Want a Kardashianesque body? It'll cost you

Coping: We augment and adjust our bodies in minor and major ways all the time, doing everything from removing body hair to piercing holes in our flesh

Kim Kardashian:  ‘Vogue’ quoted a plethora of just some of the frightening-sounding treatments required to achieve a body in the Kardashian style. Photograph: Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

Kim Kardashian: ‘Vogue’ quoted a plethora of just some of the frightening-sounding treatments required to achieve a body in the Kardashian style. Photograph: Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

 

Browsing through Twitter a couple of weeks back, I happened upon a link to an article on Vogue. com. Apart from advertising the very distinct reality of our era – one of the saddest, I think – that everything is politicised now, the article gives rise to some interesting philosophical questions. The headline, since changed, read something along the lines of “How much does a post-truth body cost?” and featured an accompanying image of two of the Kardashian sisters.

The phrase “post-truth”, while bringing into common parlance theories stemming from long-simmering post-modernist ideas as applied within academic fields like sociology and gender studies, expresses a very disappointing reality – that relativism has become a respectable philosophical position to hold in the real world. Truth, like fashion, has become fluid and subjective.

The appearance of someone representing the naturally impossible modern aesthetic ideal doesn’t maintain itself

 The Vogue article focused on the financial kick in the pants a Kardashianesque body, with its impossible angles and dimensions, will cost you. Hard work and genetics will only get a lucky person so far, and the cost of the strange, futuristic treatments listed in the article climbs well into the thousands, while they require repeat visits and upkeep.

The appearance of someone representing the naturally impossible modern aesthetic ideal doesn’t maintain itself, but crumbles like an unoccupied palace if left to its own devices.

There is nothing at all wrong with buying the look you desire if you can afford it. The resulting body is still yours. Reading the Vogue article, I was reminded of Amy Winehouse, when she was asked if her iconic beehive hair was her own, answering to the effect that it was indeed hers, because she had paid for it.

 It isn’t the concept of people augmenting or adjusting their bodies which is particularly interesting here; a body is the property of the person who lives inside it, and it is hardly for others to determine what they might do with their vessel or their money.

We augment and adjust our bodies in minor and major ways all the time, doing everything from removing body hair to piercing holes in our flesh to jam little dangly bits of metal through. We mutilate, enhance, and adjust ourselves for beauty.

Artificial standards

What was more interesting was the idea that reaching an artificial standard of beauty can only be achieved through artificial means, and that a post-truth body must necessarily be, in some sense, a lie.

Vogue quoted a plethora of just some of the frightening-sounding treatments required to achieve a body in the Kardashian style, like a painting in the pre-Raphaelite style, as frighteningly costly. Frighteningly costly to the tune of over £23,000. For that money, you could buy 46,000 pouches of Felix cat food from Tesco, or a pretty good car with money left over, or an obscene diamond ring, if not quite in the Kardashian style.

What chunk of our waking lives should we devote to achieving or maintaining our desired externality

 While Vogue looked at the achievement of this post-truth body from the very practical angle of cost, it is perhaps even more unsettling to look at it from the angle of time. While a huge portion of most people’s income would be excised by even a paltry half-attempt at this professional level of bodily intensification (for want of a better word), even more time is required.

What chunk of our waking lives should we devote to achieving or maintaining our desired externality? After all, the more artificial and enhanced the desired look, the more work, money and time are required to achieve and then maintain it.

 Author Zadie Smith was recently lauded and vilified in equal measure for suggesting that many women spend too much time applying makeup and worrying about beauty, and even as a lover of makeup myself, I can see her point.

She made the comments in response to noticing that her seven-year-old daughter had become overly interested in looking in mirrors, and Smith now limits beauty-related preparation for leaving the house to 15 minutes.

Though hard to locate, it does seem that there is a point along the scale of bodily amendment – temporary and permanent both – at which a level of misrepresentation or distortion seeps in. Uncharitable people might call it dishonesty.

I cannot tell where that point is, the ideal we chase can indeed push us past what is real, or true.

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