A woman is more authentic the more she looks like what she has dreamed for herself. The transvestite Agrado in the film
Todo sobre mi madre (1999) by Pedro Almodóvar
According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), nearly 11.5 million cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures were performed in the United States in 2006. Since 1997, the overall number of procedures had increased 446 percent.1 The demand for cosmetic surgery products has been growing roughly 11.2 percent yearly, reaching a market size of $2 billion by the end of 2007—driven mostly by new product approvals, favorable cultural and demographic trends, and improved technology.2 The sensational character of these statistics could be extended ad infinitum when reading the details published by the ASAPS.
We could highlight the fact that patients have been undergoing cosmetic surgery procedures at increasingly young ages; take, for instance, the fact that in 2006, 16,477 rhinoplasties, 7,915 Botox injections, and 5,423 Hylaform/Restylane injections were performed in the United States on adolescents. Or, if we want to analyze the data in terms of gender dynamics, we might note that while the most popular invasive procedure for women in 2006 was breast augmentation, [End Page 1] followed by eyelid surgery and abdominoplasty, men—who had only 8% of the total 11.5 million procedures done—underwent mostly liposuction, eyelid surgery, and rhinoplasty. The most popular noninvasive procedure for men and women in 2006 was Botox injections (3,181,592 procedures), and the most popular invasive procedure was liposuction (403,684 procedures).
But what is really of interest in the context of this special issue on the reality TV makeover phenomenon is the impact that these shows (starting in 2002 with ABC’s Extreme Makeover, followed in 2003 by FX’s Nip and Tuck, and in 2004 by FOX’s The Swan, E! channel’s Dr. 90210, and MTV’s I Want a Famous Face) have had on the overall consumption of cosmetic surgeries. The data speak volumes. In 2003, overall cosmetic procedures were at 8.3 million, with an increase of 12% in surgical procedures and 22% in nonsurgical procedures from the previous year. The year 2004, however, which is also the peak of the makeover show genre, featured a 44% increase, totaling 11.9 million procedures, with surgical procedures, increased by 17% and nonsurgical by 51%! ASAPS President Peter Fodor attributes this growth to media coverage, including the dramatic increase in surgery shows:
I believe at least some of this upward trend may be attributable to increased media coverage of plastic surgery in 2004. . . . People have had many more opportunities to see, first hand, what plastic surgery is like and what it can do for others. That can be a strong incentive for them to seek the same benefits by having cosmetic procedures themselves.3
In 2005 and 2006, however, surgical and nonsurgical procedures increased by only 1% (in 2005, nonsurgical procedures even declined by 4%, to 9.3 million), and they have remained stabilized at 11.5 million per year since then. To give a practical example of this market movement: rhinoplasty for men increased from 38,989 procedures in 2004 to 45,945 in 2005, but decreased to 33,143 in 2006. In other words, the heyday has been reached. We are now facing the age of a normalized, slowly progressing growth in cosmetic procedures. This collection of papers aims to trace—with the help of authors who are true forerunners in the fields of cultural and literary theory, philosophy, sociology, and clinical psychology—the nature of this upheaval and its connection to our culture
Nielsen Media Research indicates that 56% of all of American TV shows today are reality television programs, and that about 69% of [End Page 2] TV programming worldwide (cable and broadcast) is devoted to reality television.4 Within the spectrum of reality TV, there are documentary-style shows, in which ordinary people are followed into their daily lives, as in Family Plots; docu-soaps starring celebrities, such as Britney Cam with Britney Spears; talent searches, in which ordinary people try to...