The saying, “never judge a book by its cover,” is great, but a first impression is a different story. When meeting a person for the first time image is everything. Although one cannot tell a book by its cover, we often look to physical appearance to give us clues about a person’s stability, beliefs, intelligence, and abilities. When looking at someone you can generally tell their personality and general lifestyle they choose. Today people can change any aspect of themselves: their clothing, hair, teeth, face, and body.
Most of these changes are met with a level of tolerance but some are more socially acceptable than others. Taking action to change one’s appearance can be used as a way of retaining youth, keeping current with the times, or boosting one’s confidence. Some young people and adults are undergoing these changes in order to express themselves and to improve their physical appearance. The societal pressures to maintain an attractive image are intense and experienced by the majority of the public.
In Susan Bordo’s essay “Never Just Pictures: Bodies and Fantasies” she discuses how American ideals have lead people do develop eating disorders to conform into what we believe is normal and beautiful. Our society puts good dental hygiene very high, Everyone is expected to have nice teeth. When I was younger I was dealt with all sorts of things with my teeth. At first it was stainless steel dental caps and then braces and teeth whitening, anything to get straight, white teeth.
However in some other societies this way of looking at teeth is completely turned around.
In Sumatra straight and white teeth are not the ideal beauty but instead tooth sharpening is looked at as being beautiful. Although getting your teeth whitened and straightened doesn’t seem like something too extreme it is a form of body modification and conforming to popular American society. As a child my dentist put stainless steel crowns or SSC for short on most of my teeth, these crowns were to prevent any damage caused from cavities and allow proper spacing for my permanent teeth.
Needless to say they were an absolutely necessary modification, the crowns covered all my teeth, and whenever I smiled or talked there would be a quick flash of silver. I hated them because they would be the first thing people asked me about as I was growing up and not many people had them. This temporary modification to my teeth changed my perception of how I needed my teeth to be. I felt after I finally had gotten rid of them I became fixated on having perfect teeth and I got braces. Although I hated the crowns compared to them, braces were normal.
Most teens have them; it was nothing out of the ordinary. Getting braces was my way of modifying my body in this case my teeth by shifting them into place by the force of metal wires. Although it was painful whenever they were tightened it was well worth it to know that I had good dental hygiene and that my teeth would never be crooked again. While I had my braces on, right before school I can often recall seeing the same infomercial advertising Invisalign, a clear plastic retainer to straighten teeth much like braces do.
The commercials showed a few different scenarios with attractive people smiling and meeting new people, then a banner comes up saying “A smile can change everything” the infomercial then shows a few people who are trying to hide their teeth, eventually showing another banner “Invisalign can change you outlook on life”. This product and types advertisement shows just how much people think and put into fixing and obtaining great looking teeth. If you have good teeth then you’ll live a happy and successful life, these are the qualities and aspirations every American should have.
We are obsessed with body image and the positive connotations it brings. Americans will try anything to obtain this perfect image. “Never Just Pictures: Bodies and Fantasies” by Susan Bordo is about how today in American society looks at everything from T. V. , ads, movies and music to get an idea of what they should look like. According to Bordo “On television, infomercials hawking miracle diet pills and videos promising to turn our body parts into steel have become as commonplace as aspirin ads. ”(Bordo) In the essay, Bordo tries to get the readers to take a closer look at today’s obsession with the human body.
She talks about how weight that was once considered normal, isn’t today. Women and even men are purging and starving their bodies to lose weight and become nothing more than silhouettes of themselves. These people are trying to become thinner and form to what Americans find the ideal body type. While Bordo only discusses eating disorders a general message can be obtained: people who want to be accepted and be perceived of as a “normal” person see these modifications such as weight, teeth, pricings, and tattoos as a way into being accepted, a way to blend in.
While many people who are happy being themselves and change nothing, oppose altering their appearance to conform, others claim that body modifications help themselves to feel better and comfortable. We live in an extremely self-absorbed world; people go to great lengths, striving to be beautiful. Attractiveness appears to lead to a successful and happy life, so it’s no wonder that our society is the way it is. This has led to the growth of the cosmetic surgery industry. However, influences other than attaining beauty play a part in this; sometimes changing your appearance is necessary.
Now when I look back, braces and straightening my teeth have made me feel more comfortable with the way I smile and the way I look at my face. Having good teeth is a statement of having good health and cleanliness. Good teeth may have changed the way my friends and new people who I meet look at me. Just recently, I had my teeth whitened. I noticed a new tint to my teeth, the result of drinking endless amounts of coffee. I started to become increasingly self-conscious about it and became uncomfortable with it. Although I didn’t need to like I did the crowns or braces I had my teeth whitened.
I instantly felt better about myself. I started to speak more confidently, something that didn’t happen after I removed my braces Although our perception of beauty is perfectly straight teeth, another culture praises sharpened teeth as the most beautiful. A documentary called Taboo: Body Perfect depicts the Sumatran practice of tooth filing. This tooth filing practice sharpens women’s teeth into points with nothing but a chisel, a rock and no anesthetic. Similar to my experience of having my teeth pulled and straightened, these Sumatran women undergo a painful experience to achieve beauty in their society.
Even though it isn’t our sense of beauty these women become highly attractive in their society. Upon hearing about the painful practice, I understand where these women are coming from. In their society this is their version of being beautiful opposed to our straight and white teeth. This locally defined sense of beauty isn’t that different than our way of having cosmetic or dental surgery done to our faces and bodies. Similar to the way Susan Bordo describes our society’s fixation on being thin. I believe that we have a very similar desire to have the perfect teeth.
There are so many advertisements for white teeth it could even rival the number of weight loss ads. The amount of celebrities who have obscenely white teeth is innumerable, it seems like every character of every movie and TV show has perfectly paper white teeth it’s the accepted social norm. Body modification doesn’t have to be extreme or radical, it can be as simple as having your teeth cleaned or even having corrective eye surgery, Body modifications can help people feel more comfortable about themselves and how they present themselves to others.
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