I just finished watching a show on TLC called bodywork, which chronicles the lives of plastic surgery patients and the doctors who work magic on them. This particular show was close to home for me, since the clinic was in Miami.
I'm not sure exactly how to respond to the show: I was equally impressed by the production and sickened by the content. I felt sympathy for the folks choosing to have their ears pinned back, their breasts enlarged, and their noses fixed; and I was also disappointed that they felt it necessary to do any work on their bodies. Tonight, the women were beautiful and the young man was going into 6th grade (a time when every person hates something about their body, and everyone gets called their fair share of names).
The doctors--glowing perhaps a little too much with heroism--cut and twisted and pinned and collected loads of cash (and I mean loads of cash) for their work and then spent it on helicopter rides over the city and limousine rides to baseball games.
Wrapped very neatly around the stories (which were compelling, I promise you) was some of the slickest "documentary style" production I've seen in a long time. It was simple and clean and nearly perfect in every way. Which, I think, is exactly the problem with the whole experience.
The stories were clean and simple. The doctors shone with brilliance, the patients were outlandishly happy with their new ______ (insert body part) and everyone eventually went home feeling great about themselves. This, by the way, is not how the real world works.
Most people on the planet don't have six thousand dollars to spare for a nose job. (Actually, the girl who got hers done--she was beautiful before the surgery and beautiful after, so at least nothing was lost--didn't have six thousand dollars to spare. She borrowed it. And paid her bill in cash.) But most people on the planet don't make great TV. Instead, we're watching rich people pay other rich people to mutilate their bodies.
At one point, the "breast expert" even went so far as to chat about how it's easier to make perfect breasts more perfect. More perfect? If they were perfect in the first place, why muck with them at all?
Okay, I realize I'm spouting an unfair amount of vitriol about this stuff. I'm no model of perfection: I wear contacts and I'd get my eyes cut in a second if I had the cash laying around. If that doesn't qualify as mutilation, I don't know what does. So I'm not indicting the show (or anyone on it) without drawing up papers against myself, too. In our own minds, we're all a little flawed.
I guess I'm a little extra-sensitive about this stuff because of where I live. On my recent trip back to the homeland, someone asked me, "so what is South Florida's greatest cultural contribution?" I didn't even hesitate to answer.