One photo shows Shannen Doherty completely bald with a bloody cotton ball in her nose as she looks directly at the camera, looking almost confrontational. Another is more playful: the 50-year-old actor is in bed in Cookie Monster pajamas and a Cookie Monster eye mask. She admits how exhausted she is, how the chemotherapy she had to undergo for stage four breast cancer left her with nosebleeds.
“Is everything pretty?” NO, but it’s true and my hope to share is that we all become more educated, more familiar with what cancer looks like, ”Doherty writes on Instagram.
The images are disturbing to any Gen X who remembers her as Brenda Walsh, the feisty and polarizing teenager she played for four years on the 1990s hit show Beverly Hills, 90210, which brought him international fame and infamy.
Doherty says she is posting the images as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the United States in the hope that they will get people to have regular mammograms and breast exams and help people overcome “fear and cope with whatever may be in front of you.”
The unvarnished photographs correspond to the straightforward nature of an actor who has never seemed interested in being universally liked and is likely to resonate with audiences who reconsider the way celebrity women have been treated over the years. 1990s and early 2000s, says Kearston Wesner, associate professor of media studies at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, who teaches celebrity culture.
“The photos are not retouched,” says Wesner. “They are not presented in any way other than the reality that she is going through. We have the impression that when she communicates with you, she comes from an authentic place.
Doherty says she learned she had breast cancer in 2015. Since then, she has had a mastectomy, as well as radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
The photos, which have been viewed approximately 280,000 times, have garnered comments of sympathy, admiration and praise on her Instagram account, which has more than 1.8 million followers.
“I love you Shan,” wrote Ian Ziering, one of her former Beverly Hills co-stars, 90210.
“You are a force, sister! Wrote Kelly Hu, another actor.
Doherty didn’t often have such adulation when she was younger. In the early 1990s, Doherty, who was 19 when she started acting in 90210, was gutted by the press and many members of the public who criticized her for smoking in clubs, her tumultuous love life and reported that she was difficult on the set.
Her character was an outspoken, stubborn and temperamental teenage girl who had sex with her boyfriend, fought with her friends, and rebelled against her father.
Brenda Walsh was “uncomfortably relatable,” says Kat Spada, host of The Blaze, a podcast devoted to discussing 90210.
Looking back, fans’ reaction to Brenda Walsh’s character, and by extension Doherty, may have been the result of seeing each other in the two women, says Lizzie Leader, the podcast’s other host.
“We always ask customers about their 90210 trip, and we ask which character they identify with or identify with the most,” says Leader. “Everyone is almost always a Brenda.
But around the time the show aired, some fans became so engrossed in the vitriol for the character that they started asking for Doherty’s dismissal. They formed an “I Hate Brenda” club. MTV News devoted a segment of over three minutes to the sentiment, citing people who made fun of his appearance and his decision to attend the Republican National Convention in 1992. A clip from the MTV segment showed a group of party-goers striking out a “Brenda piñata”.
Doherty left Beverly Hills, 90210 in 1994, then appeared in the 1995 movie Mallrats and in several movies and TV shows. In 2019, she appeared in a brief reboot of the original 90210, called BH90210.
In an interview with The New York Times in 2008, Doherty said the bad publicity around her was often based on exaggerations or “completely wrong” stories. “I really don’t care anymore,” she said in the interview. “I have no reason to apologize. Whatever I did, it was my growth process that I needed to go through, that anyone my age goes through. And no matter how other people may have reacted, that’s their problem. “
If you were a Doherty fan, headlines hurt, says Wesner, who is 45, and has seen Doherty go from a child actor in The Little House on the Prairie to roles like Heather Duke in the film. 1988 Heathers and Brenda Walsh.
“She meant a lot to me,” says Wesner. “I was an outspoken girl myself, and I was criticized for that too. For me, seeing someone who was so outspoken and also a “difficult woman” was satisfying.
Doherty’s cover reflected a time “when publications were attacking, having a big shame, an ugly shame, anorexia shame,” Stephen Galloway, dean of Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University told Orange, Calif., And former editor of the Hollywood Reporter. “There was no border between taste and vulgarity. It was nonsense. And it severely damaged Doherty’s career, he says.
His decision to document the effects of cancer is “a big step towards redemption and meaning” that could help people, says Galloway, who says he learned about a week ago that he was in the early stages of cancer.
He says Doherty’s openness made him feel more comfortable talking about his own diagnosis. “I looked at her and thought, what courage.” – This article originally appeared in the New York Times