Okay, those aren't great analogies and I'm not going to push them. Just, I have a gut-level aversion to the idea of someone undergoing plastic surgery (not counting to repair injuries and to compensate for gross disfigurement), but "gut-level aversion" is not the same thing as an idea or an argument. And, you know, we do alter ourselves in the way we face the world — words and demeanor. So why especially recoil when the altering is done by knife? Anyway, I'm not of the age or gender or profession to suffer negative consequences from refusing plastic surgery. Whereas I've read (though what I read was unsourced) that some K-pop contracts give agencies the right to force female trainees to "alter [their] look or image if necessary," presumably with a scalpel.
Here're Brown Eyed Girls, pushing back at the antis:
I'm not dead sure how to interpret this. Plastic surgery is here, it's real, we've probably done it ourselves, deal with it. There's aggression in the skit, but not necessarily a clear target, or a clear reason for the laughter. The issue causes discomfort; you milk the discomfort for comedy. This YouTube comment probably comes close:
This is just awesome and right on the spot. I can't [get] with men (society in general) who hate 'ugly' girls but criticize those who do plastic surgery or even put on make up! Not everybody naturally fits beauty standards, so fuck you.Now to Grimes, whose "Vanessa" is the only track of hers so far where the distance in the alien freak singing has really whomped me with feeling, rather than seeming merely distant. She's an avowed fan of K-pop, and the reason I watched the "Vanessa" video in the first place was that James Brooks in Pitchfork mentioned that she cites K-pop imagery as an influence on it.
Not to overinterpret, but I can't imagine that Grimes is not uneasy with the K-pop she loves, and that lining faces into quadrants and smearing them with blood isn't a reference to plastic surgery (and to the more general practice of transforming yourself for an audience). Also, whether or not this is relevant to her feelings about K-pop, in her Spin interview she described the harsh regimen her dad subjected her to:
Very strict. I spent my teenage years running away from one house to the other house because it was so intense. Not just religious stuff. My dad was super-strict about food. I had to eat these weird protein shakes and he'd make us go on runs in the morning. I had to do ballet for a really long time. It was always working out and being serious about lots of things, really intensely. By the time I hit puberty, I kind of went insane.She told Interview that the ballet training lasted eleven years. The parallel I'm drawing is to what K-pop trainees voluntarily subject themselves to: constant workouts, endless dancing, lessons in English and Japanese, little sleep. The thing is, there's a payoff: the performing is really good. And, unfortunate though this is, my thought watching Grimes and her friends in "Vanessa" was, "they don't dance nearly as well as the Koreans."
It'd be interesting if a North American indie performer could take off from something like the Brown Eyed Girls, do it in her own way, with her own values and critical sense, and do it as well even while doing it as something very different. I wouldn't bet on this, though. Indie culture doesn't have it in itself. And this is what it'd have to match (more Brown Eyed Girls):