Almost every face of every leading or supporting woman in any movie or tv show must appear cosmetically perfect. This is one of those artistic flourishes that once you discern it, you will never be able to "un-see" it.
I remember the first time I perceived it; it was while I was watching the 2003 Bruce Willis production "Tears of the Sun." In this movie Willis plays a Navy Seal charged with extracting a doctor—played by the beautiful Monica Bellucci—from war-torn Nigeria. Bruce and his charge slog through dark and dirty jungles for days on end. As time goes by Bruce's face and body broadcasts all the wear, weariness and worry of the struggle: it's smeared with mud and blood, scrapes and cuts—unwashed, unslept, unchanged, and unkempt. The face of his ward, on the other hand, is radiant throughout: eyebrows plucked to perfection, cheeks and eyes and lips very apparently blushed and shadowed and colored with precision; she's the very image of beauty personified. If there is any mud, it's smeared smartly only as a frame for this portrait of madonna. The difference was so apparent that it became ridiculous, and it began to undermine the whole premise for me.
After that instance, I began to notice that this cosmetic perfection was the case for every leading lady in every type of movie, and it's especially notable in all closeups. At first I thought perhaps this oddity would be limited only to plucked eyebrows, but as I continued to observe I found it extended to artfully blushed cheeks, lusciously lipsticked lips and colorfully crafted eyelids as well. Be it desert, jungle, space or apocalypse, no matter how much distress the woman has been been through in the movie—how long she has been without her toilette and an mirror—she will always appear beautiful in her facial particulars.
This became an obsession with me; I studied every female face in every film I watched—there had to be deviations, I thought. But the only ones I found were in instances where the director deliberately wanted to mar the faces of his female actors, such as in the "Kill Bill" series of movies by Quentin Tarantino.
I began to wonder if this trope-turned-twilight-zone was an act directors all decided to take, or whether the female leads themselves demanded it. Or perhaps it was written into the bylaws of the actors' guild: Article #165—"No female in a leading or supporting role shall appear without perfectly made-up face unless contractually required to do so."
It really bothers me now. Why can men's faces—even those of the young, beautiful set—be smeared and sweaty, cut and bleeding, messed and unkempt, and yet the women involved in the very same actions and scenes never exhibit the same kind of disrepair of time and tatter? What would happen to us viewers if we were to see such a sight? Would we unconsciously notice the difference and be sickened by reality? Would we turn away and advise others to do the same?
"We demand our women look pretty and perfect in facial features for every film!" is an echo I can picture directors hearing within their imaginary impressions of their potential audiences.
"It's okay for them to look normal," I want to assure them. "In fact, your insistence that leading and supporting women never appear blemished actually detracts from your story by taking us viewers out of the context. While you make the appearance of the men an integral part of the scenery, you constantly turn and detract from it by presenting your women as though they just stepped onto a fashion runway. Please allow your women's faces to match the men's when the setting dictates it."
I feel this has gone beyond a trope. The movie trope might have been something like: "If a beautiful woman's face is portrayed in a closeup, her makeup and facial particulars must be perfect at all times—no matter the setting—even when those of the men beside them are not." But practically all leading and supporting women in all films are from among "the most beautiful" set nowadays, so they must all appear that way. It's a troublesome trend I cannot un-see.