By Laurie Essig
WeNews guest author
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Americans’ obsession with perfection has fueled a booming plastic surgery industry, says Laurie Essig in her new book, “American Plastic: Boob Jobs, Credit Cards, and Our Quest for Perfection.” In this except, she traces the history of this fixation.
(WOMENSENEWS)–By the 1920s, Americans were obsessed with the actress Fanny Brice’s nose job. The mixture of sex and race in Brice’s career is impossible to fully separate, since it was her Jewishness that made her “funny” (as immortalized by Barbra Streisand in “Funny Girl”), but it was the fact that Brice wanted to look “beautiful”–which is to say fully female and white–that made her undergo a nose job in 1923.
Since then, the bodies that we want to imitate are not just two-dimensional and therefore unreal, but surgically altered before they’re even photographed. We now imitate bodies that never existed. Through prestigious imitation, plastic surgery has spread from being a necessity for matinee idols to a necessity for the rest of us, as we are all trapped in a two-dimensional visual culture that rewards bodies that look good on-screen.