It was Kelly's criticism of Fonda for her anti-Vietnam activism four decades ago that got the nation riled up, but the thing that's somehow not come under much scrutiny, is whether or not Kelly's arguments about plastic surgery actually carry some merit.
In recent years, Fonda has been going out of her way to positively represent mature women in her roles. In Grace and Frankie's third season, Fonda and Lily Tomlin's characters are seen turning down a lucrative business opportunity because it would involve airbrushing their faces and bodies in promotional materials, and they want to look their own age. In Our Souls at Night, Fonda is seen taking control of her life in her twilight years, seeking out romance with her handsome neighbor, while rocking a grey hairdo that Fonda herself would probably never sport.
Kelly argued that: "For years, [Fonda] has spoken openly about her joy in giving a cultural face to older women. Well, the truth is, most older women look nothing like Fonda... If Fonda really wants to have a discussion about older women's cultural face, then her plastic surgery is tough to ignore."
Truthfully, on closer examination though, that's not really true. We, as a culture, ignore plastic surgery all the time -- especially when it's as well done as Fonda's. Going under the knife is standard practice for most celebrities past a certain age, because they exist in a profession where job opportunities are likely to disappear if they don't play the game. Fonda's entire career has been spent in an industry where only the thinnest and prettiest survive.
Fonda has done what she had to do to keep working, and yes, she looks amazing. But what Megyn Kelly seems to have forgotten is that Jane Fonda has always looked amazing. She is not an exceptional beauty at 80 because of surgery, she is an exceptional beauty at 80 because she started from a genetically blessed vantage point (see: literally any scene in Barbarella). She worked extremely hard to stay in optimum health her entire life, which is how she built her aerobics empire in the 1980s, and why she is still able to share new, expertly-curated workouts with the world.
The other point that Kelly has missed is that most women of Fonda's age don't need or want to hear discussions about plastic surgery. Women who have been alive for a half century or longer are well aware of what normal aging looks like and, in turn, what it looks like when someone has paid for an aesthetic boost. They also know that, actually, stars aren't like us; they have more time and money for beautification, they have more pressure on them to look a certain way, and they have far less fun with food.
Studies have shown a shift in focus can take place in senior years for women. In one 2016 study, titled Body Image, Aging, and Identity in Women Over 50, one 73-year-old participant said: "Believe that women my age desire to be useful to others, hope to be consulted or heard about what it means to be in the final decade(s) of life, and hope to be thought of as valued mentors, loving and caring friends, associates, and sources of good company to others." A 68-year-old shared: "We often find ourselves literally invisible to younger folks and men."
With that in mind, it is doubtful many older women are even vaguely concerned about what changes Jane Fonda has made to her face, as long as she's representing them. She is a visible and enduring symbol of success, independence, and sexiness at any age -- and we live in a culture that desperately needs more of that. When stars like Fonda, Anjelica Huston, Goldie Hawn, and Diane Keaton fly the flag for senior women, eradicating outdated ideas about what it means to be over 60 and female, it is almost impossible to care if any of them have had work done or not.