Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Is all this plastic surgery about demons within?

In the 1989 movie Batman, Jack Nicholson's Joker tricks Gotham City by making its public figures look like him, with grotesque upturned mouths, bleached and oddly fattened faces.

At the time, this was a shocking practical joke and was featured in Vanity Fair as a playful, creepy teaser for the film.

The intrepid National Enquirer, abandoning beach cellulite and loose bellies for the interim, last week published a series of "PLASTIC SURGERY SHOCKERS" that gives evidence, page after page, of the Joker's future being now.

We all know too well the freaks of surgery.

There is Cher, who was on the knife vanguard decades ago, and her taut mask; Michael Jackson's pathological makeover, which has resulted in his looking as if he should be carrying a warning sign ("People with heart disorders, and pregnant ladies are advised not to gaze upon the face of horror!); and socialite Jocelyn Wildenstein, the Cat Woman who looks like a stray monster on kitty death row.

But what of the allegedly normal stars, who have taken up the many splendours cosmetic surgery has to offer?

A fan of surgery and injectables, I am still startled by stars with enough money to achieve glam perfection who wind up looking like deformed incubi and succubi. Is this kind of surgery the new expression of those "demons" that celebrities always allude to during in-depth interviews? I have never read an interview with even the mildest Hollywood transgressor who has not mentioned such devils and always wonder what gives them the audacity to evoke bleak, killing creatures who haunt civilians to murder, suicide and worse.

I blame Method Acting, a school of thought that lends credence to the idea that everyone is plagued by internal torture, torture that, when summoned, lends heft to roles in films such as Saving Private Ryan or Forrest Gump.

The fact of the matter is that while we have all experienced pain in our lives, true, nauseous agony remains the purview of the ill, people who are so damaged they could not audition for a voice-over ad for Bistro Express, let alone a major motion picture.

Authentically mad people are not capable of the high level of function involved in trying out for "Badass Cop 3" on Law & Order, yet actors have long delighted in fabricating a past and present that support their psychic otherness, usually manifest in the form of their playing a disco coke dealer, or super-angry parent, or angrier transgender hula-hoop contestant.

If the idea of injecting toxins in one's face was once shocking, so was the notion of simply being photogenically blessed and beautifully vain, dumb and smart enough to do whatever was necessary to land the part that created award buzz. In the now-distant past, stars did not credit their performances to abuse, neglect or a wicked-bad time living in pool-less hovels. These great stars also never pretended that they were losers in high school because they were so tall and pretty ("I was called Skinny-Ass! And that hurt!). In the past, many of these stars had genuinely suffered, something they took great pains to hide, as the road to fame was littered with personal disgraces, as in the infamous "casting couch," that they were desperate to leave behind like so much vulgar baggage.

It is popular now to admit to one's usually fraudulent hard times. Soul-destroyingly beautiful stars will tell you that they felt really awkward as youths; that their radiant beauty is somehow an accident of their viewer's discerning nature. Not so long ago, supermodel and actress Paulina Porizkova was on Late Night with David Letterman, openly mocking her derisive childhood friends she left behind in Czechoslovakia as "potato peelers," secure in her knowledge that she was goddess enough to transcend her past.

Now, stars embrace these dubious psychological injuries with causes as fatuous as "I had freckles!" or "I wore plaid," and much of their seeming addiction to plastic surgery confirms not only the desperation stars feel to stay young and beautiful - even Paul Newman was not immune to this and grew to detest what were, for all intents and purposes, his crumbling looks - but also their deeper-rooted desire to assert their tragic difference.

Yes, some stars have surgery for normal reasons and that is awesome: How else can a 45-year-old Demi Moore hang onto a man more suited for her daughters?

Others, however, seem to making a statement with their surgeries. For example, dead-but-for-the-burying Lara Flynn Boyle, who has long prided herself for a radical thin chic that actually worked, even if it made one wince, has made a fatso of her face as if to say: Jack Nicholson! Bring me to a Lakers game now! Madonna, in the midst of her midlife crisis, has skinned herself to a skeleton while, through a variety of injectables, making an obese mockery of her own face: One is tempted to call this more of her shape-shifting, when it feels, more genuinely, like a cry for help, and for yet another Latino sports star who loves her deep down.

Donatella Versace, on the other hand, is a muffled scream for help: Her face now resembles the bloated corpse-head of a woman left to decompose in her squalor. Similarly, and very sadly, Heather Locklear, always a trashy beauty, is a creature I like to call a "Puffalope:" all rack and bone and chubby, inflated, false-joyous head.

The Enquirer presents this macabre gallery of surgical changelings without comment, and readers are left to speculate about the region beyond vanity; that is, the subcutaneous reasons behind profound and disquieting transformation.

We must speculate, also, if these same stars are seeing through the naive eyes of The Graduate's Benjamin Braddock and observing, terribly, "I see opportunity in plastic."


7 days, 5 things

1. Now it's Angelina's turn to cry

Always an answer song, Jennifer Aniston, still riding in the slipstream of her ex-husband's now-ancient betrayal and currently dating the sexually suspect John Meyer (professional hairdo and Perez Hilton kisser), is on the cover of the Star this week, beside the headline "Now It's My Turn!" For what? On the bright side, Hairdo is said to be obsessed with Aniston's first major film role in Leprechaun (1993), which he screens daily, to her consternation.

2. A novel with a key and a crowbar

In her new roman à clef, American Wife, Prep author Curtis Sittenfeld abandons her obsession with "Kissing and Kissing" rich boys and (as in Jackie Susann's Dolores, a scarcely veiled portrait of Jackie O) creates a thinly disguised portrait of Laura Bush. "You gave him power," one excerpt in the heroine's voice reads. Pretty soon, you won't have Bush to kick around any more.

3. YouTube week

Watching "Christian the Lion," set to a variety of tear-jerking songs, and reels of the late, great Bernie Mac riffing on his inherited (from his sister) satanic children are the pop highlights of the week.

4. I swear she felt like a very late swim!

Robert Wagner has completed his memoirs, Pieces of My Heart, and an excerpt about his wife Natalie Wood's extremely suspicious death by drowning in 1981 has been published. Notoriously terrified of water and having, as a guest on the yacht The Splendor, her apparent lover Chris Walken, Wood is still said to have decided to play with a dinghy in the middle of the night while her husband and sweetheart duked it out. Did she also scream, "You're tearing me apart!" as she made her last rebellious, fishy dive?

5. Michael Jackson was not credited for the same bold fashion move

In the new Vanity Fair's International Best Dressed List, in addition to such crazed admissions as Fran Lebowitz and Morley Safer, Julian Schnabel makes an appearance in the following atrocity: "Dark-purple pyjamas with white piping," sneakers and a billowing overcoat "typically cinched ... with a multicoloured scarf."L.C.

1 comment:

  1. I think when someone is diagnosed with a terrible illness, they, and their family also, quickly realize that there simply is no time to waste on being sad. That they need to allocate all of their time to enjoying life and each other and to fighting the disease.
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