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During the early months of 2018, ABS-CBN news anchor Korina Sanchez surprised social media and the world with her new cosmetically enhanced look for the Belo Medical Group. Since then, many online users have continued to complement the broadcast journalist, even praising Belo for making Sanchez look “ageless” and “youthful”.
Meanwhile during the near end of 2017, Former “Hasht5” member Xander Ford, formerly known as Marlou Arizala shocked the world with his nearly 500,000-peso face transformation. Ford received both negative and positive comments about his new look, with some complementing how handsome he has become after going under the knife, while others posted worry about his pricey looks, even criticizing how “judgmental’ and “superficial’ society is.
His decision to go under the knife was due to the constant bullying he received when he was Marlou Arizala. “I’ve changed my name, my personality, my physical appearance so that people can change the way they look at me,” Ford said during his appearance on ABS-CBN’s “Rated K’.
The media has always been a tool for shaping pop culture. According to Anthony Elliot (2011), media globalization itself has reshaped the connection between society, the body, as well as the self, which has now bloomed into a new cultural obsession with technologically enhanced beauty; and because of the media’s continuous reports on celebrity bodies and their rumored cosmetic enhancements, popular culture and society are exposed to “the mesmerizing artificial beauty’ of celebrities who in return, turn to cosmetic enhancements to acquire the same kind of beauty.
Meanwhile, Leo Braudy (1997), he explains how fame is dependent on media dissemination, and how it can be personalized because of popular culture and mass communication.
One of the earliest well-known transformations in the country is that of showbiz superstar Nora Aunor. Filipino actress and recording artist Nora Aunor went public with her cosmetic surgery back in 2010 after undergoing a facelift in Japan, as a part of her reconstruction project for her image, as she prepared for her comeback in Philippine showbiz. Since then, the popularity of cosmetic surgery in the country has widespread even to other countries, with people from all over coming to the Philippines just to get plastic surgery.
In addition, beauty clinics have begun to open up at every corner of the country with Dr. Vicky Belo’s medical group, which operates 13 beauty clinics in the country, with 11 of them residing in Metro Manila. Belo is best known for pioneering the skincare, laser, and liposuction industry in the country.
One article by the Preview, featured Dr. Vicki Belo’s Nose Enhancement Campaign which has widespread all over the country. According to Belo, the core of the campaign was to “empower people to have a choice and do it for the right reasons such as for self-expression and for self-improvement.”
As plastic surgery continues to blossom in the country, a new kind of transformation is introduced to the country with international singing sensation Charice Pempengco’s transition to Jake Zyrus.
Despite common beliefs such as “how the physical appearance,’ matters the least, there are still realities such as how the eyes can identify which is pleasant or beautiful or not (Pineda 2017). According to a New Yorker article, in South Korea, also known as the World’s Plastic Surgery Capital, between one-fifth and one-third of women in Seoul have undergone cosmetic enhancements (Marx, 2015). Filipinos’ stigma against cosmetic enhancements has been an ongoing issue with the increase of the popularity of cosmetic surgery in the country. In an article by writer Mia Porras (2017), she explained the ongoing negative criticism towards artists who admit to having cosmetic enhancements.
Although some Filipinos remain hesitant towards the idea of cosmetic surgery (Devesa, 2017), there is no denial that the cosmetic surgery industry has been blooming. The industry remains as strong as ever. The International Master Course on Aging Science (IMCAS) reported that in 2017, 8.6 billion euros (P506 billion), were spent in materials and chemicals used in cosmetic surgical procedures. In the Philippines, there is an even higher demand due to lower costs.
According to Tyrone Reyes (2006), people undergo cosmetic enhancement procedures “to enhance their appearance, erase the ravages of time, improve skin tone and coloring, rejuvenate aging tissues, elevate sagging breasts, and reshape body parts. Some seek a boost to their self-esteem, others an advantage in the boardroom where a more youthful look may create an impression of greater vitality.” The Philippine Beauty Industry depends heavily on the influence of the west, brought by the media, hence the desire to have white skin and a pointed nose, although in some countries where Caucasian skin dominate the nation, having tan and sun-kissed skin is one of the ideals of beauty (Grippo 2014).
With the introduction of a new kind of media such as Television and Social Media, an image-conscious culture is born out of the constant exposure of western beauty ideals on the new media (Gonzales, 2013). Historically, it could be said that the “white skin’ beauty ideal could be influenced from the time the Philippines was colonized by western countries, with Filipinos treated as second-class citizens. According to Tibajia (2018) in the age of technology, Filipino aesthetic or beauty is dependent on global trends that makes way from the west to the country.
With the recent news in the country, in which the government is set to fulfill the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) bill which, under Senate Bill No. 1592, that of which gives cosmetic procedures a 5-percent excise tax on “invasive cosmetic procedures and surgeries directed solely towards altering or enhancing the patient’s appearance,” plastic surgery remain in demand. Many media companies have reported and produced articles on plastic surgery.
Although the idea of beauty differs per country and changes over time, globally, the idea of beauty is heavily influenced by Western ideals as well as by mass media. Even in the Philippines, the idea of beauty is influenced by foreign ideals. In an ideal world, the ideal beauty produced by a society or culture will be followed and consumed by the same society, however media globalization prevents this from happening (Frith, Shaw & Cheng, 2005) as it has increased interactions between different cultures hence creating “cross-culture similarities,” which presumably leads to the influence of western beauty ideals in the Philippines.
According to a Philippine Star article, Filipinos use cosmetic enhancement surgery as means to “to enhance their appearance,” remove what they dub as unattractive, and also as means to boost their self-esteem. For adults, cosmetic surgery may not be a way to reverse the aging process, it becomes a way for them to regain their youthful appearance (Reyes, 2001). Although many theorists and social critics disapprove of cosmetic surgery, calling it as “the ultimate symbol of invasion of the human body for the sake of physical beauty” (Gimlin, 2000), it remains popular in the country. Tyrone Reyes (2001) explained that the reason behind the popularity of cosmetic surgery is partly because of society’s “youth-worshipping culture and the self’s desire to become attractive in society’s eyes. Cosmetic enhancements, then, emerges as a controversial practice which is primarily for “aesthetic reasons or in hopes that one will become more socially acceptable” (McNamara, n.d).
Cosmetic enhancement surgery procedures in non-western countries has dramatically risen. The growth of popularity and accessibility has further normalized the “idea of surgically-enhanced constructions of modern-day beauty,” (McNamara, n.d), but despite its growth in popularity and accessibility, many Filipinos still consider cosmetic surgery as taboo because it glorifies the image of artificial beauty which shows the wrong ideals of beauty (Richards, 2004). Nevertheless, the desire to become attractive in society’s eyes remain.
In this study, beauty was defined as the idea of what is appealing based on the physical attributes of one person, as well as the kind of beauty defined by Philippine Media.
Body imagery, such as the aforementioned qualities, brought upon by the construction of beauty, plays a role in one’s decision to seek cosmetic surgery. (Kvalem, Roald, Skolleborg & Soest, 2006)
Agliata et al. (2005), suggest that greater internalization of the idea of beauty implemented by mass media also contributes to a more “favourable” attitude towards seeking cosmetic surgery.
Media plays a vital role on how the public interprets the news given to them. Framing, as defined by Scheufele & Tewksbury (2007), is based heavily on the content, and how an event is portrayed in news reports can have an influence on how it is interpreted by the general public.
Society has given mass media the authority and trust to give them the information that society needs on a daily basis such as information and the ability to connect and communicate with the world (Mughal, 2013), with majority of their lives relying heavily on what mass media promotes. Some might say that mass media may even be a tool for manipulation and social control (Lasswell, 1927) although some of media’s effects may seem inconsistent in other cultures meta-analyses suggest that there is a relationship between media exposure and media effects. Many research designs even assume that “the more media content is consumed, the greater the likelihood of the effect (Perse & Lambe, 2017).”
To anchor this study, Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann’s (1966) Social Construction of Reality was applied as the anchoring theory. The Social Construction of Reality theory which revolves around the concept of how interaction with society, shape how a person perceives others. In short, meaning is set firmly in society where reality becomes imbedded in society, thus, reality is said to influence and colored by society.
In modern times, the media has been a tool of influence and of change within society. Many trends that travel into a country’s culture is because of the presence of the media and because media can influence how a person is portrayed as, they can also manipulate a person’s daily life, decisions, and even relationships (Neale, 2014).
Hence, stories on cosmetic enhancement surgical procedures is not simply about physical changes but is affected by external factors such as the construction of beauty ideals in the country.
Studies (Boroughs, Calogero & Thompson, 2007; Hunter, 2011; Blay & Charles, 2011; Glenn, 2008) have shown that media’s idea of beauty seems to be rooted in Western ideals. This can be seen in the media’s inclination towards thin, fair-skinned women. The implementation of Western beauty ideals also aids in the market of cosmetic surgery, especially in areas wherein there are darker-skinned individuals than those with lighter skin. (Rondilla, 2009; Cheng, Frith & Shaw, 2006; Park, 2005; Hunt, 2011)
This type of beauty was imposed from an early age, according to Liebler & Northup (2010), where they found the same idea of beauty across 10 Disney & Nickelodeon children’s shows. Similarly, Baker-Sperry & Grauerholz (2004) found that there is a heavy inset of ideal feminine beauty found in children’s fairy tales.
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