Saturday, March 13, 2010
Could Plastic Surgery Kill Dramatic Performances?
by Monika Bartyzel Mar 9th 2010 // 5:15PM
As hordes of actors attempt to stave off aging, we watch on, amused. It's hard not to laugh or snicker when a person who has clearly had plastic surgery claims that their face is natural. They might as well claim to be a relative of Stretch Armstrong, trying to feed us bull that their skin doesn't fall and change no matter how old they get, that their chin was always that shape, their lips always that puffy, their eyebrows always that arched.
It's also inspired many of us to complain about the lack of emotion these actors can offer, how it affects performances and ruins a role -- emotions desperately trying to escape from the clutches of Botox and injected fat. But It's more than just a threat to random roles. We must ask: could this rampant love of plastic surgery affect or essentially change how cinema is made and performed? New York Magazine recently looked into the issue, inspired by the unmoving faces in the television show Damages.
The most telling piece of the article deals with emotion as a sort of compromise, actors figuring out what facial movements are necessary for their careers. Plastic surgeon Stephen Pincus told the magazine: "I ask them, what expressions, what emotions, are you concerned about losing? They'll say, 'I have to be mad, or surprised, or I'm worried about my eyebrows, I don't want to be a blank stare.' I say, 'I can paralyze your forehead from this point up, but you're not going to be able to wrinkle a good part of the forehead. Is that an issue for you? If it is, we shouldn't do it.' They're more concerned about wrinkles than about the five seconds of emotion people might not notice anyway."
Actors -- who are in the business of portraying life and emotion -- are now attempting to quantify that ever-important range of emotions. Surely, then, if this trend continues as actors age, we must wonder how that will change dramatic acting. Could the age of realism be over, replaced with emoting that doesn't involve furrowed brows and facial angst?
There are -- thank god -- a few thorns in this possibility. For one, James Cameron's new motion capture technology demands facial realism: "No botox. Their faces have to move." If this technology turns out to be even partially influential, it can help keep rampant surgery in check. (Assuming studios don't simply ignore older actors and opt for youth.) Secondly, there are actresses who dare to stay real, and have received love and critical acclaim for their talents, like Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren. While they're in Hollywood power, they are leading a powerful fight for the craft. However, even that thorn isn't so sharp these days. Damages, that show mentioned above, stars Glenn Close, who was surely the queen of older actresses when Streep was still building her career.
So, what will this mean for the future? Will we finally see a plastic surgery backlash as facial reconstruction ruins the fine art of acting? Or, will we see Hollywood film morph to accommodate the rampant facial tightening and removed emotion?