Saturday, August 29, 2009

Youth Knows No Pain

Mitch McCabe takes an intensely personal look at the anti-aging movement in HBO's Youth Knows No Pain. As the daughter of a plastic surgeon McCabe has always been age-obsessed. The film is an exploration of both her inner conflict with the business of age reversal and an attempt to understand those who have gone through the process themselves. McCabe makes no effort to conceal her own insecurity about aging and she is likewise able to have her subjects speak with complete candor about theirs.

In the process, she is able to reach some solid conclusions. In a society that is obsessed with youth to the point that is valued over the intrinsic worth of a person, it is not surprising for women (and men) to want to be on the winning side. Most are convinced that looking good equals feeling good and therefore they can nip-tuck and Botox their way to happiness and fulfillment. That is the demand side of the story. On the supply side are the cosmetic manufactures, plastic surgeons and physicians who abandoning the disciplines they were trained in to get in to on anti-aging bandwagon.

There are women who will miss their mortgage payments to be able to pay for their cosmetic enhancements. Instead of fearing age, they begin to fear not having enough to pay to reverse it. McCabe discovers that anti-aging can become addictive. From super-expensive anti-wrinkle creams to Botox shots to a full blown plastic surgery - these are rites of passage in the unending quest for eternal youth. There is always a superior product or procedure out there that will shave five more years from a body or face.

Once you begin there is no looking back because you get used to seeing a youthful even if plastic version of yourself in the mirror - a reversal from that to natural aging would be anathema for those who so firmly believe that they have to reverse aging. From being a holdout who wonders why she is so obsessed about age and if she is more an anomaly than the norm, McCabe succumbs to the dragnet charm of Botox.

Her story and that of those she features in the film are a great indicator for societal attitudes towards age and reduced vitality. As long as women believe they come with an expiration date and must to whatever they can to extend it, as long as employers are unwilling to hire anyone over fifty and lifestyle magazines in their photoshopped glamor shots purvey the unrealistic ideals of physical perfection and youth, the ant-aging business can only continue to grow. McCabe ponders and provokes questions about where this will all lead to in the end.

1 comment:

Linda said...

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