[FOUNTAIN]Are we still in feudal age?Lately, a photo collection titled “The Life of Kim Tae-hee” has become one of the hottest online postings. It is a cyber album of the actress’s photos from her childhood to the present. The comments on the album unanimously praise Ms. Kim as a natural beauty, who has been pretty since she was very young.
Comparing then-and-now photos of celebrities is a craze among internet users. The stars who boast beauty in the past and present are complimented as naturally pretty. Similarly, photos of celebrities without makeup are popular, for those who are pretty without the help of makeup are real beauties.
These examples illustrate the antipathy to standardized beauty as a result of artificial endeavor such as excessive plastic surgery or makeup. As people increasingly resort to plastic surgery in pursuit of beauty, natural beauty has become more rare and valued. In the age of fakes, we have come to prefer genuine beauty. However, that does not mean having plastic surgery is taboo. A beauty that had a cosmetic surgery might not be as praised as a natural beauty, but she is still prettier than a naturally plain woman.
These days, Korean society has become very tolerant of plastic surgery. Instead of keeping their plastic surgery secret, celebrities openly talk about their improvements and modifications, and the public welcomes such frankness. Instead of making an issue of plastic surgery itself, people are more interested in whether such a change was needed and whether the surgery was successful. The public has also followed celebrities in getting cosmetic surgery.
Of course, the excessive cosmetic surgery boom is still a target of criticism as unwise physical materialism based on appearance. However, some argue that it is inevitable as we are living in a time when body image is the core of identity. There is also a view that whether to have plastic surgery is one’s right to make decisions about one’s body.
An interesting point is the double standard of recognizing plastic surgery as a social reality but also being obsessed with natural beauty. This is similar to praising aristocratic lineage while advocating equality.
Television dramas and movies present cliched hero stories about blue-blood scions who are buried in mud but eventually display their extraordinary talents. These stories deliver the message that talent and beauty bestowed by heaven and inherited wealth and power are superior to endeavor. Such a trend reflects the class system still remaining inside us. Perhaps, a part of our consciousness has not yet come out of the feudal age.
by Yang Sung-hee
The writer is a culture and sports desk writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.