Digital culture is literally reshaping women’s faces

In December 2021, American megawatt entertainer Ariana Grande posted a photo of her wearing dark winged eyeliner, wearing foundation lighter than her skin tone, and wearing bright red lipstick often associated with style. Korean makeup style. Online commenters dragged her so quickly for “Asian fishing,” appropriating Asian features, that she quickly deleted the post. But some defenders who identify as Asian have weighed in, saying that associating Grande’s appearance as Asian in the first place only confirms biases about her looks. Asian: pale skin; slanted eyes, smaller. Earlier that year, Oli London, a white British K-pop fanboy, underwent several plastic surgeries to look like BTS member Jimin. London then described themselves as “cross-racial” and as a result they became the center of controversy. Putting aside the power imbalance of cultural appropriation, these examples illustrate to some extent that the West as a leader in setting global aesthetic standards is fading, like the role of the United States as a geopolitical standard-bearer.

Always on the verge of bleeding, Korean doctors have taken into account globalism. So Yeon Leem, a Korean biologist turned social scientist, said clinics are designing and continuously adapting computer algorithms to analyze aesthetically attractive faces so that they can recommend optimal processes for its customers. These algorithms measure the proportions of beauties of all different ethnicities and analyze aggregated data to discover “what is the global proportion…the ideal of beauty common to all races”. This is part of a technological look at the workplace, providing and creating demand at the same time. Machine learning learns which faces and features fit the scientifically proven “magic” proportions and provides us with the latest aesthetic standards to achieve. Sure, they require costly interventions or more cosmetic labor.

Sociologists have noted a regional trend, in the 2010s, of flattening out many desirable features into a single “pan-Asian face”: a blend of European and European features Asia with a focus and favor on what sociologist Kimberly Kay Hoang calls “a specific East Asian ideal—a thin, round face and an even, untanned complexion.” In her fieldwork, Hoang studied the beauty practices of Vietnamese prostitutes. She discovers that they engage in surgery and alterations to achieve a blend of physical appearance, but tend to be Asian: “Now modern people are Asian,” informants trust her to say.

The modern Asian face is increasingly defined by Korean beauty standards, with Southeast Asian women particularly looking to Korea for the latest, most advanced beauty products and procedures. . Michael Hurt, a sociologist in South Korea, who calls Korea “supermodern,” annual Seoul Fashion Week images and has been documenting Korean styles with her street photography for over a decade. When he came to Vietnam to take pictures of a fashion model in 2019, he thought a special person resembled a Korean woman. “I noticed when she turned her head towards me, I was like, ‘Wow, you look so Korean.’ And she said, ‘Oh my god, thank you. That’s the biggest compliment I’ve ever had.’”

This ideal transfer of appearance is not linear or one-way. It’s like a mix and match with what scholars call neoliberal multiculturalism. Coined by Jodi Melamed, the term is used to refer to an ideology of global racial formation that devalues ​​a country’s indigenous culture, favoring the amalgamation of many cultures. . It arose after the civil rights movement in the United States and with the globalization of capital. It is a trend of neoliberalism combined with multiculturalism, further shedding light on the profit-first, consumable, and consumable character of capitalism. Korean culture researchers like Emily Raymundo find it happens in a combination of “beautiful” ideals around the globe—big lips from the Southern Hemisphere, bigger buttocks from Africa and Latin America, Prominent nose from Northern Europe. “The fusion of ‘faces’ is about amalgamation of international beauty standards (K-beauty, Bollywood, Hollywood, global Instagram influencers, etc.),” she wrote. me in an email.

It may not be long before these trans-Pacific differences continue to be flattened into an entirely trans-racial view. Today’s Korean beauty standards are remixed into broader beauty standards as the dominant beauty becomes increasingly globally unified driven by the internet. In home design, for example, rental internet platforms like Airbnb have led to a sterile, similar aesthetic that is easily recognizable across living spaces. When it comes to people’s aesthetic ideals, the global Instagram contest plays out similarly, bringing us to a largely homogenous set of beauty standards, which become more and more integrated as they spread across the marketplace. school of our ideals and desires.

And these abilities to improve and change the body are refracted through the social network, where injections and surgery are sold among the many upgrades available to us in the name of “progress”. As culture critic Haley Nahman observes, the crux of modern life is the belief that more technology is always better than less. It leads to several examples of seemingly benign “advancement” actually making things worse while the companies behind them make more money. She cites TurboTax, Face ID, and self-checkout and writes: ‘It’s easy to cite examples of pseudo-progress and hard to envision our trajectory not toward an increasingly ‘world’ optimized’, frictionless, smooth. A place where the conditions this pursuit has created thus far—alienation, over-normalization, mass inequality—are only becoming more apparent.” Botox fits this framework as something marketed to us to relieve our personal stress about forehead wrinkles — aka aging — but not for the collective good. It is an investment in a worldview that we should does not wrinkle in middle age or even older. And it breeds anxiety for those who don’t.


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