The Key Concept: Expressing true grief requires the whole face to contort. Botox freezes the forehead and negates this expression.
There are two fundamental truths that Figure 1 demonstrates: 1) sad mouths unaccompanied by sad eyes are expressively meaningless; 2) the use of Botox can counteract even the most powerful expression, leaving an unintelligible face in its wake.
WHAT’S GOING ON?
On July 7, 2009, at a memorial service for Michael Jackson at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Brooke Shields spoke about her close friendship with the recently deceased megastar. As she spoke, her face displayed a bizarre and unnatural combination (impossible under ordinary circumstances) of extreme grief in the lower portion of her face (mouth, jaw & cheeks) and total placidity in the upper portion of her face (eyes & brow.) Although Shields spoke with great feeling about her sense of loss, looking at her photo (Figure 1) out of context, most persons wouldn't recognize Shields' grief nor Shields' artificially restrained upper face. I, of course, immediately recognized what was going on, and later read that Shields had received a Botox injection prior to the memorial.
THE BOTOX EFFECT
The protein "botulinum," in spite of being the most lethal toxin known to man, can gently paralyze human muscles when used in extremely small doses. Since the early 2000s, botulinum has been used cosmetically to reduce, or even eliminate, facial wrinkles when injected into certain key skin locations. The contracted muscle fibers which create creases, like frown lines, relax and smooth out under the influence the chemical, an effect that can last from 3-6 months. The use of "Botox," as the cosmetic version is called, has reached epic proportions, with upwards of 10 million men and women being treated each year.
What would Brooke Shields have looked like if her grief was expressed naturally and the upper half of her face was not frozen by the paralyzing action of Botox? Thanks to the magic of Photoshop, I was able to create several possible versions of her upper face engaged in grief to successfully accompany her stretched, grieving mouth (Figures 9 & 10). They are both equally plausible.
In the original photograph (Figures 1 & 8), Shields' mouth is stretched tightly sideways as happens when we cry. Note the raised cords in her neck, which always contract when the mouth-stretching muscle, risorius, is activated, as here. Without the rest of her face equally engaged, the effect is unintelligible as an expression, like a sentence with a noun but no verb.
How does Hollywood view this toxic "beauty aid?" Here are a two surprisingly candid quotes from well-known actors regarding the use of Botox:
Figure 12. Olivia Wilde
“….Botox makes everyone look like a wax candle, kind of like Madame Tussaud-esque weird – I can’t get down with it…I don’t want to be judgmental, but at the moment, that’s a beauty trend I loathe.”
Figure 13. Julie Roberts
“I want my kids to know when I’m pissed, when I’m happy, and when I’m confounded. Your face tells a story and it shouldn’t be a story about your drive to the doctor’s office.”