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*the body
it's all about getting the missle launched: digitally recreating the body
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It seems that while Orwell has terrorized us with fears of mind control, we've let our guard down against body control. (Think pre-pubescent waifs, not Invasion of the Body Snatchers please.) Our war against Barbiesque, assembly-line parts has shifted fronts—from operation tables to disk operating systems. And so, where nature, the stairmaster, and even the knife fail, the PC reigns.

Creation no longer means one wave of the wand, and then poof! it's done. In an attempt to mirror, not only G-d's image but his act, we re-create his greatest creation, i.e., our bodies. The familiar "mind over matter" has now metamorphed into "mouse over matter/mother"—specifically in the case of "you've got your mother's hips."

We have capitulated to the media, to the fashion magazines, to our recurring nightmare of showing up naked at school. Those who denounce the trend meet a fate worse than death: they're just so uncool. Ouch!

Beauty may well be in the eye of the beholder, as the cliché goes, but when the beholder is just another epithet for the male digital retoucher then we've got a problem Houston. (I must be on a tangent, or am I? Isn't it all about getting the "missile" launched? What could be better than Viagara than a create-your-own-image-kit for the missus?) In fact, no matter how much evidence we’re supplied with, society seems to want to overlook the possibility that impotence is really a biological problem. In our blame culture—where we always need to point a finger—the fault still lies with women, and their utterly un-enticing “imperfections.”

We are literally torn asunder by contradiction, segmented into pieces—into a thigh, a hip, a stomach. We revere technology, but abhor its morally inept incarnations. We admire the advancements—air-brushing, retouching, digital insertions—but dread the ramifications. And with good reason. Our longing to be Pygmalion’s statue—recreated under his artistic hands—results in self-annihilation. We lose the self, our defining attributes, through fragmentation—through picking apart our parts.

So while I ponder on those intimidating, towering, toy models—who, as it turns out, made a Faustian pact not only with the devil but with the digital imaging studio—I can’t help but think of Kant. As one of the forefathers of the theory of aesthetics, he claimed that beauty can be identified because of the immediate pleasure that it instills in us. If that sense of pleasure is in any way linked with self-hatred, teen eating disorders, and an outright denial of the natural world, then we must all be on the right track.

We’ve seen class action suites against tobacco companies, and now firearms manufacturers, to recoup the health-care costs related to the effects of using tobacco and guns. Should the fashion industry be hit with a suite for the role they’ve played, through advertising, in the rise of eating disorders? Discuss Here

Copyright © 1999 Daphne Blum All Rights Reserved

I'm currently teaching English Literature at Florida International University while finishing up a Master's Degree. But my love is www.infiniterace.com where, as editor, I become utterly involved with, often attached to, the writing and art submissions we receive

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