iPlastic: Seeking Perfection Under the Knife

As published in Woman Around Town:

We are the iGeneration. We are all too familiar with the iPod, the iPad, iHome and the like, but the “i” extends beyond our electronics and reaches back to the very core of human physicality and individuality—our bodies. It might be said that we are, too, the eye-generation. Hyper-focused on the appearance of others and of ourselves, it seems we have more creams, scrubs, waxes and even surgeries to fix ourselves than ever before.

iFace is one of many plastic surgery clinics in South Korea that encourages individuals to reshape their noses, sharpen their jaws and tuck in their eyelids for a more Western appearance. The popularity of plastic surgery in South Korea is astonishingly high, and Seoul is quickly becoming a hot spot for medical tourism. Experts attribute the South Korean plunge into plastic to the idealization of Western facial features. It is common for parents to give their daughters the gift of a double eyelid for their daughters’ high school graduation.

Some plastic surgeons claim that 99 percent of female pop stars have had plastic surgery, and it is not shocking if well-known public personalities disappear for a few months, only to reemerge into the limelight with different facial features, appearing more like their celebrity cohorts. Not only does it seem to be a trend that plastic surgery celebrities and K-Pop icons like the Wonder Girls often indulge in changing themselves, but it also seems to be a requirement for anyone hoping to become a star.

But the Barbie Girl world isn’t confined to South Korea; it is a trend found throughout the US, though perhaps not as hyperbolized as in Seoul. Many women in American cities go under the knife, looking for tummy tucks, nose jobs and elbow implants. So, what’s wrong with a little reshaping? If an individual feels that her mindset or lifestyle will significantly improve from a little surgery, the more power to her. The plastic surgery world provides great comfort to some women (and men) who have qualms about their appearance.

Few women are fully satisfied with their appearances because they do not see themselves fitting what society sees as the ideal body. Beauty is a constantly evolving concept. In Marilyn Monroe’s time, the curvier the better, yet as our twenty-first century models and actresses will attest, this clearly isn’t the case today.

Celebrities work with teams of hairdressers, make-up artists, and stylists, in addition to personal trainers and chefs. Even so, when a star winds up on a magazine cover, she is often airbrushed and Photoshopped to become more perfect. Women who aim to look like these stars are, in effect, aiming for the unattainable.

Moderation is the key when deciding when to go under the knife. When the flaws that scalpels and silicone promise to mend overshadow a woman’s perspective on her positive attributes, she is vulnerable to becoming obsessed. Drowning in Botox and bumping up with luscious lips and buxom breasts to the point of bursting, many women cannot escape the tubes, creams and bandages in hopes of becoming better looking. We all have seen Cher’s looks unattractively morph and warp over time, and designer Donatella Versace appears to have undergone numerous surgeries over the years that have resulted in less than desirable results. Need I mention the legendary late singer, Michael J?

In Seoul, women are told that in addition to the European double eyelid, a sharper jaw and high-arched nose are beautiful, and many Korean ladies (and men) take this collective sentiment to their individual operating room. It has virtually become a requirement, not simply a luxury, to have surgery in order to be considered good looking.

Plastic surgery can be a “constructive” practice for some; but in a place so focused on appearance like Seoul, plastic surgery can quickly become a confining and alienating tool, rather than a helpful one. When a world’s citizens are communally changing themselves, each agreeing that their physical appearance as individuals must be changed for acceptability within a community, it indicates that there is a suffocating collective demand for solely the good looking. It is this desire that forebodes the loss of the individual man and woman, risking the beauty of the self. Plastics can be positive, but only if done for the right reasons. If one seeks beauty defined by someone else, one might quickly learn that life in plastic isn’t always fantastic.

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