The common phrase “sex sells” is the use of sexual or erotic imagery in advertising to create interest to help sell a particular product. This is something we understand and recognize well. An M&M commercial with the “sexy” green M&M comes to mind – a selling point even though the candy has no sexual connotation itself. However, sex isn’t the only thing being sold to us. Beauty – that which we find visually and aesthetically pleasing – is sold to us in advertisements, billboards, commercials, and stores. Perfectly posed, photoshopped models affect our ideas of beauty as well as our wallets. Viewers subconsciously believe that purchasing a particular product can make them become beautiful and sexy. While make-up, clothes, and photo editing applications help us achieve the looks we desire, the quest to look airbrushed in real life can be taken to greater extremes.
Plastic surgery is a multi-billion dollar industry. Statistics shows the American Society of Plastic Surgeons estimates that more than 330,000 adolescents–most of them female–have underwent cosmetic procedures in 2007. The most popular surgical procedures were nose jobs, breast augmentation, ear reshaping and liposuction. Plastic surgery is very common among celebrities. People who are under the spotlight feel the pressure of perfection because of mass media. How beauty is represented in men and women vary in different aspects (Plastic Surgery Addicts, November 6, 2007). With the female, the number one criterion for beauty according to scientists and researchers, comes down to symmetry. An attractive face exhibits perfect symmetry when one looks identical to the other. With body, males prefer women with a shapely feminine body with a correct bust-to-hip ratio. A full bust with a slender waist and fairing hips offers a feminine physique that a mate looking for the mother of his children would find attractive. Height plays less a factor in overall attractiveness for women. For males an attractive form represents the hard, angular, more geometric shapes rather than the soft round curves of the female form. A high forehead, strong brow and solid jaw represent a masculine face. Also, the body for a muscular frame and a well defined upper body “V” with broad shoulders, a muscled chest and a narrow waist meets the criteria of body perfection. A taller man is seen as more attractive, according to the article, “Attractive People: How society Defines Physical Attractiveness” (How Society Defines Physical Attractiveness, February 5, 2008).
For example, Justin Jedlica, a 32-year-old man who has been into plastic surgeries since he was 18 years old, has spent over $100K on over 90 to 100 surgeries so that he could resemble the doll, Ken. “I’ve always been into plastic surgery because it’s an extension of me being creative,” states Jedlica. He believes that the surgeries are ways that he can treat himself as if he was his own sculpture of his own artwork. Although he knows that there are always going to be potential for something to go wrong with these surgeries, he disregards the risks and admits that he is not finished and wants to enhance more (Meet the Real Life Ken Doll, December 17, 2012). Another addict has taken his “Bieber fever” to a whole new level. Toby Sheldon a 33-year-old who has underwent a number of surgeries over the past 5 years to make him look like the pop star, Justin Bieber also spending over $100,000 dollars in total (I finally Look like Justin Bieber and I couldn’t be Happier About it, January 25, 2014). Those who do not have the funds to support such addictions can always edit their self-pictures. The art of the “selfie” has created a whole industry of smart phone apps to help you look your best. Now there is a revolutionary way to fix blemishes and enhance your looks with a click of a button away. There is an app called, “perfect 365” that allows you to airbrush your picture, improves any physical feature, whether it may be making your face thinner, whitening your teeth. However, some are not satisfied with edits alone. Triana Lavey has spent $15,000 on plastic surgery so she can take better “selfies”. She wanted to be more photogenic and “look like a super model.” After multiple procedures, she expresses that she is currently happy with the results. Lavey states, “I now have the face that I always thought that I had. I look like myself but photo shopped” (Women Spends $15,000 on Plastic Surgery to take Perfect Selfies, April 23, 2014). These are just some anecdotal examples of how people go above and beyond for their looks. People are absorbed by the way society portrays beauty and will go to great lengths and cost to achieve their new ideas. From their perspective, being physically attractive is the secret to self-confidence.
On the same token, plastic surgery for some is not simply a matter of beauty but one of safety and normal upbringing. Some parents result to plastic surgery because they do not want their children to become teased or made fun of because of their physical attributes, instead of teaching their children how to love themselves for the way they are. There is a foundation called, Little Baby Face Foundation,” which was created to provide children with severe deformities, but they recently branched out to cover minor surgeries. In 2011, Samantha Shaw a seven-year old received free surgery from the foundation to pin her ears back since she was always bullied about it in school. Shaw spoke explain to “Good morning America,” although Shaw was not even teased about her ears, her mother explained that the parents and kids could be very “hurtful.” Shaw’s mother relied to have surgery to prevent bullying and to prevent any possibly future problems (Bullied Child Gets Plastic Surgery, April 14, 2011). Parents would do about anything to make sure their kids are not the subjects to school yard bullying. The foundation’s motive is to help kids grow with confidence and self-love. It just illustrates the way we are evolving some take on the easy way out. Plastic surgery has tremendously grown since the year 2000; it causes people to wonder what is going to happen in our future.
Overall, the effects of the media on our personal ideas of beauty are difficult to ignore. Despite noteworthy efforts by companies such as Aerie, who promote the idea of loving one’s body as is via photos that have not been retouched, people will continue to be dissatisfied and desire change – some to the point of altering their bodies through plastic surgery. Though studies show that patients felt an increased satisfaction with the enhanced facial feature or body part post-surgery, results are mixed on whether plastic surgery effectively boosts long-term problem areas such as self-esteem, self-confidence, quality of life, and interpersonal relationships. A change in cosmetics and a renewed wardrobe in which the goods are selected to better suit the individual rather than the individual conforming to the goods is a more positive alternative. Better yet, lifestyle changes like a healthy diet and daily exercise can boost one’s confidence in a longer lasting sense and reimagine surgery as obsolete. The best way, however, is to reflect on and improve the way we educate our future children about beauty and body image. Our techniques, however, must be as well researched and innovative if not more in the media.