Nicole Kidman on the cover of vanity loungeand Perfect. Pictures: Just/perfect vanity.

The combined effect of the muscles, the edgy haircut, and the fact that she doubled down on the mini with a 2.0 version registered an internet shock factor that Kidman seems content to court these days.

But then, why are we surprised? She is an actress – a shapeshifter – who earns her living by embodying the characters assigned to her.

Maybe it’s because we don’t expect it from her. Of Our Nicole.

There’s a common thread for Hollywood veterans of the caliber of Kidman for whom eventually, when the clock strikes, the female leads dry up and they’re cast as supporting roles – from there it’s basically Meryl Streep , Helen Mirren or bust.

But Kidman seems determined to explore a new chapter, one where she is at the center and surprises us at every turn.

Maybe it’s also that we need to classify women into roles ourselves.

Nicole Kidman is 55, she shouldn’t show off her abs on a magazine cover like that, should she?

She couldn’t really have those rippling muscles…could she?

Her face strained on it Cover of Vanity Fair it must be photoshopped…right?

Much has been written about Kidman’s “unchangeable” characteristics; A life of vigilant sunscreen seems to have preserved her porcelain skin in her mid-thirties, but speculation about what beauty procedures she may or may not have chosen remains. Because of course it is.