[THE FOUNTAIN] What Then If We're All Beautiful?

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[THE FOUNTAIN] What Then If We're All Beautiful?

John Woo, a film director from Hong Kong who assured the position of Hong Kong noir as a favored movie genre, produced a Hollywood movie, "Face Off" in 1997. Nicolas Cage played the role of an elusive maniacal terrorist and John Travolta played a FBI agent chasing him in this action movie. The story involved a switch of faces between the two major characters by a team of plastic surgeons. Such a story is only possible in the movies, but we are now living in a world where anyone with money can have his face and body changed the way he wants.

Until recently, surgery to change the shape of one's eyes and lengthening one's nose were what facelifting was all about. Now that new technologies such as laser skin resurfacing and liposuction have been introduced, people can reshape their bodies from head to toe through cosmetic surgery. Rapid development of artificial body tissue such as artificial bones and skin also played a decisive role in enlarging the number of body parts eligible for surgery. As a result, people can broaden their forehead, iron out wrinkles, reshape eyebrows, sculpt cheekbones and jaws, enlarge lips and breasts, remove muscles from the calf and remove fat from the tummy. There are more than 100 different procedures.

In our society, where good appearance is considered competitive power, women are rushing to have cosmetic surgery despite the enormous financial burden and high risk to their health. A public opinion survey showed that 80 percent of female in their 20s are willing to have plastic surgery for the sake of enhancing their beauty. There is an increasing number of parents who pay for their children's plastic surgery as a graduation gift. Some housewives are even saving money together to have their faces lifted sequentially because the cost is too high for each individual to pay at once. The Wall Street Journal published a front-page article on Korean women's feverish pursuit of cosmetic surgery. A few days ago, the newspaper pointed out critically that Korean women were going under dangerous surgery such as removing muscles from the calf to slim their legs in addition to the relatively simple procedures such as sculpting noses and jaws and making their eyes larger.

There are some actresses who admit that cosmetic surgery shaped their beauty, suggesting that fewer and fewer people feel uncomfortable about cosmetic surgery in our society. If one argues that it is better to pay money and time to live a confident life rather than suffering from feelings of inferiority because of their appearance, we have no counter-argument. Cosmetic surgery itself may not be the issue here. Maybe we are heading to a world in which no one can be treated as a real beauty without confidence and uniqueness based on real talent.


by Bae Myung-bok

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