A culture of sacrifice to the body beautiful

The New York Times has a excellent piece on the culture of plastic surgery in Brazil by anthropologist Alexander Edmonds.

Edmonds notes that surgery is not considered to be a correction or salve against the sagging of the years but a beauty treatment in its own right that is justified by a folk psychology of self-esteem.

Yet, such desires are not simply a matter of psychology. Brazil’s pop music and TV shows are filled with talk of a new kind of celebrity: the siliconada. These actresses and models pose in medical magazines, the mainstream women’s press, and Brazilian versions of Playboy, which are read (or viewed) by female consumers. Patients are on average younger than they were 20 years ago. They often request minor changes to become, as one surgeon said, “more perfect.”

The growth of plastic surgery thus reflects a new way of working not only on the suffering mind, but also on the erotic body. Unlike fashion’s embrace of playful dissimulation and seduction, this beauty practice instead insists on correcting precisely measured flaws. Plastic surgery may contribute to a biologized view of sex where pleasure and fantasy matter less than the anatomical “truth” of the bare body.


Link to NYT piece on A ‘Necessary Vanity’ (via @moximer).

One Comment

  1. Victoria
    Posted August 18, 2011 at 4:09 am | Permalink

    Jeepers. Good thing I don’t live in Brazil O_O
    One of these days that “eye of the beholder” episode of The Twilight Zone will come to pass, at this rate.

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