About two weeks ago, Melanie Martinez released her music video for “Mrs. Potato Head”. It’s an alternative synth jam against the evils of plastic surgery. It’s already racked up over 12 million views on youtube. Critics have called the song “a revelation on plastic surgery and the need for torturous beauty” (x). To preface all of this: I love Melanie Martinez. She’s a genius! I also think that the visual and musical elements that make up her work on that song were well-intentioned. Preaching that your fans are beautiful and worthy of love is great! However, the video and the fact that so many are hailing it as exactly what we need to be saying about plastic surgery shows how we’re painting a portrait of plastic surgery that does not exist.
I had hated my nose since I was about 12 years old (I say “had hated”, because I no longer have that nose on my face). It was large, humped, and hooked when I smiled. In short, it just didn’t fit my face; almost like the rest of my features were logically chosen in a Sims generator and finished with a randomized nose. When I met people for the first time, I felt like my nose greeted them before I did. Call it shallow and topical, but my nose was detrimental to my confidence. It wasn’t until about 15 that I realized that plastic surgery wasn’t just for the exceptionally rich and self-involved like I had been led to believe. “Regular people” had their facial features augmented, too. Then, in my senior year, I received a full ride to a great university. What I previously thought would be financially impossible during these years could now be a reality. And so, after countless hours of researching surgeons and a great consultation, I decided to go through with it right before I left for college.
To answer the questions you’re probably asking right now: Yes, it did cost some money. No, it wasn’t that painful, Yes, there is a tiny scar (which no one has noticed without it being pointed out to them). Yes, I am VERY happy with it. If you’re ever in the Indianapolis area, you might see me give a testimonial in my surgeon’s local TV ad, so I’m clearly pretty open about this. This surgery dramatically changed how I felt in my interactions. I felt like my personality and thoughts came through before my face did. It’s truly difficult to explain how much happier and more confident I am to someone who hasn’t also undergone rhinoplasty or another procedure like this.
When I told my friends that I would be going through with this, I got a wide spectrum of responses. Some were supportive! Many were confused and a bit angry that I thought this was a good idea. The knee-jerk reaction to hearing the term “plastic surgery” is to conjure up images of vain, petty rich girls and botched before and after shots. I understand where this comes from. In “Mrs. Potato Head”, a woman’s boyfriend pays for her to get heavy facial plastic surgery. The results aren’t what he wanted, so he seeks out a new girlfriend and leaves her behind, now forever marked by him. In the background, Martinez sings, “Mr. Potato Head, tell me/How did you afford this surgery?/Do you swear you’ll stay forever/Even if her face doesn’t stay together”. She’s not the first to put these thoughts into the world, nonetheless, she adds to the idea that women pursue plastic surgery for the sole purpose of becoming more desirable to men. This concept is so socially ingrained in us that it took me a while to unlearn. First, plastic surgery isn’t always aesthetic: some people have their lives changed by septum corrections that suddenly allow them to breathe properly for the first time. Second, plastic surgery is only to be performed on patients with a clear understanding of its outcome. Your surgeon will ask why you’re seeking out surgery. If you tell her you want to be beautiful and get more male attention, you’re not getting surgery. At its core, these procedures exist to make you happier and more confident; whatever comes from those two things is just a pleasant side effect. That’s why I’m always a little nauseated by videos like “Mrs. Potato Head” that everyone adores. It creates an image of people that seek out plastic surgery that isn’t real but causes us to look at them in a negative light.
Young starlets that get plastic surgery get degraded for not accepting “the face God gave them”. I used to laugh along with that until I started researching who pursues plastic surgery. No one scolds Jerry the 55-year-old office worker about being too vain to accept his genetic makeup when he gets a chin implant. Why do we demean women who seek these services out, but ignore men who do the same? Do we assume Jerry is spending his money just to get more attention? No, we assume he’s made the rational, deeply thought out decision to make himself happier about his look. Why don’t we give millennial women (a growing demographic of plastic surgery patients) the same respect?
By no means have I, nor will I ever, push plastic surgery. It’s a personal choice. No one “needs” it aesthetically. I’m not trying to be some pioneer against a perceived plastic surgery-phobia. However, I will aggressively defend other young women who have had it and speak openly about my experiences with it. It’s a personal choice that must be made for the right reasons. The image we’ve built up through videos like “Mrs. Potato Head” of young girls who throw away their money to chase after men is inaccurate and…just stupid. For reputable surgeons and realistic patients, it’s just not real.