Cosmetic surgery is seen as a way to improve a body’s aesthetic appearance. In a plastic surgery ad by Jacob Sarnoff (1936) a woman is shown before and after surgery. The right side of the woman’s body is in its “natural” state before undergoing surgery. All deformities are pointed out by white arrows: her face is full of wrinkles, her nose is big, her breasts are saggy, etc. The arrows are spatially pointing at her body’s deformities but at the same time they might also point at the source of her emotional discomfort. She in fact is frowning, giving the expression to the viewer to be unhappy.
The results of plastic surgery are seen on the left side. All deformations have been erased by lifting up her skin. Plastic surgery is promoted as making someone look younger, slimmer, and even healthier. The woman did not only change her outer appearance so it seems but also underwent a social and emotional change. She is slightly smiling making her look deeply content.
Plastic surgery always was and continues to promote the human body as a kind of landscape, which is in need to undergo radical changes in order to become more “natural” (meaning more aesthetic and visually pleasing). Female bodies in particular are advertised to be in great need of plastic surgery. The natural process of aging is increasingly perceived as something unnatural that one can only combat with a big enough wallet and plenty of botox injections.
Plastic surgery ad, Jacob Sarnoff (1936)