TELEVISION REVIEW / The nips and tucks of outrageous fortune
Friday 21 October 1994
For 20 minutes or so Catharine Seddon had put up a heroic resistance against trite cliche, and then cliche had won.
The moan was the louder because she had managed, against all odds, to win you over. Perhaps the very last thing television needs is another documentary about plastic surgery. There is a large warehouse on the outskirts of Strasbourg where they keep the plastic-surgery film mountain; the EEC is even considering a set-aside scheme, paying directors to film ponies or Alpine scenery rather than add to the glut. It will be difficult to change old habits, though - as a subject, plastic surgery offers a cheap dividend of moral superiority and gore. It's queasy money.
But, from its opening frames, Seddon's film suggested she might give a face-lift to this sagging theme. Her method was an odd mix of the mischievous and the tactful, the resulting film both slyly comic and genuinely melancholy. She seized upon the fact that the clinic was having an extension built. 'For lipoplasty, known also as body-contouring, dial 423' said a genteel voice from the clinic's answering machine, as you looked at a labourer with the contours of the Quantock Hills. There was a point to this, as to many other glancing details - a point about male attitudes to their bodies which was there for you to pick up but which you weren't obliged to shoulder. There was a similar wry wit to the way she presented those who profit from the business.
But when it came to the patients, Seddon advanced with considerate caution, tiptoeing towards their real desires with such tact that they occasionally put into words what she couldn't. 'Some people think I'm a half-crazed anorexic, but I'm not,' said the woman who had gone in for a tummy tuck, and you understood why Seddon had included an earlier scene in which she adamantly refused to eat an evening meal. Seddon let the denial stand but then asked whether she had ever wanted children. 'No,' she said too quickly.
'Fifteen years ago I thought I might have. I would have liked a daughter but it would have been for the wrong reasons. Selfish. . . like a toy I suppose, that I could go and buy her beautiful things.' She laughed as if she was being silly, but the truth was movingly explicit here, a reminder that when people with perfect bodies go to plastic surgeons the scar is often under the skin.
The profession was given a better showing in Children's Hospital (BBC 1), in which a plastic surgeon sewed up the ragged scar on a young child's face. I know all the arguments about such programmes - that they inform the public and ease our fears - but there's no getting round the fact that this is popular programming and that it simply wouldn't be as popular without the visible distress of children, without the bloody 'before' which the 'after' resolves. In this case the 'before' was a young girl having a fit and a baby with its face ripped open. How on earth would you go about explaining this to a traveller from another time? 'In this century we divert ourselves in the evening by watching scenes of children in pain. But, tell me, why do you think that strange?'
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
ReviewThese heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Jack the Ripper: Scientist who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
- 2 Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake online report claiming artist's identity has been revealed
- 3 Former East 17 frontman Brian Harvey turns up at Downing Street and 'demands to speak to Prime Minister'
- 4 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
- 5 Paralysed man Darek Fidyka walks again after treatment by British doctors on brink of 'cure'
James Blunt finally admits the truth: 'You're Beautiful' is annoying
Downton Abbey review series 5, episode 5: Period drama falls disappointingly flat
Star Wars Episode 7 has almost finished filming
Fury, film review: Brad Pitt is intriguing as unsympathetic war hero
Batman v Superman: Side-kick Robin to be 'woman played by Jena Malone'
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
Jose Manuel Barroso warns David Cameron against making 'historic mistake' over immigration reforms
Worst Airports of 2014: Poll names Islamabad airport in Pakistan worst in the world