The Ugliness Behind Cosmetic Surgery Endorsement

by Dragoneye on April 21, 2017 - 1:57pm

       In February, the Korean girl group Six Bomb has revealed their teaser image for their music video "Becoming Prettier Before” (“Becoming Prettier Before”). The image shows the four young women wrapped in colorful bandages while their new faces, which have cost 100 million KRW or $88,000 to their management company, are revealed in the music video “Becoming Prettier After” (“Mathew”). By openly promoting cosmetic surgery, the girl group has attracted immense attention from viewers around the world who are either concerned about the ethics surrounding cosmetic surgery or are agreeing with Six Bomb’s choice of endorsing cosmetic surgery. Advertising plastic surgery is unethical in the entertainment industry; in spite of virtuous intentions from the girl group, the utilitarian ethics and ethical rationalism would suggest that advertisement of cosmetic surgery should be prohibited in the entertainment media.  

       Six Bomb uses mainly virtue ethics to defend their choice of promoting plastic surgery. The leader and singer of the group Dain has told AFP, a French global news agency, that she “wanted to be open about this reality where many women want to look pretty” (qtd. in “K-Pop band Six Bomb…”). Therefore, she uses virtue ethics by pushing forward the virtues of open-mindedness and courage by declaring publicly that she has altered her face. By endorsing plastic surgery, Six Bomb uses their freedom of expression as artists to help erase the stigma surrounding cosmetic surgery. The four members of the girl group promote freedom of choice and they encourage women  to go through a surgical cosmetic procedure in spite of  the possibility of facing intolerance and being associated to the stereotypes of being self-absorbed and vain. The singer also claims that she is now “proud of how good [she] look[s] on TV screens” (qtd. in “Rees”). Indeed, cosmetic surgery can boost people’s self-esteem by improving their body image. Some also argue that cosmetic surgery is no different from applying make-up or grooming while plastic surgery may help people to achieve their personal goals and to facilitate their professional development.

       However, the utilitarian framework suggests that cosmetic surgery advertisements in South Korea bring pain to individuals who refuse to conform to ideals of beauty while it creates only low-quality pleasures for those who undergo the surgery. The pervasive presence of cosmetic surgery advertisements in South Korea lead to beauty becoming an essential qualification to get a good job as “unbeautiful women are seen as lazy and as incapable” (Lee 17).  Since only cosmetic patients and beautiful women are seen as competent, cosmetic surgery undermines women’s agency by defining their worth on their physical appearance rather than their skills and effort. Importance is then put not on improving intellectual skills which are higher-quality pleasures, but rather on improving superficial beauty, which is a low-quality pleasure leading to racial fetishism of Asian people and to the sexualization of women’s bodies.  Because these women are “bound by deeply rooted neo-Confucian values” which lead the Korean society to favour patriarchy values, Korean women are encouraged to undergo cosmetic surgery in order to succeed in marriage and on the labour market (Karupiah 12).  Therefore, cosmetic surgery advertisement diminish women’s agency by coercing them to follow societal norms of beauty. Cosmetic surgery then becomes not the product of free choice, but an imperative necessity in order to succeed in life and to be accepted by society. In fact, a 2009 survey claims that one in five women in South Korea aged between nineteen and forty-nine have remade their faces (“Cochrane”). Women who do not conform to the ideals of beauty will be stigmatized. Plastic surgery’s advertisement also encourages unhealthy lifestyle as people may feel that diet and exercise are unnecessary when they can get the ideal body with more easy means like liposuction. It also leads to a “racialized uniformity defined by a singular national beauty aesthetic across diverse Korean women’s faces” (Lee 2). However, the desire of men and women to conform to the Korean beauty standards of smooth and white skin, double-eyelid, straight nose and V-shaped face may encourage them to be more submissive to oppression. The attempts to conform to ideal standards of beauty then lead to deindividuation and to an increase of society's openness for authoritarianism.

       Furthermore, by taking a deontological approach, the promotion of cosmetic surgery or cosmetic surgery on itself are undeniably not categorical imperative. However, more and more celebrities in South Korea openly reveal that they have had cosmetic procedures, as their past pictures are leaked, which leads to more acceptance about cosmetic surgery among the population (“Sang-Hun”). The universal law of truth-telling is particularly important when it comes to advertisement as they often refer to exaggeration or even blatant lies in order to attract potential customers. The surgery procedures in advertisements and in Six Bomb’s teaser image are misleading as they are depicted as painless, easy, fun and with guaranteed satisfactory results as the teaser image for the music video “Becoming Prettier Before” suggests.  Moreover, the advertisement of plastic surgery in the Korean entertainment media is a global issue since one third of the South Korean plastic surgery industry’s clients are tourists from other countries and Korea Consumer Agency claims that a third of cosmetic patients are not happy with the results (“Marx”). Finally, the four members of Six Bomb, in spite of being willing actors, are used as means to the end of making profits by catching attention with their new faces and their bold claims.

       Ultimately, endorsing cosmetic surgery is not ethical although Six Bomb may have the virtuous motive of giving representation to the women who feel ashamed of their cosmetic procedures or to women who want to undergo surgical procedures, but are too afraid of society's shaming them. Looking at outcomes and the universal law of truth-telling is more important since the advertisements lead women to being solely defined on their beauty which affects their professional and personal life and since advertisements often describe plastic surgery as able to fulfill unrealistic expectations. As the Korean pop culture transcends geographical boundaries, Six Bomb and other entertainment artists have the responsibility as public figures to prevent the limitations on the agency of women and to verify that their endorsement of cosmetic surgery is truthful and accurate.

 

Works Cited

Becoming Prettier Before. Six Bomb, 6 Feb. 2017. Advertisement.

Cochrane, Kira. “Ji Yeo: Dispatches from Cosmetic Surgery's Frontline.The Guardian, 18 Mar.2014, https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/womens-blog/2014/mar/18/ji-yeo-....

Karupiah, Premalatha. " Modification of the Body: a Comparative Analysis of Views of Youths in Penang, Malaysia and Seoul, South Korea." Journal of Youth Studies, vol. 16, no. 1, 2013, pp. 1-16. EBESCOhost, doi: 10.1080/13676261.2012.693588.

“K-Pop band Six Bomb 'celebrate' plastic surgery with before and after videos.BBC, 17 Mar. 2017, http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/39302637/k-pop-band-six-bomb-celeb....

Lee, Sharon Heijin. "Beauty Between Empires." Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, vol. 37, issue 1, 2016, pp. 1-31. EBESCOhost, http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=cookie,ip,ur....

Marx, Patricia. “About Face.The New Yorker, 23 Mar.2015, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/03/23/about-face.

Mathew, Ilin. “Watch: Six Bomb Members 'Becoming Prettier' by Going Under the Knife in New Music Video.International Business Times, 17 Mar.2017,  http://www.ibtimes.co.in/watch-six-bomb-members-becoming-prettier-by-goi....

Rees, Alex. “This K-Pop Girl Group Made Music Videos Documenting Their Cosmetic Surgeries.Cosmopolitan, 17 Mar.2017, http://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/music/a9147643/k-pop-cosmetic-....

Sang-Hun, Choe. “In South Korea, Plastic Surgery Comes Out of the Closet.The New York Times, 3 Nov.2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/04/world/asia/in-south-korea-plastic-surg....

Comments

This is a really well written text with many good points!

Women must be physically attractive in South Korea in order to have a successful marriage and to be proven worthy in the job market, and if they are not, they are encouraged to get plastic surgery. This promotes the idea that women are treated like objects that should be used for men's pleasure in our patriarchal society. Nowadays, there is something known as double consciousness in which it is used to describe a minority individual who is a part of two cultures and having two identities, but constantly shifting between the two. For instance, plastic surgery is very common in South Korea to the point where 1 in 5 women will have cosmetic surgery as you mentioned. They must contend with the stereotypes that are created with being an East Asian individual as well as being a woman which includes having the perfect body. They are also being labeled as the model minority which many believe to be a positive stereotype. However, men and women are actually being subjected to an overwhelming pressure to conform to the high expectations. In different parts of the world, women and men alike will face many struggles that come with their double consciousness. For instance, black men are expected to conform to man box as well as the stereotypes that exist like hypersexual, violent or criminal which puts them at a disadvantage. This gives them a unique experience as they are in a position that intersects privilege and marginalization.

Have a look at this article that further discusses the issue of double consciousness: http://saalt.org/double-consciousness-of-the-south-asian-identity/