14 March 2011
This morning, I went to the website of NBC New York, to read a news story and a promo on the right-hand side of the page caught my eye: So NBC not only expects that I would enjoy reading about the mutilation of these people, but openly caters to such presumed enjoyment, and encourages its readers to indulge in it.
I am not aware of any reason that I should find gratification here.
I'm not a fan of cosmetic surgeory except to effect some bona fide reduction of injury. Most cosmetic surgeory instead represents an falsification of youth, of health, or of preferred genetic endowment, and does so at a cost of lasting (though perhaps concealed) injury. Nor am I a fan of celebrity (a creätion of journalism, with its need for material), nor of most celebrities, who are, as the saying goes, well-known for being well-known, and rarely arrive at their status by by virtue of desirable character traits. And, sure, to some extent, virtually every one of these people has brought it on themselves, but so would most other people if given a chance.
Celebrities did not and could not elect themselves to celebrity; for all the celebrities out there, there are many more people who try for it and fail, and an even greater number who simply wish for it to be thrust upon them. And whatever one might claim about actual celebrities wasting the opportunities that they are given, my experience of other people convinces me that a share as great or greater of the wannabe celebrities would make as much a mess if they had those opportunities. If I should wish ill upon the actual celebrities, I should wish it upon most of humankind.
Nor is cosmetic surgeory driven by vanity or by insecurity just an indulgence of the famous. If I flip through an issue of the local weekly, I find plenty of advertisements for such procedures, and I'd be rather surprised if NBC New York weren't selling commercial time to plastic surgeons. I certainly see plenty of women with utterly unnatural breasts, and occasionally see ruined noses or lips. I'm not sure what I'd find at the beach, but it probably wouldn't be pleasant. Some of the rich may keep going in surgical self-destruction, but many of these other folk have merely run short of funds and of collateral.
There's nothing new in the proposition that envy, sadism, or a lack of empathy will cause some people to indeed enjoy reading about plastic surgeory gone especially wrong, and looking at images of the results. But our culture has coarsened; the presentation and enjoyment has been moved into the mainstream. Bad enough that, for some, it's a pleasure; now it's a pleasure without a sense of guilt or even of shame.