On global stage, Asian beauties have been making a splash in the catwalks, Hollywood, and US mass media. Evidently, these Asian women have been judged on their attractiveness based on a Western notion of beauty. The highly touted occidental beauty norm has inevitably infiltrated not only the Asian-American community, but also Asia - mainly, Korea, China, and Southeast Asia.
In recent years, the influence of Western perceptions of beauty has been sweeping aside classical Asian ones as faces of oriental celebrities appear on the big screen and spread across the glossy magazines - with the crossbred look of East meets West. Undoubtedly, the current trend of beauty mixture in Asia is a result of the longstanding influence of Western images in movies and television, accelerated by the advent of the Internet.
To uphold the claim that beauty has a universal standard, Dr. Stephen Marquardt, a former plastic surgeon in Huntington Beach, California, believes that ideal beauty can be reduced to a facial geometry based on the Golden Ratio - "the recurring measurement in nature of 1.618 to 1 that shows up on everything from snail shells to tree leaves." He said, "People have tried to understand a beautiful face. It's an image that is mathematically quantifiable. All life is biology, all biology is chemistry, all chemistry is mathematics." The ideal feminine beauty features include wide-set eyes, high cheekbones, large eyes, full lips, clear light skin, a short nose and a relatively small lower face.
In an attempt to replace the old adage, "Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder", the notion of universal beauty is making its way around the world as the new beauty standard, being pushed by the mass media and film industry. In fact, as the film industry becomes more globalized - blending cultural and ethnic differences, fusing cinematic styles and diverse techniques, and homogenizing on-screen performances and off-screen talents - the more the audience identifies with the projected cinematic definition of beauty.
In addition, what makes possible for pursuing that ideal appearance lies in the development of techniques and technologies of cosmetic surgery. As plastic esthetic becomes more widely available and affordable, more and more women, as well as men - in pursuit of an emerging global beauty standard - are choosing to go under the knife or for the recent popularity of noninvasive surgery. Consequently, an esthetic trend of blending ethnic features into seamless, ambiguous form has been growing rapidly and transforming cultures around the world.
In Asia, cosmetic surgery not only has soared in demand but also spiraled out of control with poor safety regulations. It is alleged that the number of cosmetic operations performed in the past several years in China alone has reached millions. Many illegitimate so-called :practitioners" churned out almost as many beasts as beauties. In the past decade more than 200,000 lawsuits have been filed by patients who claim they've been victims of botched operations. The malpractice has become so widespread that the government finally decided last year to issue regulations in order to control the industry for the first time.
To grasp the explosive growth of the cosmetic surgery business, South Korea boasts more than 1,200 plastic surgeons who perform roughly half a million procedures a year (the highest per capita in the world). Interestingly, the Global research group AC Nielsen conducted a survey in 42 countries and found the following results:
- 60 percent of Americans had cosmetic surgery operations
- cosmetic surgery surged 35 percent in Britain in 2005 compared with a year earlier
Consumers would consider cosmetic surgery to maintain their looks:
- 48 percent Russians, 30 percent Irish, 28 percent Italians and Portuguese, 25 percent Americans, French and British
Recently, some experts claim that greater travel and cultural exchange among Asian countries is creating more of a Pan-Asian standard of beauty. In the spirit of the time, the attempts to imitate or look "White" are now chastised - as an affront to your racial/ethnic group by denying the physical features you were born with.
More importantly, several detrimental problems may arise when everyone could physically obtain a universal beauty standard. The concept of uniqueness and originality in looks would no longer exist - that is, cosmetic surgical procedures based on existing models are no different from producing replicas (similar to cloning).
Furthermore, the superficial "outer" beauty would undermine the "inner" beauty of a person - the development of character, strengths and virtues. This in turn would transform social mores that could certainly lead to an everlasting undesirable effect on civilizations.
On a scientific basis, altering facial and body types may change the way our brains perceive beauty. By nature, our sense of beauty served an evolutionary function to choose the best mates to procreate for the survival of our species. In other words, the course of human beauty was determined by natural selection to ensure the survival of the strong. Undoubtedly, the onslaught of cosmetic surgical alterations will definitely dull our human senses for natural selection.
In conclusion, before jumping in for a cosmetic surgery procedure, remember the old saying: "Nature knows her business better than we do." We are what we are and not pretend to be what we are not.
(First published on UniOrb.com, June 25, 2007)