"Make me beautiful....
A perfect life..."
-"A Perfect Lie," The Engine Room
I blame "The Hills."
MTV's long-running, LA-centric reality sitcom has always been a place where really bad art reflects fairly shallow life. With a cast full of the bored, young, and idly rich all determined to brand themselves on the basis of questionable "talent" (thereby extending their pop culture expiration dates), it is a natural vehicle for anyone who has ever wanted to get famous real fast without putting in too many dues.
However, I'm not here to entirely bash "The Hills." In the moments where I don't feel like thinking too deeply, I get my kicks out of these seemingly perfect kids dressing really well, pretending to work, and playing themselves up for their fifteen seconds of fame. I don't even mind knowing who Lauren Conrad and Brody Jenner are, even as I wonder whether the latter has any pop culture relevance past his dad and a Kardashian association.
Still, even though "The Hills" doesn't bother me ninety-five percent of the time, where I'd like to throttle it is for unleashing one of its stars: Heidi Montag. Thanks to the show, the whining, high-maintenance half of the perpetually attention-seeking Hydra known as Speidi, Montag is already familiar— and contemptuously viewed— for being famous on the basis of no formative talent. I never knew anybody could ever be banned from the E! Channel, but evidently she's got an obnoxious moxie streak that even the famewhore community finds excessive.
But, where Montag crosses the line from odiously tacky to truly disturbing is thanks to recent news; the starlet underwent ten simultaneous plastic surgery procedures in an effort to secure a pop-music career.
Now, of course, Montag isn't the first fame-seeker to resort to nipping and tucking as a career investment; all one has to do is look at the looming, DDD example precedents set by women such as Dolly Parton or Pamela Anderson Lee to know that a trip to the plastic surgeon's office is an inevitable part of an entertainment-based career package.
Yet, unlike Anderson and Parton—two women who went on with their businesses after getting their cosmetic tweaks—Montag lacks a solid career crafted from actual talent to fall back on. Where Parton can actually sing, Montag cites her plastic surgery endeavors as her achievements and raison d'etre, as though recovering from size-F implants inserted into her body is of the same magnitude as Elizabeth Smart's kidnapping. Montag seems to be under the impression that by attaching some self-generated drama to her surgical choices, we might just applaud them.
Here's my problem with Montag. Telling the press that she nearly died from procedures that were questionably necessary to begin with is bad enough. Maintaining a beatific Christian veneer and claiming that God is okay with her self-obsession makes her crazier. What I find worst of all is that she advocates the kind of counterfeit beauty money can buy, the state of self-involved mind that comes with endlessly comparing yourself to someone else, and a place where you only feel as good as the last photo taken by a paparazzi photographer or Photoshopped by an underpaid graphic designer.
Additionally, by pointing to herself as an example of Me Look Pretty Someday, she points out to today's little girls that it's completely validating to whine your way into a plastic surgeon's office as a means of discovering personal and career value. We all may want to nip the wobbly bits of ourselves and tuck whatever falls down as a result of age, pregnancy, or just plain biological evolution, but no woman of any age deserves to believe that being truly beautiful means Botox and a brow lift.
I hope that Montag shakes off the last of whatever lingering anesthetic is in her system, and takes a look at the cold, hard facts: her album (appropriately titled "Superficial") has only sold a paltry 658 copies, a far cry from the "Thriller"-ish platinum numbers she expected. Thanks to her skin-deep illusions, she now looks like a matronly version of herself determined to keep her good looks at the tender age of 23. Last but not least, she should probably consider a bra size that won't induce gravity to pull her to the ground face-first.
Of course, I doubt she's ever going to take my advice. After all, she's got a million Twitter followers all tweeting: "U Look sooooooo Beautiful! 4get the Haterz!" I don't stand a chance against that tidal wave of approval, and I'm pretty sure they all think God sanctions liposuction along with Montag.
But, in spite of the really stacked size F odds against me with some alleged ass padding, I truly hope that Montag grows past her own thinking. Just as "The Hills" reflects the shallower aspects of young people with money, Montag now symbolizes the ultimate desperate, insecure starlet ready to be far less beautiful in exchange for being way more famous. Perhaps she is a natural consequence of a whole passel of reality TV-reared Generation Britney members waiting for their close-ups, but I'd like to think that there are some well-grounded twenty-somethings out there who aren't so defiantly shallow or attention-seeking. (And, if she doesn't evolve past her own self-perception, she may be able to carve a career out of resembling Jocelyn Wildenstein.)
As for me, Heidi Montag hasn't completely convinced me that I need a surgeon to be perfectly pretty- or valid as a human being. Though I occasionally catch a remark about my weight, I don't speculate over whether I should get my chin reduced when I look in the mirror. If I ever carve success from my creative means, it's because I know a thing or two about storytelling. (Just saying.)
Oh, and I'm over "The Hills." Now, I'll just wait for the second season of "Jersey Shore."
An expert in coloring outside the lines while reading between them, Alex B has a head for business, bod for sin, and weakness for ice cream during all seasons. Apart from watching Bravo marathons and enjoying haute bites here and there, she writes about TV, pop culture, and coloring outside even more lines. She sneaks Tweets via @lexistential.
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
2.10.10 @ 11:13a
two things: Dolly Parton did not get implants until after her career was in full swing, and only then, due to a lot of weight loss in the early 1980s, and she got a "lift" when they sagged and shrank. Do not pretend Dolly needed enhancement to be considered good.
second, the lousy sales of Montag's album proves how much no one cares. Even as she allegedly "... points out to today's little girls that it's completely validating to whine your way into a plastic surgeon's office as a means of discovering personal and career value," those kids aren't buying into her career by not buying albums. Despite the promotion she gets (a well-paid publicist, obviously), her album sales not even meeting Rocko Dorsey album sales numbers (who aren't even on a label and only have hand-to-hand distribution). I presume this means that the public also isn't buying into the need for enhancements for the sake of career success; or, at minimum, they will see how much that doesn't work. Think also of Octomom; were it not for her freak litter of rugrats, she'd have no career. All her surgical attempts to look like Angelina have done nothing for her career.
2.10.10 @ 12:44p
I cited Dolly Parton in this column because she's among the entertainers who have gotten some pretty large breast implants. But, I purposely differentiated her from Montag- Parton is just plain fabulous, and as I said, she has a career based on her talents, not her implants.
Heidi Montag hits a really, really big nerve with me because I've never seen anyone grovel so hard for attention and success on the strength of plastic surgery and her looks. Though her album sales are tanking (and hurray for Rocko Dorsey having far better numbers), her plastic surgery is pretty extreme, and goes past a little Botox here and there. It might not have done much for her career, but she still communicates a message to people, one that's pretty audible on our bad days: you should take yourself to a doctor's office when you're unhappy with your body, it's okay to write off your own beauty for a brow lift. People won't buy into her music (thank GOD), but they may buy into the message she communicates with her looks nonetheless.
I am pretty sure that Montag will never have a successful career as a pop star. But, I think she will linger on in the public eye for some time, and continually provoke questions relating to whether we need some nips and tucks too.
2.10.10 @ 2:08p
Nobody needs size-Fs. Or Ds, for that matter. Pity brains can't be implanted as readily as silicone.
2.10.10 @ 2:18p
Personally, I wouldn't mind full C's. And I definitely would be okay with zapping off the fat rolls that showed up after last Christmas. I wouldn't mind getting this done because in spite of my smarter dietary choices and exercise routines, my wobbly bits are stubborn, and I'd also like to just have a nice proportion going on.
That said, I'm not interested in looking like some guy's idea of a hot porn star. If Montag actually had any smarts at all, she wouldn't be catering to someone else's stereotype, but her own idea of beauty.
2.11.10 @ 1:28p
Well, evidence that at least Hollywood is buying her hype, as "that Playboy has offered Heidi $500,000 to debut her brand-new DDDs in a photo shoot".
But though men may pay $4 or so to see the DDD, I'm not convinced that Heidi's message of buying beauty is being accepted. At least, I hope not.
2.11.10 @ 3:02p
Hmm. I'm not surprised that there's another Playboy deal in the works. With a flopped album, those new mega-flotation devices aren't going to pay for themselves. And I'm not sure Hollywood is entirely buying the hype, too- a Playboy deal does not necessarily mean Heidi's on an A-List, but I think they're happy to make a buck out of her being naked as much as she is. (If I were a guy, I'd be too cheap to shell out $4. I'd just wait for the photos to show up online.)
And with the general reaction towards Heidi's surgeries, I don't think people are going to readily embrace it. If they do repeat her example, it'll be on the quiet. Even though people are a little more open about plastic surgery these days, no one is really going to admit that they're willing to have as much work done as they do, and I don't think people are willing to be Heidi Montag wannabes. (At least I hope not.)
2.11.10 @ 7:24p
Why pay $4 when you can eventually get it online for nada? Moreover, this comes to light while at the same time Hugh Hefner is apparently being sued by Playboy shareholders for refusing to sell Playboy, Inc. out of fear that he'd lose his hedonistic lifestyle. I'm thinking the Bunny bubble may finally be about to burst. The magazine has already become almost quaint insofar as lads' mags go; relatively speaking it's practically demure.
The tie-in is this: who's going to bother paying for this, anymore? Trainwrecks are free; only the laziest people sit at home in front of the big screen, waiting for it to be fed to them. My hope is that gradually we'll wean ourselves away from the desire for celebrity trash -- and the pneumatic enhancements attempted in the name of career rejuvenation -- or at the very least both the consumers and purveyors of this stuff will devolve to a level that they can be more readily ignored by the rest of us.
2.12.10 @ 2:48a
Playboy is hugely tame next to the rest of the men's mags out there. It reflects Hefner, who is pretty quaint himself. I think it still has a shred of relevance because Playboy is the most mainstream and safest of publications to appear naked in; if the Bunny bubble bursts, I wonder if it would maintain Hefner's vision, even if it doesn't subsidize the parties.
There's always going to be a market for celebrity trash; the fact that it's so readily available on the Internet (and at our fingertips at any given hour) guarantees it. And the trainwrecks trying to create a career based on boobies aren't going to go away; Montag is that banner girl of the moment. I think she's just going to succeed so effortlessly in oversaturating her name in "celebrity" circles that people will get to a point of being able to ignore her. For now, however, we're just getting pulled along in the tailspin. She's not the first person to attempting to be famous on the strength of her enhancements, and in this economy, she's lucky her boobs are getting her a possible Playboy "job."
2.24.10 @ 2:04a
Even Time magazine tracked down some of the people who bought "Superficial" to find out why her record sold so poorly. (Oh, and they threw on a couple wise words about celebrity.)