Have you heard of Jocelyn Wildenstein?
(Note: the links are frightening, and maybe not work safe.)
Flea had a mocking entry on her blog about la Wildenstein, with lots of ridicule and disgust from commenters, and it got me thinking. At first I couldn’t come up with anything stronger than, “problematic,” which is progessive-speak for, “This offends me, but I haven’t yet figured out why.”
I think I know why I’m bothered, though.
Jocelyn Wildenstein is in a very select group of plastic surgery patients, people who are often referred to as cosmetic-surgery addicts, but there are women who have begun to edge into her territory. Cher, Joan Rivers, Mary Tyler Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Charo. And you hear the same thing: Ewwwwww. They’re hideous. They’re sickening. They’re grotesque.
It’s results-oriented, this nastiness. It insults these women for the same reason that the beauty industry insults unmodified women: they’re not attractive to us. Those stung lips, those pithed noses, those frozen faces, those rock-hard tits. What were they thinking? Don’t they know how ugly they are? Don’t they know how much prettier they were before? Who’d want to fuck that?
Don’t get me wrong, these women make me uncomfortable, too. I look at Wildenstein and I remember the momentum of my own disorder. I remember what it was like to need work. I worry for her and for all of them. But would we be holding Wildenstein up as an example of everything gone wrong with beauty as our culture defines it if she’d undergone fifty-odd procedures and come out the other end looking preternaturally beautiful instead of strange? Would we have a problem with one painful face lift or a couple painful collagen injections? If plastic surgery in general were just as painful but not as distinctive, would we be as vituperative towards the women who undergo it?
Update: I don’t want to see anyone in comments making cracks about Wildenstein’s appearance. Yes, she’s no longer conventionally attractive. Yes, the operations she’s undergone signal a body dysmorphic disorder that probably warps her sense of self out of any resemblance to reality. None of those things are controversial, so they don’t really need to be pointed out again. No viciousness, okay?