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Plastic Surgery--Survival of the Fairest of All

ekim's picture

Beauty has always been a controversy in society, especially ever since the birth of media. Media’s prominence in people’s daily lives has influenced how people think and how people perceive things. In magazines, newspapers, television shows, and movies, people are exposed to what should be defined as “perfect” and “flawless” in terms of physical appearance. Celebrities are placed on these pedestals of alleged perfection. So is this definition of beauty the modernized version of “survival of the fittest”? Has “survival of the fittest” transformed into a no-longer-small-scale, non-genetic, shallow story of “survival of the fairest”? Perhaps times have changed, and it is no longer a matter of inheritance, but a matter of how to jump to the large scale of the end product: the way a human looks on a whole.

There are two types of plastic surgery: reconstructive and cosmetic (also known as aesthetic). Reconstructive plastic surgery is a more medically intended procedure that generally treats physical birth defects or the effects of a disease or an injury. For instance, in terms of defects, reconstructive plastic surgery could fix ear deformities (or what is known as deformed in today’s society); and in terms of effects of diseases or injuries, the reconstructive procedure could repair skin burns or the aftermaths of breast cancer. While reconstructive plastic surgery is more of a necessity and an urgency to “correct” a medical condition, cosmetic plastic surgery lends itself to the convenience and comfort of an individual. Thus, the latter is a question of one’s self-image and body image. For example, cosmetic plastic surgeries include the removal of “fat spots” through liposuction or the reshaping of a facial feature like one’s nose or cheekbones. (1)

Due to the differing objectives behind reconstructive and cosmetic surgery, is one type of plastics a more legitimate practice, while the other a way of cheating the system of life and evolution? Or are both plastic surgeries forms of illegitimating and transforming the concept of the “survival of the fittest”?

Whether it is reconstructive or cosmetic surgery, both forms of plastic surgery essentially repair what is not desirable, which is repairing what is unfit in society. However, by changing the outside does not change the genetics that are inside the person, which means that the less desirable genes will still be passed on to following generations. This chain of events would eventually lead to the survival of the less fit, rather than the fittest. Is the transition from the survival of the fittest to the less fit also a part of evolution? Is evolution accommodating to the needs of today’s society and its emphasis on defining physical appearances?

Even plastic surgery in and of itself can be viewed in evolutionary terms because there are successful and failed surgical attempts. The successful surgeries would be indicative of the survivors, while the failed ones end up at the bottom of the ladder of desirability. Some side effects of plastic surgery, in general, affect the skin, since both reconstructive and cosmetic plastics mostly deal with rearranging the epidermis. For instance, failed attempts at plastic surgery could have risks of inflammation and/or skin infections; or more specifically, in the case of liposuction, loss of pigmentation in the skin. (2)

Regardless of side effects, however, people have been looking to plastic surgery, particularly that of cosmetics, to seek satisfaction. In 2006, in both female and male populations, there has been an eight to nine percent increase in cosmetic surgeries in the U.S. since the year 2000. The greatest percentage increase in cosmetic surgery was Botox, from the year 2000 to the year 2006, showing a 420 percent increase. (3) This desire for youth is also another concern in the matter of evolution, since death is inevitable in the process thereof. If appearing young is a desirable trait, then what will becomes of growth development and age stages and diversity? The lack of diversity, in terms of exterior features, is detrimental to life and living, since life and living are interdependent on the interactions of differences. Thus, the desire to look young counter intuitively results in the opposite thereof, the end of life because of the lack of diversity in people’s physical features.

Additionally, within the population of cosmetic plastic surgery patients, ninety percent are female, while only a mere nine percent are male. Does this discrepancy in female versus male populations in obtaining surgery reveal that there is also gender discrimination in the evolutionary process itself? Is it harder for females to be the survivor than it is for males, hence the higher percentage of female plastic surgery patients? If so, is female the only sex subject to the process of striving to survive? However, if female is the sex to have more tendencies to survive in terms of beauty, then again, within the female population, there would be a lack of diversity, and hence life loses its randomness in variance and its interactions thereof, which are essential to living.

Then again, the strive towards better looks resulting in a lack of diversity may only account for that particular generation, which means there is even more randomness in what will come out of the following generation, since what one sees will not be what one gets (due to unchanging genetics). In this point of view, can plastic surgery be seen as a tool for creating more improbabilities and randomness in the world, and therefore, improving the order of life and living?

Furthermore, if, in today’s society, physical appearances can be changed so easily as long as money and time are a given (4), then have the past circumstances of having the best genes been replaced by current circumstances of having the most money and time?

Although plastic surgery, especially in the field of cosmetics, may contribute to more randomness and unexpectedness, it is still a controversial mirror of today’s society and of evolution. Instead of fighting to be the fittest, people are fighting to be the fairest of all. And instead of the promotion of diversity, there is a promotion of shallow similarities, in which females seem to be more swayed to. These discrepancies from the original idea of evolution are not only a look into what has become of humans, but what has become of the politics behind morals. What used to be the search for the best genes is now a search for the most money and time.

(1) Hirsch, Larissa, MD. “What is Plastic Surgery?” TeensHealth. Nov.
2006. Nemours Foundation. 11 Dec. 2007.

(2) “Cons of Plastic Surgery.” Pros and Cons of Plastic Surgery. 2006.
Beauty Feast. 11 Dec. 2007. <

(3) American Society of Plastic Surgeons. “2000/2005/2006 National
Plastic Surgery Statistics: Cosmetic and Reconstructive
Procedure Trends.” American Society of Plastic Surgeons. 2007.
The American Board of Plastic Surgery, Inc. 11 Dec. 2007.

(4) Scott, Kristi. “Cheating Darwin: The Genetic and Ethical
Implications of Vanity and Cosmetic Plastic Surgery.” Online
posting. 27 Apr. 2007. International Humanist and Ethical
Union. 11 Dec. 2007. <>