Barbie girl, one of the world’s most iconic fashion dolls of the century is probably most famously known for singing the following five words, “Life in plastic – it’s fantastic!” And whilst cosmetic surgery continues to become an increasingly booming industry, with Australians currently spending appropriately $1 billion every single year on cosmetic procedures, we are called to think that perhaps Barbie is right. Perhaps undertaking cosmetic procedures are genuinely worth the enormous expense and potential health risks. However, what happened to just letting nature take its course? What happened to a society where we learnt to just embrace our physical imperfections rather than trying to find a quick solution to “fix” them? Now, I think it is completely acceptable when some people choose to undergo plastic surgery to, for example, fix a severe facial injury resulting from an unforeseeable car accident. I also think it is completely acceptable for some people to undertake plastic surgery to fix a facial deformity that affects a person’s ability to live their life. For example, Dr Nicole Abraham, a plastic surgeon from The Australian Society of Plastic Surgery has dedicated a tremendous amount of time to charitable plastic surgery ventures involving underprivileged children born with cleft palates. These types of cosmetic surgeries I think can easily be justified.
The issue is however, when people, particularly Australian women are willing to (a) spend a substantial amount of money on a procedure that may not produce the desired results and are (b) willing to put their health of all things on the line to simply enhance an aspect of their appearance they do not think is “attractive” enough. And unfortunately, it’s no secret – Australians love plastic surgery. In fact, we are currently outdoing the US in cosmetic surgery. With 20,000 boob jobs, 30,000 lipo suctions and $350 million worth of Botox alone last year, this begs the question – who is to blame for these ridiculously high number of procedures? She is. (I will show a picture of Barbie).
More specifically, societal standards of feminine beauty, which are presented in all forms of popular culture, are the major culprits. Think about it – how many times a day are we constantly bombarded with images like this online that portray what our society considers to be the “ideal” appearance? This continuous exposure of unnatural and highly unrealistic models sends an explicit message especially to young girls that in order for a person to be “beautiful”, “sexy” “hot” “gorgeous” etc… one must strive for a term I have coined “morbid perfectionism,” which is essentially defined as an “unhealthy and disturbing interest in constantly striving for perfection and flawlessness in our appearance.” And we all do it – even I myself am guilty of attempting to achieve mild morbid perfectionism now and then, especially when for example I purchase an “invigorating mask” to replenish my skin even though it is perfectly normal and acceptable for me as a teenager to have a couple of pimples on my face.
Nevertheless, when I am showered with pictures like this on social media, (I will show a picture of Kim K) in which Kim Kardashian’s perfectly smooth skin, high cheekbones and perfectly lasered hairline is clearly exhibited, I can apprehend how such images have the potential to encourage people to undertake cosmetic procedures, a form of what I call “extreme” morbid perfectionism in order to be considered attractive by societal standards. Now, don’t get me wrong; receiving virtually instant and cathartic results can make plastic surgery somewhat financially worth it, as unlike other approaches to bodily improvement, cosmetic surgery offers a wide, yet “fantastic” spectrum of change that can be immediately recognisable. However, it’s when you hear stories such as this – of a Chinese immigrant called Catherina Chou who had to fork out a monstrous $10,000 to correct a double eyelid surgery that left her with a swollen eye and blurred vision. Or take TV host Andressa Urach as a primary example. She was in the spotlight after she was hospitalised no less than three times after suffering from multiple complications from the nine cosmetic procedures she has had over the past five years. Worse yet, she also spent more than a month in intensive care after her skin literally began to rot earlier this year. When I heard these stories for the first time, it made my skin crawl! But needless to say, these stories made me come to two valid conclusions:
At the end of the day, cosmetic surgery is still surgery. So the possibility of a range of medical complications occurring such as haemorrhaging, infections or nerve damage that may lead to numbness, tissue death, blood clots and deep vein thrombosis still exists, regardless of what part of the body is “plastically” enhanced nor how skilled the surgeon is.
Striving for “extreme morbid perfectionism” through numerous cosmetic procedures to look like disastrous human replicas of Barbie is what happens when we attempt to play “God.” And whilst not all plastic surgeries will always go terribly wrong, if the sheer number of cases of this nature is anything to go by, surely God is trying to tell us that even after a few alterations, eventually nature will take its course. So regardless of what Barbie famously says, trillions of dollars nor a highly skilled surgeon’s knife can ultimately keep our appearance looking forever “plastically fantastic”.