Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Incidental rhinoplasty

Lisa Kudrow* just gave an interview that's received a lot of press, essentially because in it, she admits to being glad that, at 16, she got a nose job. The Daily Mail helpfully intervened to provide the requisite before and after photos. Because let's get real - a nose job story needs pictures. In the same interview, by coincidence, Kudrow also discusses her Jewish background, including the Holocaust and her personal experiences with anti-Semitism.

Neither Kudrow nor her interviewer draws any connection between these two items. It's as if, by total coincidence, she had a deschnozzification, and is Jewish. Is this like interviewing a black woman about skin-bleaching, or an East Asian woman about eyelid surgery, and doing so in a way that suggests ethnicity didn't have anything to do with this? And I say "women" because, as they say, intersectionality. Sure, men do such things too, but there's the extra pressure on women to be beautiful, on top of whichever pressure's on everyone to look less ethnic.

I suppose we might look at it as progress. Look, an article going out of its way not to imply that Jews have big noses! Any actress might have had a nose job! How about Rachel from "Friends" - despite what the name might have had you believe, the actress who played her, at least, isn't Jewish.

Still, to admit that there's a tremendous Jewish angle here isn't to agree to the 'fact' that Jews have big noses, which, I wouldn't bet on it, nor am I offering my own as an example for Exhibit A for 'see, Jews can have button noses.' It's not so much that Jews have prominent noses (and it sure isn't that non-Jews don't!) as that when a Jew has a big nose, this is a feature associated with Jewishness, and thus more likely to be agonized over and, if funds are sufficient, trimmed. No, Jews aren't alone in that regard, and may no longer be the group most self-conscious about that trait. But certainly back in the day, when Kudrow underwent schnozz-reduction surgery, those were still the days of this procedure having a specific association with Jews.

*I have a complicated relationship with this actress, or more accurately, with the character she played on TV. Early in the days of self-Googling, I found a white-supremacist website where I was under attack for being Jewish. Or my name was, but they were, it was clear, discussing Phoebe from "Friends," and had somehow gotten the last names mixed up, and were under the impression that my name was that of the actress who plays Phoebe on that show. Cue requisite 'racists are idiots' remark.

That, and for as long as that show's been in syndication, I've had to field questions about whether I was named after Phoebe from "Friends." Which makes no sense - I was not plausibly born in or after 1994 - but once a sitcom reaches a certain age, it's just old, and short of being in black and white, when exactly it comes from is a blur. It might have been from the 1980s, but even if it had been, a part of me is like, you think my parents named me after something to do with "Friends"? Yes, there's a television connection to how I came to have this name, but not friggin' "Friends." It's just such a terrible show, and I say this as someone who really likes some sitcoms and readily tolerates even the mediocre ones. I can't put my finger on what about the show was so off-putting - I think it was mostly just the aesthetic, something between the set design and the hairstyles. Or that people were always conflating that with "Seinfeld."

1 comment:

Petey said...

Wait. So, if I'm reading you correctly here, and I may well not be, you were named after Rachel in Friends? Cuz, if so, that's wrong on so many different levels...