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TitleAnthony Elliott Making the Cut
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Total Pages157
Table of Contents
1: Drastic Plastic: The Rise of Cosmetic Surgical Culture
2: Celebrity Obsession: Fame, Fortune and Faking It
3: Want-Now Consumerism: Immediate Transformation, Instant Obsolescence
4: Making the Cut: Cosmetic Surgical Culture in the Global Electronic Economy
Photo Acknowledgements
Document Text Contents
Page 1

Making the Cut
How Cosmetic Surgery is
Transforming our Lives

Anthony Elliott

Page 78

altered are subject to such readings. We read, too, for bodies
that might have been transfigured, or for future possibili-
ties of surgical alteration. For example, in 2006 – after much
media speculation – pop diva Madonna admitted she had
been thinking about visiting a plastic surgeon in an attempt
to reverse the biological clock. ‘I think about it like every-
body’, Madonna told Britain’s Daily Mirror, ‘and I don’t
rule it out’.23 Close attention had been paid to the star’s
body throughout the media in the aftermath of the release
of her album Confessions on a Dancefloor, in which the 47-
year-old Madonna displayed her athletic body in several
videos, prompting some media commentators to note that
many women half the superstar’s age could only dream of
attaining such a gorgeous look. A frenetic chronicling of
Madonna’s lifestyle ensued, with media monitoring of all
aspects of her lifestyle – from her three-hour daily exercise
regime to her high-fibre and low-fat vegetarian diet. But,
still, speculation was rife that she might have undergone
the surgeon’s knife. Images were carefully screened, photos
appraised and interviews scrutinized. This labour of cultural
reading received little or no support from the superstar
herself. ‘I am not going to hold a press conference if I have
plastic surgery’, she commented. But this only added fuel
to the media fire.

The debate about the everyday reading of celebrity and
its plastic world of self-reinvention is as much about the
economy as about culture. John Gray claims that ‘the cult of
celebrity has become one of the chief drivers of the econo-
my’.24 This is no doubt true of celebrity marketing and
media hype surrounding designer clothes and mobile
phones, but it is also increasingly so as regards particular
economies of self-improvement and self-enhancement. As
Gray develops the point:

In an economy driven by the need to manufacture
demand, fame sells everything else. This is most pal-


Page 79

pably true when anyone can be famous. What is novel
about the entertainment economy is that it holds out
the prize of fame to everyone. In the past, luxury goods
were sold to the masses by linking them with the
lifestyles of the famous. Today, it is the belief that any-
one can be famous that sustains mass consumption.
Celebrity has been made into a sort of People’s Lottery,
whereby the majority of people are reconciled to the
tedium of their daily lives.

Indeed, this is more or less the opinion of everyone nowa-
days according to Gray: ‘economic growth is sustained by
the popular belief that we can all be winners in the lottery
of fame’. To see the urge to fame as bound up with adopt-
ing the lifestyles of the celebrated is to acknowledge the
triumph of cosmetic surgical culture. But cosmetic surgical
culture, like other such ideologies of instant self-transfor-
mation, not only scoops up the world of celebrity. It is also
anchored in the whole new capitalist system, to which
Gray rightly draws our attention. An adequate account of
cosmetic surgical culture needs to take into consideration
such crucial links between the new economy, consumption
and consumption patterns, a topic to which we may now


Page 156


I’d like to thank Vivian Constantinopoulos of Reaktion Books.
Special thanks to colleagues and friends with whom I’ve discussed aspects
of this book, especially Anthony Moran, Gerhard Boomgaarden, Paul du
Gay, Fiore Inglese, Alison Assiter, Paul Hoggett, Kriss McKie, Deborah
Maxwell and Jem Thomas. I’d especially like to thank Nicola Geraghty –
along with Caoimhe, Oscar and Niamh – for the many ways in which
they supported the work, urging me to say what I had to say to the widest
possible audience, and above all to get the book finished. Against the
backdrop of moving from Bristol to Canterbury to Adelaide, this might
have been considered something of a tall order – but with their emotional
support and love, it seemed easy.

Page 157


The author and publishers wish to express their thanks to the following
source of illustrative material and permission to reproduce it:

Photos courtesy Rex Features: pp. 14 (Bernadete Lou/Rex Features,
374546M), 48 (Stewart Cook/Rex Features, 617511AI), 78 (Fotex/Rex
Features, 701598A), 108 (Image Source/Rex Features, 509569A).

Photo Acknowledgements

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