March 27, 2005
Celebrity Plastic Surgery
The other day, a co-worker was shocked to learn that Marilyn Monroe had her face cosmetically altered. “They had plastic surgery in the 1950s?!” Research shows that cosmetic surgery has been a practical career option for actors since at least 1930, and there’s plenty of anecdotal and photographic evidence of work done to stars such as Rita Hayworth, Marlene Dietrich, Lana Turner and Joan Crawford long before World War 2 ended. By the 1960s, the infamous line about Raquel Welch being plastic from the nose down was topped only by her 1970 turn with a restructured Mae West in Myra Breckinridge, a high water mark in the Hollywood tradition of dueling surgeries.
The transofrmation of Carole Lombard
So plastic surgery is nothing new, and in the advanced state of debauchery that is American culture, actors who don’t go under the knife (Susan Sarandon or Annette Bening before the 2005 awards season) are more controversial than those who do. It’s such a necessary expense for actors that it should be an itemized deduction on their income tax. But anything taken to the extreme is still flinch inducing.
As Awful Plastic Surgery expertly points out, Farrah Fawcett (another Myra Breckinridge veteran) has been hacking away at her face for most of the 21st century. Hopefully those who care about her have already staged an intervention, for it seems even Farrah knows she went too far, as evidenced by the recent ads pushing her new reality show. It’s obvious that the Photoshop artist was instructed to layer Farrah’s 2000 nose over the 2005 version, and her 2003 eyes over the 2005 version. That she’s reduced to choosing previous models of her features makes for a creepy cultural artifact, and it’s a horrifying testament to her mental state.
I worry about her and the others who must face the sorrowful aftermath of an over-zealous plastic surgeon. We’ve all experienced the agony of a bad haircut or perm, and we survive those brutal assaults to our vanity only because we know it will eventually grow out. But how do you cope with botched plastic surgery? It just doesn’t grow out! Jessica Lange still has to make a living! Meg Ryan still has to go out in public! Empathy wells up within me for these poor, dear girls who endured extreme pain for the sake of their careers, only to be rendered disfigured and unrecognizable. After they’ve placed a call to their lawyer, how do they gather the courage and strength to face the public, as they surely must?
Then I read this passage from an E! article by Sally Ogle Davis and Ivor Davis:
"Plastic surgery improves your eyesight," says Dr. Adrianna Scheibner. "You get something done, and suddenly you're looking in the mirror every five minutes. You see imperfections nobody else can. I had one actress who came to me with an absolutely flawless face. I told her there wasn't a thing I could do for her, and she got mad and went around town bad-mouthing me." Celebrities are particularly susceptible to becoming plastic-surgery addicts, says Dr. Pam Lipkin. "These are not the world's most secure people. When you have cosmetic surgery and it goes well, there's a tremendous psychological reassurance. The seratonin must surge. And when there isn't any economic barrier to it, the more you have, the more you want."
Obviously, I’m making a huge mistake in assuming that someone like Patrick Swayze is pissed off about what was done to him. I always forget that actors see and think differently than the rest of the population, and that while I never recognize Faye Dunaway without a cutline, she probably feels oh so pretty, witty and bright. I have to stop worrying about these people, and learn to live with Michael Jackson’s influence in the trend of celebrity face mutilation.
Now we move on to “the blue sky is green” absurdity of denying obvious work. While Dolly Parton’s autobiography devotes half a chapter to listing and thanking all her cosmetic practitioners, her peers aren’t so comfortable with candor. Manners and public decorum were forever banished after the first episode The Jerry Springer Show, so today’s stars do have to put up with the media asking intrusive questions about their apparent surgery. To quickly deny it has become a required dance step for protecting The Image.
But to get testy about it draws unwanted attention, as in the case of Nicolette Sheridan, who endlessly prattles on with outlandish excuses for her altered state. To get litigious about it draws unwanted irony, as in the case of Sharon Stone’s denials within a libel lawsuit. While the work she’s had done over the years is absolutely top-notch and tasteful, Miss Stone is not here to be the poster child for moderation in plastic surgery. She is here to cement her Movie Star Supremacy with lines such as "(she) prides herself not only on her acting ability and other talents, but also on her natural physical appearance," and that negative publicity about plastic surgery "has a damaging impact on a film actress' professional reputation (and her) ability to obtain work in the film industry". Bravo! This is why she is the rightful heir to Joan Crawford’s throne, and god bless her for it!
But the reason I’m frustrated by elaborate Surgery Denials comes from mistakenly thinking “unwanted attention” is a bad thing. In the world where I live, yes, it is. But in Hollywood, there is no such thing as UNWANTED attention, just attention, period. It’s better to court public debate over your face lift then to have no job because you didn’t do it.
Posted by tobyweiss.com at 8:02 PM