In reading Pretty Modern: Beauty, Sex and Plastic Surgery in Brazil, I was immediately reminded of Amanda Bynes’ breakdown circa 2014. Initially, I was worried about her well-being, having self-diagnosed her with Edmond’s ‘dysmorfobia’ – or the fear of appearing disfigured and transference of that fear to different parts of the body. Bynes would boast multiple surgeries, rocking post-op nose gauze and neck braces as fashion statements, conveying her personal validation from being repeatedly cut open, rearranged and augmented. As a sophomore, I saw Amanda Bynes as an example of beauty activism emphasizing choice as the one absolute: you can look however you want to, because criticizing other women for engaging in beauty practices that you personally wouldn’t entertain is anti-feminist. After this reading, I have an entirely different perspective: considering Edmond’s research on aesthetic-related forms of mental illness, and how in some cases cosmetic surgery can be helpful when combined with psychotherapy, while in other cases these aesthetic-related mental illness can reveal themselves in the desire for multiple plastic surgeries. This consideration can blur the lines of what kind of plastic surgery is justified/when it is justified, and can easily be co-opted by the neoliberal “self-esteem” and promotion of self-help to manipulate people into feeding their coin to skeevy corporations under the false notion of becoming more “authentic,” or that they are solving a psychological issue. ***WHICH OF COURSE IS A REAL CONCERN DYSPHORIA/DYSMORPHIA EXISTS BUT I’M JUST EXPLORING ALL ANGLES HERE
The phrase “no one lives in a vacuum” is a running phrase in this class, and I think it is important to consider it with this reading in relation to the outside factors affecting how and what is modified in cosmetic surgeries. Let’s look at Amanda Bynes again, she had her breasts and butt augmented, several nose jobs with the goal of a “pinched” nose in mind, and the whole botox-lip filler combo. It’s impossible to know exactly what is going through her head, however undeniably, there are outside forces and standards of beauty affecting what she chooses to modify on her body. And, whatever Bynes is doing to her body is under the misnomer that each surgery will improve how she feels; or her self-esteem. To add onto these outside factors, the California Task Force to promote self-esteem’s existence proves the neoliberal agenda-created term of “self-esteem,” and the corporate manipulation behind selling this notion of “self-esteem,” as investing in becoming your best self. So, putting this all together, maybe Bynes has dysmorfobia, maybe she doesn’t, but every time she goes under the knife it is not of her own personal choice. To some degree her choices on what is beautiful and even the decision to self-improve by spending hundred of thousands of dollars to look “beautiful” are made for her.
(more semi-smut about Amanda’s obsession with plastic surgery)