What would Baudrillard say about plastic surgery?

19 Sep

In “Clone Story,” part of Simulacra and Simulation, Baudrillard suggests the death of the aura Benjamin described in art is also happening to our bodies. With the discovery of the genetic code, the body becomes a message, able to be “serially reproduced” just like other media. The idea of the body as an individual is gone.

“We are in the age of soft technologies — genetic and mental software,” Baudrillard says. He likens this development to cancer, as the metastasis of a core formula. The body has been industrialized, just like everything else.

Baudrillard argues that tanning and psychotropic drugs serve as technological augmentations of the body: we do things to our bodies to change their states. Another prosthesis in that list would have to be plastic surgery. Women, especially, who get plastic surgery are converging their appearance with the familiar “plastic surgery look.” The simulation is interiorized, destroying the nose, boobs, lips, cheekbones, torso that were there first. We can control the messages of our bodies.

Still, those who opt to get “work done” wouldn’t see their efforts perpetuated in clones of themselves. Deviations from the “immaculate image” would be restored, at least until we learn how to make those changes genetically. By then, if that ever happens, we’ll have truly reached “the end of the body.” No penetration of anything will be taking place, and even the simulation of bodies might disappear. Clones may have triggered “the last stage of the history and modeling of the body,” as Baudrillard says, but there seems to be more to “the last stage” than that. Beyond cloning, I think plastic surgery hints at other genetic prostheses with equally far-reaching implications for our current understanding of bodies.

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