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And the winner goes to… NOT diversity

Charlotte Rampling, Sylvester Stallone, Matt Damon, Leonardo di Caprio, Rooney Mara, Brie Larson, Saoirse Ronan, Jennifer Lawrence…have more than one thing in common. They’re all actors & actresses, they stand to get nominees and/or Oscars for 2015 and…they’re all white. But does talent only come in this color?white oscars

 

There’s been a lot of noise about white oscars, so much so that critics launched the pointed hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, and aptly so. Not a single nomination for a minority actor/actress/director: Idris Elba in netflix-heavy Beasts of No Nation, Samuel Jackson for Hateful Eight, Ryan Coogler or Michael Jordan in Creed, any of the actors in Tangerine in a post Jenner trans era,  Will Smith in Concussion, Teyonnah Parris in Spike Lee’s Chi-raq or any of the actors in the much talked-about, positively reviewed, box office hit Straight Outta Compton. Not a single nomination or plaudit after last year’s grand tirade that America and Hollywood are ready for a change in Hollywood narratives.

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Last year, the nominees and winners were not the typical awardees. Hollywood, for once, accepted plots and stories that weren’t told and didn’t revolve around youth on grand quests, or beauty or fast action. But rather edifying and intimate drama, depth of character, which included winners who were 50 year olds or twenty something yr olds [Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne]. The other nominees & winners were also older than the average past awardees: Keaton in Birdman, Arquette in Boyhood, Simmons in Whiplash etc. What all of these previous winners had in common last Oscars was their battle against infirmities and death, which they brought out by their talent, their acting skill. They found told/acted their story differently that garnered them the Oscar for best actor. And although the white movie industry did make up for years of neglect by recognizing 12 years a slave for best picture and bestowing statues on Forrest Whitaker, Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, Halle berry and Mo’nique in the past, we cannot forget that since 1998 Oscars has been white. Nor can we forget that they snubbed David Oyewolo or director/co writer Ava du Vernay for the brilliant, award winning film Selma. It would seem that depute mvid industry’s craving for different stories the Selma story was not part of the line-up of those stories. Perhaps only one story gets to win an Oscar so we didn’t need to remember our dark history of slavery in Selma? We didn’t need to remember the wretched story that gutted and touched black lives told by a woman. Straight Outta Compton, Chi-raq, Creed or Beasts of No nation are not stories the industry liked last year, yet they liked the white writer of Straight Outta Compton and the white actor in Creed: #OscarsSoWhite that Rocky got nominated in a movie about Apollo’s son [Hari Kondabolu]. Spike Lee asks: “How is it possible for the 2nd consecutive year that all 20 contenders under the Actor category are white? 40 white actors in 2 years and no flava at all! We can’t act. WTF!” It seems easier to be president of the United States as a black man than to be the head of a studio, he says.

What happened last year with different narratives? Have we gone backwards from 12 years a slave? Or are we continuing the Selma trend of snubbing anything related to black America or black lives or history? Is the lack of nomination for any of the issues that these films raise not a powerful enough narrative for hollywood and its audience? How could Chi-raq not ring an urgent bell in our age of gun violence and killings when it used abstinence from sex to drive the point home of no violence? Is black history and hip hop culture in LA not worthy of story telling? Are stories told by child soldiers in Africa too far removed and too much for us to be interested in? Or black trans lives?

Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith are boycotting Oscars this year. Jada feels that people can only treat them in the way they allow. And on the 30th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr, Spike Lee announced his boycott reminding us of Dr King’s words: “there comes a time one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but he must take it because conscience tells him it’s right'”.

#OscarsSoWhite reminds me of what Jean-Luc Godard said in an interview for Goodbye Language in 2014 about Cannes Awards festivals when asked why he stopped going to Cannes. He thought he could find a cinema family there. But people would discuss ideas with him, lead him to his hotel, eat with him, then leave him alone. Jada feels used, too, like Godard: people of color are always welcomed to give out awards and even entertain but rarely recommended for their accomplishments. Spike and Jada are saying Goodbye to Oscars because those they & all the others actors, directors, writers etc of color consider their Oscar family leave them without a family. They don’t belong to that family.

War of the Images 

Fashion used to be shot in contrast. The clothes and accessories [bags, shoes, jewelry] were clearly the foreground and in the foreground. Everything else was relegated to the background which itself struck a harmony with what was being highlighted. It was the photographer and the designer who decided what to pay attention to and what should stand out.

normal constrast allure mag jan 16_7    est ouest 2   est ouest 6

 

But lately, there seems to be a battle of the images, a battle of the foreground over the background in fashion. My eyes have never been so busy. Nor have they had to compete for attention or to figure out what is the thing being advertised.

Allure [November 2015] has images where not only the bold colors compete, but ideas compete, too, and the eyes need to look hard to see the details of the centerfold, because there are so many other details around what’s being highlighted. There’s a kind of chaos and clutter to these images, which make it a bit difficult to settle on the clothes. and hopefully i did see what they wanted me to see. Clothes, right? Or is it bags?

allure mag jan 16_1allure mag jan 16_2.jpeg

 

 

 

Marie Claire [January 2016] features ads with colors so heavily saturated in the entire image that it is easy to see everything together, or everything else first, then the item being advertised. Then suddenly you realize  ‘ah! it’s a shoe or a bag they’re advertising! Not mini figures of characters of games.’

New York Times Style magazine [6 December 2015] had a similar idea where contrasts are all on the heavy side; no longer is there lightness against darkness, and no longer does the jewelry occupy frontal space but here it occupies a small space and everything else, the majority of the space of the whole image:

 

It is a very different way to shoot, photograph, edit or put images together, especially when your eyes have been trained to see the clothes and accessories being advertised easily. This new way to shoot images for magazines seems to imitate the era in which we live, a fast-paced technological era, where there is so much going on that is vying for our attention that we have to really focus on what we should see. Art imitates life!

Star Wars & Oscars in a race sensitive world

In 2012, Star Wars: the Phantom Menace blew away the Hobbit: an unexpected journey and it even beat Avatar which grabbed $3.1 billion worldwide in 2009. And the last Starwars: the Force Awakens released on 14 Dec 2015 in the US did so well that it had international fans from Europe and Asia booking trips to the United States because they didn’t want to wait for the film to arrive in their countries a month later when everyone would have already been talking about it or reviewing it. And neither did the dread of a Batman-style shooting keep the crowds at bay. And perhaps if the fear of terrorism was removed from our present day terrorist concerns – as we don’t know where terrorists will strike next – movie goers would’ve shown up in Star Wars regalia like swords etc and sales would’ve climbed even higher, especially during the first couple days of its release in December 2015.

Such loyalty and crowd following for the Star Wars saga convince us why the film’s broad appeal to so many people made it a box office juggernaut into 2016. People went to see it through nostalgia, as they grew up on it, and some like me, who didn’t grow up on it, didn’t feel obligated to see it on the first or second day, but still wanted to see it, for other reasons. What really drew me to this Star Wars is JJ Abrams’ two lead characters: Daisy Ridley [the female warrior fighting the dark side that princess Leia never saw during her days] and John Boyega [a deserter from the first order]. I wanted to see this Star Wars for its story of two disparate orphans who discover each other and who discover that they can trust each other. But I especially wanted to see it because Rey [Daisy] and Finn [Boyega] are updated heroes – a female protagonist and a coloured male actor in a new gender and race-sensitive world. These two stars talk and behave the way they would have had they starred in the early Lucas movies, and both are seemingly ordinary people who don’t have plans to do anything extraordinary, but when thrown into the situation, they end up saving the world. Boyega’s role was heroic and great for young black and colored audience to identify with.

But despite this, some people criticized the trailer and even threatened to boycott Star Wars for showing a black actor in storm trooper uniform. Boyega’s interview 20 December 2015 with Dave Itzkoff in the NYTimes “Bracing for Impact of Galactic Fame” really explains racism in America and why #OscarsSoWhite.

When asked how he felt about the boycott Boyega responded that he was grounded in who he is : “A confident, Nigerian, black, chocolate man. I’m proud of my heritage and no man can take that away from me. I wasn’t raised to fear people with a difference of opinion. They are merely victims of a disease in their mind. To get into a serious dialogue with people who judge a person based on the melanin in their skin? They’re stupid, and I’m not going to lose sleep over people. The sale of tickets has gone through the roof- their agenda has failed. Miserably.”

Interviewer: you didn’t feel the urge to respond to these crtitcs?

Boyega: I just don’t get it! You guys got every single alien imaginable to man. With tentacle so, five eyes. Aliens, that if they existed, we’d definitely have an issue. We’d have to get them to the government and be like, “what are you?” Yet what you want to do is fixate on another human beings color. You need to go back to school and unlearn what you’ve learned. I think Yoda said that or Obi-Wan.

The interviewer made it known to Boyega that up to now there have been few black characters featured in Star Wars and asked Boyega if he wasn’t proud to “help add diversity to the franchise”.

Boyega: I dont know whether I’m proud or anything. I’m happy we’re able to mesh together in this ensemble and create a wonderful story. It’s Hollywood’s fault for letting this get so far that when a black person or a female or someone from a different cultural group is cast in a movie, we have to have debates as to whether they’re placed there just to meet a quota. I also understand , on the flip side, where thes mentalities arise. “He’s just placed there for political correctness”. I don’t hear you guys saying that when Brad Pitt is there. When Tom Cruise is there. Hell, when Shia Leboeuf is there, you guys ain’t saying that. That is just blatant racism!

This interview exposes not only the racist mindset of the white film industry, but it foreshadows the Oscars snubbing of non white nominees and is consistent with the seeing and recognizing of the only white star in Creed for example, but not the rest, who are black. Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith, as I mentioned in a previous blog, have boycotted the Oscars [https://crossingfrontieres.wordpress.com/2016/01/19/and-the-winner-goes-to-not-diversity/] and now Will Smith, Tyrese Gibson [Fast and Furious star] and possibly Quincy Jones. Jones has been asked to present an award and intends to speak for 5 minutes on the lack of diversity; otherwise he won’t present.

Some stars have reacted to #OscarsSoWhite: Clooney feels Oscars is going backwards; Michael Keaton told BBC reporters that Academy voters are maliciously prejudicial while Dustin Hoffman says Oscar nominations is “subliminal racism”. But Trevor Noah and Roy in the Daily Show sum it up best and “do the right thing”:

 

 

America’s trigger fingers

In Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia,New York, Connecticut, Georgia, Fort Gibson, Minnesota and far too many other places to mention in a little blog, school shooting has become as American as apple pie. And like apple pie, it can be had anywhere: gurdwara, planned parenthood, colleges, elementary schools, high schools, cinema, driveways, streets, church, malls, lawns, disability centers, military base…has any place been left out?

Guns are banned in schools yet most shootings occur inside and around elementary and high schools and universities. gun cartoon 1 A weird thought shot to my mind as I write this: the terrorist group, Taliban, shot Malala Yousafzai in school. Yet our shooters aren’t called terrorists. Our Land of freedom is quickly becoming the Land of fear, and soon to be Land of guns. Barely 3 years after Sandy Hook, which took 20 lives of 5 yr olds and 6 adults’ lives, 142 more shootings have occurred. And each time a shooting occurs in America there’s a kind of ritual:

  • NRA heaves it chest, characterizing and normalizing it by calling it “an act of a lone madman”
  • America’s power figures solemnly go on air, offer prayers and condolences to/for gun victims & their families then callously and fearlessly reject the most basic restrictions on weapons of mass killings.

Even though an astounding 40 percent of guns in America are acquired without a background check as New Harvard research between 2004 and 2014 show. And more than 2,000 terrorism suspects purchased guns in the United States [Nicholas Kristof’s “on guns we’re not even trying” nytimes.com 2015/12/03]. The Senate allows people from the terror list to buy guns, but block them from boarding planes, and the NRA & its republican allies distract us from the real problem of guns, with the word ‘terrorism’.gun ima 2.png

Yet, all the senseless shootings by killers are nothing but acts of ‘preventable’ terrorism.

America is fighting guns at home while the rest of the world is fighting ISIS. Our own guns, our homegrown terrorism which we perpetuate, by our own people whom we humanize after they shoot to terrorize and kill. We get into the past of these homegrown, overwhelmingly white radicalized shooters and publish histories of their loner status, how they were ostracized, bullied, isolated, intimidated, disrespected, picked on etc. But we dissociate their brutal acts from terrorism and continue to conflate terrorism with only those having Muslim names while never calling the shootings of the white majority American shooters a terrorist act, thereby skirting the whole gun issue while the ‘terrorism’ issue rages on. But whether it’s a school shooting or Planned Parenthood or a community college or San Bernadino, it’s a shooting by guns as the unrelenting average of 92 gun deaths per year in America proves [Kristof’s “hysteria about refugees but blindness on guns” nytimes 2015/12/06].

To say that shooting continues in America because gunners have guns is simplistic. Gunners have another strong weapon to fight gun control & violence which they brandish like a sword every time the gun control talks come up: the Second Amendment. They cite a constitutional document written hundreds of years ago when gun shootings didn’t yet exist among civilians, and when Internet & social media didn’t make it easy to buy guns or gun parts online and assemble guns to kill.

gun ima 4.png

America has proudly come a long way in creating change for our own good: we are now told what and when to eat because eating became uncontrollable and they had to ban foods with TFAs and huge sodas etc before we kill ourselves. They had to remove candy machines from our schools before we kill our children and they’ve instituted change in areas where other ‘first world’ countries like France lag far behind: affirmative action. They’ve even been able to remove the stigma of behind non heterosexual unions and told us we can marry into the same sex, but they can’t curb their trigger fingers. We’ve abolished slavery in America, but we cannot let go of that second amendment clutch to create SAFETY for all peoples. We cannot let go of that ‘right to bear arms’ even if those arms are in the hands of psychotic killers. We cannot forego that ‘God-given right’ to protect our homes, families, and lives. All that this tells us is that no right is unlimited and immune from reasonable regulation or doubt.

Perhaps the shooting spree we’ve been living – or dying for – should be given more life in areas like presidential races. Not the Jeb bush kind where “Islamic terrorism that wants to destroy our way of life, wants to attack our freedom” Or “they’ve declared war on us. We need to declare war on them”.  We must declare war on our fascination with gun violence, on our mostly white male, suburban gun owners and shooters. War on our toxic culture of masculinity that fosters the destructive narrative of one winner and a whole lot of losers. It behooves America to look at the other countries which have been able to curb or eradicate gun violence. In 1996 in Scotland a gunman shot 16 children at school, and the public outcry the following year made the British gov’t ban private ownership of automatic weapons and handguns on British mainland. In Australia of the same year after a massacre by guns, sweeping gun control laws were passed. In such places, although the natural instinct is to arm oneself, self-defense does NOT count as a valid reason to have a gun, post 1996.

If our constitution requires everyone to bear arms including psychos, mentally ill & other criminal minds , then we need a new one, like Australia & Scotland. Vigilantism is not a constitutional right, and when someone loses a child or any loved one s/he doesn’t care about people’s sympathy or eulogy; s/he just wants those who can do something to get to work and do something!”

Guns-Dont-Kill-People

Thought of the day: if your constitution requires psychos/criminals to bear arms and kill, then you need a new constitution because guns kill. Alllivesmatter.

 

 

 

 

tale of unconditional love in Danish girl

http://www.fandango.com/fplayer/player.aspx?mid=136694&mpxId=2674816758&dm=3&genre=Drama&rt=R&title=TheDanishGirl&w=620&h=349&emb=user

Danish Girl [Tom Hooper, 2015] is a great film on how sex reassignment was conceived in the 1920s. Sex reassignment was a brave attempt at that time and it would take many decades before Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox, Mandi Camille Hauwert or Andreja Pejic could even dream in their mothers’ wombs. The film explores gender inequality and identity in Denmark at a time when no other country was thinking about such questions. But Denmark has been speaking openly of sexuality for quite some time. It was the first country in the world to legalize printed pornography, in 1967 and which lifted censorship of all movies for adults in 1969, and the first to legalize same-sex civil unions, in 1989 (Same-sex marriage was sanctioned there in 2012) and the first European country to allow a legal change of gender without requiring a medical diagnosis in 2014  [http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/movies/eros-and-identity-meet-again-in-copenhagen-in-the-danish-girl.html].

Danish Girl is the story of a transgender sex experiment gone wrong, even fatal, but it is also so many things:

  • a story of unconditional love; the kind we see, read about and feel between mother and child, but in the film between husband and wife
  •  a beautiful love story
  • complete illustration of “if you love something set it free”
  • a story of modern-day identity issues, despite same sex marriage and laws
  • a story about gender troubles
  • how art creates life and can destroy it.

Gerda Wegener [Alicia Vikander] is a painter whose muse is her husband, Einar [Eddie Redmayne], whom she paints into female existence. She paints a nude body with Einar’s female face stretched out languidly in a classical pose, which calls to mind Manet’s Olympia or Auguste’s Odalisque:

Auguste's OdalisqueManet's Olympia

 

 

 

 

 

 

These two nudes have a striking resemblance to the masterpiece of Lili’s subdued longing that Gerda paints on canvas:

lili olympia

The film opens on the female gaze projected onto the man. Gerda Wegener is a very empowered woman in the Mulveyian sense: the woman is the one who possesses the gaze, not the man. And Gerda’s gaze in fact fixes her husband Einar into femininity.  When Gerda’s passion for art wanes, she encourages Einar to dress up and pose for her. She doesn’t have to try very hard however as Einar, after 6 years of childless marriage to Gerda, becomes enamored with his feminine side and begins to inhabit a woman’s body in the real world more and more and not simply for Gerda’s bemusement as an artist. Einar becomes Lili by dressing in women’s garb when he could no longer exist in his man’s body.  He opts for sex reassignment surgery to become Lili Elbe permanently. This operation would be the first time such a surgery would take place, and despite its high risks, pain and failure, Einar goes for it. The character on which the cinematic Lili is based is a real person whose multiple surgeries ended her life in 1931 due to complications stemming from what may have been the attempted transplant of a uterus.

Throughout Einar’s urges, stages and social stigmas of becoming a woman in the 1930s, it is Gerda who remains a powerful source of emotional support for Einar cum Lili. Einar is also brave as two french try to beat the femininity out of him. Despite the great pain and loss we see Gerda experiencing, she is unable to draw strength from her husband’s touch and hug; she, too, needs support, but he cannot give it. At one point she quits on him when he decides to do the second half of the surgery prematurely which would complete his transformation as a woman, because she feared she’d lose him. But in the end, she goes to Dresden to be at his side.

Eddie Redmayne is brilliant as transgendered Lili in Danish girl, as he was in The Theory of Everything, as Stephen Hawking, and so is Alicia Vikander, who owns the screen and gaze at the very opening of the film. But she serves as a showcase for Redmayne’s talent. Her own talent and role dim before Lili’s, Einar’s or Redmayne’s. And even though the film is multi layered, there is no room to tell her story. We can read her story from the silence of her expression and face and we feel her emotionally heartbreaking story of loss, pain and void, because she loves him so undyingly.

The film is a novel’s adaptation, and concentrates on Einar, who is clearly and socially stigmatized in the film; doctors branding as “perverse’. He’s a tragic figure who is tormented because, he, too loves his wife but cannot fulfill his husbandly duties. But the film ends tragically for Gerda also, who begins the film with great presence; a close up of a strong gaze and voice, cigarette in one hand and paint brush in the other, which gives the impression of female agency, but in the end the film subscribes to the male gaze, and Gerda reverts to sublimating herself and her desires, bearing her loss silently, alone. She is subsumed in his coming out story unconditionally. 

 

 

 

the underground reality of a cyber-attack

We live in a threat-centric world. And not without reason. Paris was recently attacked on November 13, 2015. A Russian plane went down just before taking all 220 lives with it. Paris was also attacked on 7 January of this year in what has come to be known as Charlie Hebdo. But it is the November 13 mass shootings, terrorist attacks, suicide bombings and hostage situation occurring simultaneously, which cause deep concern. In France’s capital, Paris, as well as in Saint Denis, its northern suburb at various locations: Stade de France, Bataclan theatre, Le Petit Cambodge, le Carillon, La Belle Equipe, Café Bonne Biere, La Casa Nostra, Comptoir Voltaire. They were all fatal ground attacks. Like NY’s 9/11, which claimed about 3000 lives. Rwanda, Syria, Lebanon, Mumbai, Pakistan, Afghanistan etc., too have all sustained attacks, on or above ground.

But on-the-ground attacks aren’t the only concern. Digital attacks occur, too. In media, The Interview was pulled from cinemas because of a cyber attack on Sony by North Korea. One film. One hacking. One shutdown, but many losses to Hollywood. In defense, there was the “sophisticated cyber intrusion,” which affected about 4,000 military and civilian personnel on July 25, 2015, and which forced the Pentagon to take the email system offline. Then there was Target, and banks, most noteworthy one being the sophisticated attempts like North Korea knocking out almost 50,000 servers and computers in South Korea for several days at banks and media coms. Even the IRS, too was compromised this year: 334,000 people hacked, and it didn’t matter how safe your computer was at home or office!  The IRS paid billions to hackers in 2013.

All of these attacks were carried out on the Internet, and effortlessly for those who knew how. And they were carried out ‘wirelessly’. But what about attacks not on the ground nor the cloud?

Recently, Kate Murphy opened the door to myriad questioning in her “Underground Cyber Threats” [NY Times 8 November 15]. What if we sustained an attack ‘not’ on our wireless access – which has been easily disconnected or hacked – but on the cables on which this wireless access resides? On the cables which lie underground?

The Internet infrastructure is a network of cables, where cables span as much as 30 miles to connect 100,000 people. These cables are also vulnerable to today’s gun violence tendency that plagues us and the extremely precarious trigger-happy nations and hackers. We already know what is it like to have a statewide blackout for electricity following the one in NY in 2003, when we thought the blackout was another terrorist attack after 9/11. It shut down NY leaving people scared witless everywhere in cramped, closed, suffocating subway cars for hours while others walked for hours to their homes on foot etc. Today, we rely on ‘digital current’ as we rely on electricity to see and perform daily activities. But what would happen if there was a digital blackout?

Such an underground digital blackout or attack would shut down everything, hitting hard our reliance on connection to others, on running the country, on manning security, on regulating finances compromising personal info for those who bank electronically, including the banks. FaceBook made it possible for folks to connect to their loved ones in Paris recently in the face of fear and mayhem, but what if that connection was gone and the many other connections along with it?

Worse, what if there was a coordinated attack on multiple places in USA or elsewhere or even in several countries simultaneously, November 13th Paris-style ?

Recent attacks have shown us how debilitating and real terror is and that nothing is foolproof. We concentrate on monitoring social media and above-the-ground attacks, increasing security with guns around major trains stations in first world countries, gov’t buildings and others places whenever an attack occurs in a major city like Paris or London or NY. Such big fortresses prove that nothing and no one is invulnerable in today’s highly digital, trigger-happy world. Russia, China, USA, Japan and Brazil etc are concentrating on cybercrime products but perhaps so, too the attackers, who are always searching for newer, better ways to infiltrate the extended network.

Yet, if the cables that run social media and other governmental controls, including security are cut, there’ll not even be a threat for stolen data or leaks, because we won’t have any digital ‘electricity’ to even fire off any of the processes, investigations, or actions so necessary to catch hackers or cybercriminals. When we rely on systems that have hidden vulnerabilities and where cybercriminals are devoting their time to finding and exploiting, we must keep constant vigil, and have a forward0thinking mind-set.  If it was easy to prevent cyberthreats and attacks, ISIS would be stopped, because logically any cyber centric approach should be able to curb them, but it is not happening. One thing the so-called spear-phishing attack on the invincible Pentagon exposed is a new and different vulnerability not seen before. Like the giants of our past – the dinosaurs- who failed to survive despite strength and so much power, an underground attack to our wireless system would be a Cyber pearl harbor.

 

 

where offline desires become online realities

In places like china mostly, but South Korea and Japan, too social media and actual cosmetic surgery are enabling women to change their face and lives. In such societies, “there are no ugly women, only lazy ones”.

Cosmetic surgery has increased exponentially in China: the medical procedure has been transformed into a consumer product no thanks to the plethora of ads that show what beauty is or should be. Women feel empowered when they can change their face, body and life. Of the more than 140 million potential cosmetic surgery customers in 2014, 1 out of every 1000 faces has undergone either major or minor surgical treatment and 2 out of every 1000 have considered going under the knife [see Oiwan lam Nytimes 21 oct 2015 ” how social media fuels china’s growing love of cosmetic surgery” ] .

We might ask how such outer or outward changes can change the inner life or self in a culture which prizes Confucius’ teachings that spiritual upbringing is more important than looks. But the young Chinese feel that looks can determine their fate, and so they tweak their looks to have a more beautiful life.

The reigning obsession among the young in China is a younger, more beautiful self. Chinese don’t care whether it is artificial or natural as long as they’re happy. Soyoung.com is a website, established in 2013, dedicated to selling services to enhance beauty. “Young people have an open mind for plastic surgery, especially the post 90s generation who account for more than half of the users who have shared their experiences on the site, boasts the founder of soyoung- Jin Xing.  Soyoung is an online diary which allows people to upload their photos and share their surgical experience. It connects both domestic and international doctors and hospitals directly with their clients and enables users to have online dialog and make appointments. In just 2 years, soyoung has accumulated more than 600,000 registered users and facilitated 2000 cosmetic surgery facilities in reaching out to clients. There are at least a dozen other platforms that help the industry to promote their medical services.

No longer is beauty in the eye of the beholder, but the person beholden; she who desires white skin, double eyelids, tall and straight nose, oval shaped face, big breasts, long and slim legs. Mobile apps give young Chinese and Japanese girls the immediate gratification to see themselves transform into their desired looks. The beauty industry is pushing women to make surgical changes to be beautiful. So strong is the drive to surgically transform that botched up surgeries are suppressed: the cosmetic surgery industry aggressively uses social media to suppress complaints on botched up procedures and creates a herd mentality among potential clients.

In a country where reviews are everything, from Yelp to Google to Amazon to now doctors in America, it is odd to see that the Chinese beauty industry has managed to convince clients who had surgical errors to forget the potential risks and instead they announce that such stories are malicious rumors spread by competitors. Without reviews we shy away from buying or using services in USA. But in China, the client participate in a social media Q&A and is flooded with lots of positive comments which make her excited and ready to embrace surgery. what’s worse is that the women who had botched up errors aren’t willing to share their botched up story, because Chinese society has no sympathy for them.

The imbalance of info reflects the adverse effects of China’s current internet governing policies which encourage the growth of online businesses while suppressing the development of virtual communities and especially those dedicated to feminist consumer and individual rights issues. It affects women’s ability to know and to speak out. One blogger’s comment shows the prevailing mentality of women when she writes:

“I don’t have sympathy for people who fall for these ‘super cheap’ schemes. ok plastic surgeons aren’t as qualified as real surgeons, but it still takes a lot of hard work and training to do it, if people are being cheapskates about it and trying to save money by using dodgy surgeons then they are hurting the honest ones who learn how to do it properly and are good at it.”

The writer isn’t against cosmetic surgery, but only against bad cosmetic surgery. In a country where there’s limited access to necessary info, soyoung is able to fill the void easily and provide answers to prospective clients. it makes women feel empowered by giving them choices: to choose a doctor they like, a hospital they like, prices they like and even operation items they like. But they cannot choose not to conform to all looking alike nor to reality. They all want to fit in, not stand out.

But women everywhere fall victim to such myths about beauty. Americans invest to get bigger breasts, Angelina Jolie or Kim kardashian type lips, tummy tucks and wrinkles removals. Brazilians like bigger bottoms and tummy tucks, too. Europeans do nose jobs as well as Iranian women, who actually stand #1 now in surgery. They even leave the bandage on their nose for months to make sure everybody knows they’ve done a nose job. Jamaican and Indian women strive to be white and whiten their skin. some even bleach their skin endangering their health. Many years ago a dear friend told me that every young person in Argentina [her home country] does rhinoplasty and have a ‘shrink’ even though the country has been, and still is, in dire economic straits.

I notice in the articles and youtube vids and blogs I sourced, that it is mostly women who comment. Men are missing. It would be nice if men would comment on these procedures because perhaps their comments could save women time, effort, and money since such enhancements are done to please men. These women who transform only their outer selves are setting up their future children for major disappointment. They’re creating illusions that will disillusion their children in the next generation.

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