Plastic surgery became extremely popular at the beginning of the new millennium. Popular culture glamorized the gruesome process in such a way that it became appealing to many people across the country. In many advertisements seen in the lecture, plastic surgery appeared to be just as simple as putting on makeup–in a sense, plastic surgery was advertised as a permanent form of makeup. It was (and still is, for many) just another beauty tool, but a permanent one. Plastic surgery was a way to pass from one social group to the next. It was a way to become happy. Surgery is typically considered a painful and often traumatizing experience, so it is fascinating to see how plastic surgery appealed to so many people. Plastic surgery was desired in the same way as one might want to have the same dress that a celebrity wears.
And while the social aspects of this movement are certainly interesting, this week’s lecture on plastic surgery also made me consider its connection to nature. Plastic surgery changes one’s exterior in order to change one’s very nature. It was advertised, however, to end up bringing the patient back to his or her (more often her) natural state–or the natural state of humans. Obviously this is nothing but ironic, yet people still believed it. Such an innovation in medical technology lends evidence to humans’ desire for autonomy over nature; in this case by pursuing autonomy over one’s own natural body. Individuals want to control and change what has naturally occurred–that being the body they have been born into. The concept of needing to control what is naturally beyond our control on our own bodies speaks to the discomfort that we, as humans, have with our lack of autonomy over our bodies–we are uncomfortable when we are unable to control everything about ourselves. If we can control nature in other ways, then we should certainly be able to control nature in terms of ourselves. Ultimately, the plastic surgery movement supports the continuing theme of human dominion over nature that we have examined throughout the semester.