I should preface this post by noting that plastic surgery isn’t within the purview of my research. But it most definitely is relevant to the what sorts project — our expert being Cressida Heyes.
So, here is a review of Louis Theroux’s “documentary” on plastic surgery, as practiced in that shrine to superficiality: Los Angeles. The diacritical marks around documentary should alert the reader to the program’s various weaknesses. Anyone familiar with Theroux’s work will likely be aware of his tendency to go ‘native’ in the pursuit of a sensational ‘angle.’ Theroux maintains an ironic air throughout his exposé, but then (somewhat disappointingly) subjects himself to liposuction … presumably to lend a more authentic gloss to his treatment of plastic surgery. (He then continues to exhibit an ironic attitude towards his thorough implication in the object of his inquiry, perhaps to mask his total lack of objectivity).
Nevertheless, what Theroux does succeed in demonstrating is the normative function of the imperative for “perfection”, avowed by each of the surgery addicts whom he interviews. Of course, “perfection” here refers to an extremely bland notion of what counts as beautiful; and many of his interviewees are evidently wounded individuals: from having been called ugly by their step-father, to attempting to recover from a failed relationship. What is striking is the enthusiastic, complete, and totally un-ironic faith that each of these people has in the power of plastic surgery to heal their damaged self-esteem. Continue reading