matted birds-nest hair of Ivana Trump but the receding hairline of Naomi Campbell; the acne-pitted complexion of Cameron Diaz; the pencilled-on ‘Scouse brow’ of Coleen Rooney; the piggy nose of Victoria Beckham; the space-hopper trout pout of Lesley Ash; the jutting chin of Rumer Willis; the pillow-cheeks of Madame Sarkozy; the skeletal frame of Demi Moore; Tyra Banks’s ballooning buttocks; Melanie Griffith’s sinewy calves; Felicity Huffmann’s undulating lower thighs, Sharon Stone’s cellulific uppers and Anne Robinson’s ‘bingo wings’; the bony shoulders of Renée Zelwegger; the hairy armpits of Penelope Cruz; the sinewy arms of Angelina Jolie; the veiny, age-spotted hands of Madonna; the wobbly jelly-belly of Britney; the chunky thighs of Emma Bunton; the knobbly knees of Kate Moss; the hairy legs of Celine Dion; the gigantic feet of Naomi Campbell and the bony, finger-length toes of Nicole Kidman.
As I’ve often said before, I think it’s only right that celebrities who court publicity and make a fortune out of it are fair game when the winds change direction.
But why is it only women who fall victim to the anti-ageing treatment and the microscope of hyper-scrutiny?
Whenever there’s a piece about famous men, why are they are always treated with such respect and reverence?
Look at your man off Reservoir Dogs who’s currently causing hearts to flutter on the set of Celebrity Big Brother. He’s got a middle-aged paunch, a dodgy bottle-blonde hairdo and as much style as a redneck hobo and yet he’s been referred to as “rugged” “sexy” and “manly” in the same national newspapers that are having a field-day pulling apart the appearances of all the female housemates.
In recent months, these same publications have featured stories about the “young-looking” Sylvester Stallone and a “remarkably fresh-faced” Kirk Douglas at an awards ceremony in LA, even though he actually looked like a partially defrosted cadaver.
When are we going to see headlines which highlight the supposed physical shortcomings of various male celebrities. Could you ever imagine reading ‘Russell Crowe Piles on the Pounds Once Again’ or ‘Michael Palin’s Hairline Heads for the North Pole’?
But what to me is even more worrying is why do women readers not just put up with these cruel double-standards, but seem to genuinely revel in them in the first place?
Are we slowly turning into a nation of nit-picking, image-obsessed, shallow-minded, easily manipulated airheads?