Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Beauty in the Eye of the Surgeon

"A plastic surgeon has published a composite image of the ideal male Korean face. Rhee Seung-chul, the head of plastic surgery at Hanil General Hospital, made the image from the faces of 16 Korean Wave stars. Rhee had earlier done the same thing for women by making a composite image of 19 female stars."

Apparently, this computer-generated man to my left here is Korean male perfection in a nutshell. Personally, I think he looks a bit too effeminate but then so do most Korean male movie stars, IMHO.

I remember when I first saw "My Sassy Girl" when I was 10 or 11 years old; it was my first time watching Korean cinema. ---->

It was during my "Quest for Identity" stage where I was obsessed with buying Asian babydolls, Asian clothes, and random Korean commodities like some crazy American tourist. (which I guess, essentially, I am) So it was only fitting that I would be wanting of some sort of solid cultural evidence of the Korea that I had grown to love through picture books, tourists' pamphlets, and those bags of Shrimp Chips (I can't get enough of those things!) with the little dancing pink shrimp illustrated on the front that I would buy in bulk at Lotte.

So what kind of awesome cultural experience would I have while watching a movie that I envisioned thousands and thousands of my fellow Korean peers rushing to the movie theaters to see? The credits began to roll, and the title flashed across the screen.

Then a close-up of a pale Asian face comes into the camera view, and they zoom out. I notice how flat her face looks, how high her cheekbones are, how pale her face looks, how wide her eyes appear, and how thin her lips seem. Is this the image of utter beauty in Korea?

Another scene, I am patient. Here comes the dude. His face is fuller, but still flat, he has thin lips as well but his skin color seems to have a bit more pigment. His eyes are just as big as hers...but the way he presents himself is sort of feminine, and submissive. Is this the image of the perfect male in Korea?

I know that America isn't perfect. We have our own visions of beauty, and what is desirable and what isn't. We have coke-addicted models who starve themselves and live half their lives in toilet rooms, and we have rockstars who tattoo their bodies from head to toe and then go shoot some crack in the back corner to stay "heavy rock thin". But for some reason, these two characters that were presented to me in "My Sassy Girl" made it seem like they were more like cartoons than they were people.

But alas, at 10, I was young, foolish, and impressionable. I suddenly saw this picture of a seemingly "gorgeous, perfect" Korean woman and wanted nothing more than to be her. I started going to the Korean beauty parlor down the street, wanting long black hair, extra straight. I wanted to have pale skin like all of my other friends did (but was too chicken-sh-t to buy the bleaching lotion at the Lotte beauty counter) and would hide for hours from the summer sun because I tanned too easily. I wanted wider eyes (and alas, I have to admit, I still to this day kind of wish that I still did have sangkapul...) so I would allow my Joann-unni to tape my eyelids with cosmetic tape to create the 'illusion' that I had a second fold before church service started.

I look back at those days and think of how silly I was. And how comfortable I am finally in the skin that I am in now. It took me forever... and I think I am still learning to accept things - because there will always be obstacles in life where you're faced to question what you believe in yourself, and how you view yourself. Especially for the first half of this year, for me.

I hope that this next younger Korean generation will not be so easily swayed by this ridiculousness. Computer-generated people are not REAL people. They are mounds and mounds of Botox injections. They are threads and threads of mini stitches in their faces, their chins, their necks, their stomachs. They are artificial in every sense of the word.

And eventually, the more plastic you become on the outside - the more plastic you're bound to become on the inside.

1 comment:

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