Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Channel 4 documentary: Bleach, Nip, Tuck: The White Beauty Myth

Just finished watching this documentary about three people who were going through surgery just to look more European. It was interesting but I find it very misleading.

What's worse is they used Michael Jackson as an example of what everyone's trying to achieve through surgery is just taking things too extreme. And to say that the 'whole world is going through race changing surgery' is a total exaggeration. If non-whites are going under the knife to change their race then does that mean Northern Europeans are doing the same thing when they are getting their skin tanned or dying their hair a darker colour? Obviously it's not as simple as the documentary made out to be.

Though it doesn't mean the documentary is totally false in that respect, the three people featured on the show do seem to envy white beauty. But I think the Bangladeshi lady who's trying to whiten her skin doesn't even fall into this reasoning. She just wants to fit in with the rest of her family and community, although she said Michael Jackson's skin colour is the ideal colour, but she didn't say she wants to look like a white person. That's the difference. There's the Malaysian guy who wants operation just to make himself taller so he could fit in with the average height of Europeans, but it doesn't mean he wants to look white or have a 'Northern European body' (whatever that means). Just because some people wants to improve his or her physical characteristics doesn't mean everyone are intentionally complying with the western beauty. Consider some of these features by coincidence are also sought after in other cultures and are also found in other races.

It's sad that people like the South Korean surgeon are buying into the notion that certain features are strictly attributed to a certain race and if they're doing something to change their facial feature means they are 'deracialising' themselves. Basically it's saying people from the same race all fit into a neat category with little diversity or exceptions in physical characteristics. That's the danger of the documentary's agenda because it reinforces these racial stereotypes. If you travel all around Asia or Africa from North to South you'll find so much diversity of looks within the population. The same applies to any other continents. Regarding with single eyelids, c'mon there are plenty of East Asians who have natural double eyelids. I'm in the middle of preparing a post about my view on eyelid surgery issue amongst Asians; I'll post that later when it's finished.

It's either the research into the topic are half arsed or maybe it's trying too hard to make the issue more controversial than what it is in order to shock the viewers, which has been the case with some Channel 4 documentaries. It's part of the season called Race: Science's Last Taboo after all. I would hardly call race the science's last taboo; it's more of a society's last taboo than anything else (I mean do science ever concern with taboos? Really it's the taboos in society that that creates controversy in scientific research, not the other way round). I think the whole problem with this documentary is not only it failed to address the issue properly, it is also very misinforming and demeaning.

1 comment:

  1. I completely 100% agree with you- I'm looking for something new to add but you really have stolen the words out of my mouth. The people they use on the show are either radical examples you would never see in reality or people who don't even want to be white but just want plastic surgery. Most non-white people will find the people trying to be white laughable rather than actually relate to them. What the documentary should really be called is "Plastic Surgery: The Last Taboo" because of the way it demonizes the practice, despite the fact that most people get it for sensible reasons and are not certifiable attention seekers.

    The documentary's insinuation that the world is becoming more racially homogenous because we're all getting plastic surgery to look white is completely ridiculous. What is interesting to note is that the world IS becoming racially homogenous, but through racial mixing instead. The strict categories of race are already being torn down and redefined as fewer "pure" races remain, yet the documentary insists on grouping people by race and assuming body features based on it.

    In the words of Morgan Freeman, if you want to stop racism then just stop talking about it. This documentary has probably done more harm than good.