Monday, August 09, 2004

A semi-serious proposal for vast changes in our legal system

What would it be like if cosmetic surgery were outlawed (or just very heavily taxed) and illicit drugs legalized or decriminalized? I can't walk down the street without seeing the evidence of countless rhinoplasties, face lifts, botox injections, breast enhancements, etc., each of which required a person to take time out of his or her productive activities (whatever those may be) to spend money on something potentially harmful, simply so he or she could feel better. It seems unfair that cosmetic surgery--which is purely for pleasure and yet can result in an individual harming or killing him- or herself--is celebrated on national TV and not condemned by the government, as all things harmful but fun surely must be.

If, say, pot were legalized, and the illicit and scary stuff that happens behind the scenes in the drug trade were removed from the pot, so to speak, how would the typical pot smoker do more harm to society than the typical high maintenance Upper East Sider who spends ages under anaesthetic in the hopes of looking young and thin? If you were an employer, whom would you prefer to hire, someone who gets a bit hazy occasionally on weekends, or someone who gets knocked out entirely every few years and gets shot up with botulism toxin every few months?

For the record, I have nothing against changing one's appearance in quick, cheap, and reversible ways. Everything from hairdye to lipstick is fine by me. I think, and this is where things get a bit more controversial, that there are even men who look exceptionally good in eyeliner.

But once things like anaesthesia and time off work are involved, once motivations become more self-hating (think nose jobs to look less stereotypically Jewish) and less self-enhancing (think Rufus Wainwright in eyeliner--funny, I often think of this...), that's when things get iffy and the government's gotta step in.


Bobo said...

I know this'll sound terribly earnest but--what the &^*$'s up with TV and plastic surgery? I mean, I'm as big a fan of "Extreme Makeover" and "Nip/Tuck" and "E: True Hollywood Story" as the next gay, but all this smiley-faced plastic-surgery positivity is beginning to get creepy. Even "The Learning Channel"'s plastic surgery programs have 'up' spins on cosmetic surgery as a brave and empowering choice. It's particularly ghoulish when we've just watched someone endure a ghastly bit of elective surgery, when we witness them going through an obviously painful and risky recovery, and they're trying to smile through their bandages and pus-drippings to affirm the legitimacy of their decision, while the score goes all affirmative and gooey-sounding and the narrator begins chirping about what a brave choice the patient has just made....yikes.

And people invariably look worse when they're through, at least with face work.

Dylan said...

I think the plastic surgery shows are an outgrowth of the Springer phenomenon, which the New Yorker argued some years ago was the natural successor to the old freak and geek shows in circuses. You know, the freak was the bearded lady, the geek was the guy who would do stupid stunts like bite the heads of live chickens.

The plastic surgery shows combine (self perceived) inherent loathesomeness (the freak) with a willingness to take extreme, even stupid, measures to "fix" it (the geek). The audience, perhaps as debased as the "performers," mocks all of this; only the more self aware participants realize what a joke they are.

Phoebe said...

The one constant in all this is, as "Bobo" notes, that facial surgery is generally creepier than the other sorts.

Anonymous said...

Why link to a scrubbed Rufus to make the point about how swell he looks in eye-liner? Here you go:

Maureen said...

But how does one distinguish between "necessary" plastic surgery (e.g., getting a breast reduction because of severe back pain) and "frivolous" plastic surgery (in the same vein, enlarging smallish-but-proportional breasts to conform with the Barbie ideal)? Should we establish a counterpoint to Yglesias’s “Hot Guy Commission” wherein plastic surgery has a two- or three- tiered tax structure as follows?:
1. Tax-deductible plastic surgery (for health-related reasons)
2. Moderately taxed plastic surgery (for small, subtle cosmetic procedures that harmonize well with existing bone structure yet produce a great boost in self-image)
3. Heavily taxed plastic surgery (for stuff that makes you look like a plastic doll)

Or maybe we should just get state licensing boards to require that those who practice plastic surgery either have a state-licensed therapist on staff or take (X number of) hours of therapy training. I mean, if you're going to reshape yourself, you should have a clear idea of why you're doing it.