Monday, August 24, 2009

"In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes."
Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol spoke those words in 1968. I don't believe he had any idea how ferociously we as a culture would embrace his idea. The proliferation of "reality" tv has turned most of us into instant celebrities or shameless voyuers of a sort unimaginable fifty years ago. This has been driven home to me powerfully over the last two months, and sadly reinforced over the past week.
In between the incessant speculation concerning Michael Jackson's death (was it murder?) and burial (when and where?) there was a gruesome murder in San Diego. A body was discovered in a suitcase, mutilated beyond normal means of indentification. The victim was later identifited as Jasmine Fiore, a swimsuit model. Her husband (former, ex, there is some debate over the true nature of their relationship), Ryan Jenkins fled to Canada where he was later found dead by his own hand. It is a sad commentary on the sensibilities of our culture that this gruesome crime was deemed newsworthy not because of the act of murder, but because the dead woman was a swimsuit model and the suspected killer was a reality TV show contestant.
Jenkins mutilated Fiore's body beyond normal recognition in an attempt to thwart police. His gruesome work failed when authorities used serial numbers from Fiore's breast implants to establish her identity. I must confess to reading the story more than once because I was unaware that implants had serial numbers and was gripped by more than a little disbelief at how anyone would know to look for them. Jenkin's suicide means that we will never know the reasons for his horrific act, and we will never know what transpired in the final hours of a young womans' life.
Unfortunately Fiore's death also requires that we pause and consider what passes for beauty in our culture. Why did Ms. Fiore feel the need to alter her body? Would her life have turned out any differently had she not chosen to have appearance altering surgery? We will probably never know. It is a sad fact that some three hundred thousand woman choose to have breast augmentation surgery each year. This number includes those who suffer from diseasses such as breast cancer, but the ones who receive the publicity, and those who have most of the procedures performed are those who have the surgery done for purely cosmetic reasons. As the father of two daughters I am greatly concerned over the messages our culture sends to young women concerning their bodies.
When did it become acceptable, even desirable, for women to mutilate their bodies? I thought the sexual liberation of the 1960's and the feminist movement of the 1970's did away with the objectification of women. It it a damning indictment of our culture that women are still more valued for their physical appearance than for their abilities. It is even more disturbing that young women today are willingly, even enthusiastically, pursuing such a course of action. Men are rapidly joining women in this race for perfection. But women remain the primary pursurers of surgical augmentation, and it's primary victims.
I did not fall in love with the woman who is my wife because she had a perfect body or was more beautiful than anyone else. I fell in love with the person behind the outward appearance. She was, and is, witty, strong, opinionated, and passionate. Those things attracted me to her then and still powerfully attract me to her now. When and where did we lose the understanding of true beauty? Does anyone care? It certainly seems that Hugh Hefner and the power brokers behind "adult" entertainment don't. Nor does it seem that fashion designers and marketers. The internet and entertainment mediums share in the guilt as well, perhaps even moreso because they are the primary promoters through their websites and programming. These all share a portion of the blame for this objectification of women. The pursuit of our 15 minutes of fame has cheapened and degraded us all.
God made each one of us. The Psalmist recognized that each of us is "fearfully and wonderfully made (see Psalm 139:14)." That means that God recognizes the wonder and the beauty of all of us just as we are. His love for us is not conditioned on perfect bodies or faces, but conditioned on who God is and the love and grace he extends to us through His Son. We don't have to alter our bodies to earn that love. Why do we settle for something far less? And yet we do, from Rogaine to Botox, from tanning beds to liposuction. All our attempts to find perfection only mask the true beauty of who we are and blind us from knowing true love and its author.
You can have my 15 minutes....if that's fame, I don't want it.

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