The Awful Truth: Plastic surgery erases your face AND your soul!

Plastic surgery leaves a hole in the soul.

Published January 27, 1998 6:23PM (EST)

Whenever I go to parties these days, after we get done with Penisgate, everybody is talking about the same three things, all of them involving plastic surgery.

The first is a rumor, stoked by popular supermarket literature, that the tip of Michael Jackson's nose is dead and probably needs to be amputated. Michael, the biggest problem star of the last decade, has made the astonishing transformation in his lifetime from divine child prodigy to internationally beloved black pop entertainer to warped hermit of the white persuasion. The tip of his nose, however, isn't so lucky. It is apparently black and blue all the time because the blood in it no longer circulates.

My cohorts and I all have different theories on this. My favorite (and my personal belief) is that the media, in its slowly-inuring-us-to-the-fact-that-UFOs-are-real style, is trying to gently break the public in to the fact that Michael actually has ALREADY had his nose amputated. According to a Hollywood makeup artist a friend of mine knows, at a recent filming Michael was dancing in his whippy-snappy military trademark style, and during a quick toss of the head, his nose actually FLEW OFF. It was recovered by a prop guy and returned to the mortified owner, who clicked it back on his face and sprinted back to makeup to re-spackle the seam. The nose is apparently an expensive latex job with metallic bars on either side that plug into the magnetic strips implanted in his empty nose-hole. This is the reason why Michael's face is always completely painted: He no longer has anything natural going on, nose-wise, at all.

Another idea, which all of my friends have independently formulated and which is chilling osmotically through the Zeitgeist like an ill wind, is that Michael is not going to live very long, particularly in his disgraced Short-Eyes state. He is like Wat, the no-nosed man who lived in the woods in the King Arthur legend. The nose serves as a filter for all human beings, and since Michael dismissed his nose, he is in danger of microscopic particulates flying directly into his brain and causing instant death. Everybody seems to think that Michael is going to die soon.

I even had a mystical experience in which I had a vision of his autopsy photo, the future most highly bootlegged piece of tragic kitsch in the whole lexicon of tasteless star-death souvenirs. Jesus! Everyone will be horrifically curious as to what he looks like under all those belts, those buttered seaweed curls, the white enamel and tubing. With my autopsy vision came my most terrible and elaborate Jackson prediction. Back in the '70s, when a TV show started losing ratings, something terrible would always happen to one of the cast members to curry audience sympathy. Laura Ingalls Wilder's sister went blind late in "Little House in the Prairie"; Maude had a cancer scare or something; didn't Bonnie Franklin get hepatitis? Michael Jackson, I am sad to relate, will soon lapse into a freak-accident related coma, which will cause a burst of previously latent support for the ailing star. Thousands of fans all over the world will send him Mylar balloons and teddy bears, carnations and crayon drawings, and the entire Jackson clan (most visibly LaToya) will be at his constant bedside vigil. LaToya will selflessly beg the world to pray, on television. Then Michael will wake up! He'll want to talk to the TV cameras, but he'll be really, really strangely Book-of-Jeremiah-style religious and nobody will want to broadcast any of it. He will die a month later under weird, suspicious circumstances that nobody will ever figure out, like drowning in four inches of water in the bathtub while wearing a lifejacket.

The next subject that comes up is the Lion Lady, Jocelyn Wildenstein -- plastic surgery monster and soon-to-be-ex-wife of art magnate Alex Wildenstein. Her photo shocked the world when it appeared on the cover of New York Magazine several weeks ago. This woman, who looked like a wholesome Swiss cheerleader before the heinous nonstop cuttings and slicings started, seemed to think of her face as a canvas upon which she could execute the most frighteningly morbid annihilation of self ever seen. Evidently, she started by replacing her head with a stuffed replica of Grace Jones but decided that wasn't "feral" enough and decided to really go whole-hog, tattooing new Divine-style eyebrows in the middle of her forehead and stretching her eyes into Japanamation cobra slits. She built cheekbones by implanting two elbow pads into her face and bought herself three or four big wet mouths and had them sewn on end-to-end. Her hair, a big plasma-storm rendition of a bleach-damage afro, seemed to be the last thing on her above the neck to have any natural components remaining. She apparently wanted to look like a lion.

Her picture hurt everyone deeply in the soul. It made us all feel the same way that the little boys I grew up with who were obsessed with that Time/Life picture of the head of a charred soldier felt, but infinitely worse, because she'd paid tons of money and done it to HERSELF. At least three gay male couples I knew had the picture pinned up in their bathroom. You couldn't stop looking at it. You had to just run away with the cover of the magazine and cringe somewhere with it, alone. We'd never really seen anybody erase themselves like that before. Michael Jackson, maybe, but at least he still looked HUMAN.

Finally, the conversation turns to the morbid surgery recently undergone by Courtney Love, the poor little famous girl. Courtney, through relentless and tenacious ambition, got wonderfully famous despite the fact that she was kind of fat and homely and rotten inside: She started her career by showing us that she, like so many other millions of American girls, wasn't ever going to be a supermodel, or even pretty or even cute. She was able to sucker-punch the whole beauty myth, thrash horribly like a half-dead fish through her personal tragedy and rampant displays of public fucked-upness and still end up on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. The thing everyone is talking about now is what a tragic political disaster she has become. She killed her own magic and replaced it with sheer Hollywood emptiness. She didn't want to be a world-beating feminist rock symbol after all. She has unequivocally proven that all she ever really wanted was to be conventionally pretty. She has surgically transmogrified into anti-woman Claudia Schiffer. Instead of a loud angry girl with ideas, Courtney turned out to be a horribly vain sociopath who venally choked enough money out of the world to transform herself into a "pretty lady."

Neither Courtney's nor Jocelyn's nor Michael's ugliness was skin deep -- it was much deeper. None of them were actually "ugly" before the surgeries, but now, by negating all the natural architecture of their faces, they have somehow exposed their scarily infested inner selves in a way that their real faces would never have betrayed. None of us have ever before seen self-loathing so nakedly revealed: No pursuit of beauty has ever looked so viscerally wrong. We'll see what happens to plastic surgery junkies in the next 10 years. I have a hunch it will eventually be regarded as a bigger cry for help than slit wrists or a pill overdose. Nobody should ever think that they look that bad.

By Cintra Wilson

Cintra Wilson is a culture critic and author whose books include "A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Re-Examined as a Grotesque, Crippling Disease" and "Caligula for President: Better American Living Through Tyranny." Her new book, "Fear and Clothing: Unbuckling America's Fashion Destiny," will be published by WW Norton.

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Courtney Love Michael Jackson