When I was a kid, nothing caused my eyes to glaze over faster than the words, "ethical debate." Back then, ethics were the realm of dried, wrinkled old men who were flat out too old to do anything more unethical than passing wind at family gatherings.
Then the California Raisins arrived, and Mike Ditka began advertising, well, you know, and suddenly the respected realm of the dried and wrinkly began to get& silly.
"Oh, please," you scoff. "Claymation fruit and a new prescription drug are hardly enough to send Philosophy spiraling down into a pit of folly. Ethical debate is never going be of interest to frat boys and bubbleheads."
"Hah!" I scoff back. Just like Jurassic Park's Dr. Ian Malcolm pointed out, "Life will find a way," I posit that the great abiding truth about our way of life is that Western Culture will find a way to make everything cater to frat boys and bubbleheads. Assailing the natural dignity of wrinkly people was just a forerunner of what technology would allow us to do. And where the United States has led, the world has followed.
Take American Baseball. Steroids should have been our wake-up call. We had a chance to deal with it quickly and then be done with the whole thing. But noooo. We (okay, I) made a few rude comments, and then mostly ignored the subject.
I will admit, I thought it was stupid for Congress to get involved. But that great body of wrinkly folks, over-sensitive from having to withstand both the California Raisins and the centuries of selective breeding that led to the Shar-Pei dog, was apparently trying to save us from the silliness they have had to endure. They failed, and now the debate has gone to the next level of ridiculousness.
Those wacky Communists in China are holding a "Miss Plastic Surgery" pageant.
The only requirement: contestants must be surgically modified. The applicants include young women in their 20's (variously enlarged and reduced), a 62-year-old woman (who, after spending a modest fortune on face lifts and breast jobs now looks not a day over fifty a sensible use of resources in a land where starvation is still a pressing issue), and a young girl who was, until several years ago, a young man. (No relative of the female athlete in Zimbabwe who was very recently discovered to STILL be a young man.) Other contestants who did not make it to the finals include Burt Reynolds, who before plastic surgery was Caucasian; Courtney Love, who before plastic surgery was still human; and a California Raisin who, after failing to be reelected to the Senate, went under the knife to become an Idaho Potato (a state whose voters also rejected him, causing him to opt for a career in professional baseball and/or appear the fifth season of UPN's "America's Next Top Model").
"Statistics have shown that those who are more beautiful than average are even economically better off than others," contest organizer Han Wei has been quoted as saying. "Everybody should have the right to pursue beauty."
And with a sponsorship made up almost entirely of beauty clinics and cosmetic surgery providers, everybody should have the right to encourage others to new heights of bizarre behavior in order to make a buck.
Maybe there's no harm in it. After all, contestants are competing against other surgically altered individuals, so it's not a "crime against nature" as much as an "artificial free-for-all". But there's an ethical dilemma here; one that lacks the solemnity of human cloning or nuclear energy. Something about using technology to convince folk that who they are isn't good enough until they look like someone else. Or maybe it's all about genetically modified crops. (That Raisin confuses me.) Take a step back and you've got a mess of misguided intentions and sophomoric giggling that's worthy of a FOX special. ("When surgically altered fashion models attack!")
And while what wise and wrinkled sages we have left (who aren't off shooting a video for "I heard it through the grape vine" or getting Botox injections) are pondering where to begin with what's wrong with this picture, I'm going to join the mental underachievers who are content to sum the whole thing up with a movie quote.
Let's go back once more to fictional smart guy, Dr. Ian Malcolm, who hit the nail on the head when he said, "That is one big pile of ... "
Comments and before and after photos to Alex.Queen@gmail.com.
This article first appeared in the July 17, 2005 issue of the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin.