[FOUNTAIN]Beholden to beautyMarcus Tullius Cicero, a philosopher of Ancient Rome, said everything appears on one’s face. Michael de Montaigne wrote that beauty is the most important factor in human relations. With its enormous authority and impressiveness, beauty distracts us when making judgments and creates prejudice, the Frenchman wrote. These examples show that people have long regarded the face as a very important part of a person and in life.
Science journalist Daniel McNeill wrote in his book, “The Face,” that a face is the most important and mysterious part of our physical appearance. Faces distinguish people as unique individuals. A face defines social status and is a compass and a charming lure into our social universe, he continued.
It is easy to see in daily life that a face represents the person. When we are in love with someone, we want to see his or her face often. When the relationship ends, we feel sad that we can no longer see the face of the loved one. When we become interested in someone, we find that person’s face beautiful because our affectionate feelings rearrange the features of the person’s face.
There is a mental disorder related to one’s self-image. Called body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), it is spreading widely these days. People with BDD believe that their faces or bodies are hideous, so much so that they become depressed and obsess about plastic surgery. In some cases, they hurt themselves and become suicidal. People with this disorder may obsessively check mirrors or avoid places with many mirrors, such as restaurants.
A Korean television station recently broadcast a story about a Korean middle-aged woman who performed cosmetic surgery on herself. Due to numerous injections, her face has become three times larger than normal. She is suspected to have BDD. Michael Jackson also seems to have BDD because he has had more than 30 cosmetic surgery procedures and reportedly does not remove his make-up even before going to bed.
Everyone has the potential to suffer BDD because we all have one or two things about our faces we are not satisfied with. Some 5 million Americans ― 2 percent of the country ― are estimated to have this disorder. Direct causes of BDD are not known yet but it seems clear why the number of people with BDD is surging: The media distributes unrealistic images of beauty and the body.
I wonder if it is true that the body has been liberated from the spirit in the post-modern society. Instead, it seems that the body is becoming hostage to a standardized image.
*The writer is a culture and sports desk writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Yang Sung-hee