Plastic surgery surge: reality TV to blame
April 23, 2004
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It used to be: Are my teeth white enough? Can I really pull off this mini skirt with legs I shaved about a week ago? White after Labor Day? Now the question on every style-conscious person’s mind is: what part of my body should I get replaced, and should I aim for the look of a celebrity, or go for my very own brand new face?
I blame reality TV.
I know it’s an old argument that started way before Survivor and its many spin-offs, but there are three reality shows on TV right now glorifying plastic surgery, and making it seem like it’s as small a decision as what shoes to wear.
Since I came to college I watch an obscene amount of MTV. In high school I was too “punk rock” for that channel, but now I’ve given up any attempts to be cool and given in to the sick fascination that MTV creates. One of the newest shows is I Want a Famous Face. This show follows people who have decided they need surgery in order to make themselves look more like the people they obsess about – a scary premise even without the gross surgery on air. The best part is, after the surgery, they generally look nothing like the person they were aiming for. The best one I’ve seen has definitely been the one where two ugly twins try to look like Brad Pitt, but end up more like angular ugly guys with chin implants who wear lots of make-up to hide their acne.
There are other shows like this, like The Swan, where every week they completely redo women with lots of surgery and a little counseling, all in the goal of a beauty pageant at the end. The promos for this show talk about it being a fairy tale come true – because I’m sure every little girl’s fairy tale includes elective surgery that has side effects and risks like death.
There are always stupid people on reality TV looking for their 15 minutes of fame, but this new trend of plastic surgery shows is a dangerous one. The shows are like a mix between Fear Factor, Top Model and Trading Spaces. People are equating plastic surgery with home remodels. On second thought, these shows are more like Monster House than Trading Spaces since it’s more than slapping paint on the surface: it’s structural change.
By televising surgery every week and showing people happy with the results, the public is desensitized.
People watching the show, first in horror, start to think: “You know I really could do with a chin implant.”
According to globeandmail.com last year, partly due to the ABC show Extreme Makeover, plastic surgery and Botox injections were performed on over 8 million Americans, a 293 percent increase from just 1997.
There is already too much emphasis on looks in our culture without having to worry that maybe it really is your fault that you are so ugly.
These shows seem to be sending the message that you should be blamed for being ugly, since it is apparently so easy to fix.
I can just see it coming. Years from now instead of having eating disorders, girls will become plastic surgery addicts.
I admit that some of the shows do tell about the dangers of plastic surgery, but they always end with a happy person after the surgery and not the unhappy person. That’s show business.
But surgery is dangerous and not just because you could end up disliking your new nose as much as your old one.
Modern medicine is good, but it’s not foolproof. Letting doctors cut you up and change the way you look should not be done as a simple beauty routine.
I think there do need to be plastic surgeons. Burn victims deserve to look like they once did; breast cancer survivors should be allowed to get back the body parts that helped them define themselves as women; and children born with cleft palates should be able to have a normal smile.
But wanting to look like J. Lo is not really a good enough reason to risk your life.