Cyborg Reality, A Video by Marina Morrison
In my video “Cyborg Reality” I am arguing the notion that humans, specifically women, are becoming more entangled with technology in their pursuit to achieve an ideal that mass media has constructed, an ideal that is impossible to achieve without physically altering the body using surgical tools or computer programs to shift and shape one’s face into what is considered the ideal woman. My video also poses the question of whether or not the ever-increasing cyborg nature of the female body is something to embrace or something to reject. Is our new-found ability to achieve perfection through these surgeries and programs deceptive and immoral or is it simply a new way to further embrace our technological development? An Even more interesting question, how do these surgeries fit into our evolution as a species? Certainly, they make one more attractive according to media standards, but could we also be improving ourselves to ensure our success in the survival of the fittest? I will now go through scenes of my video and do a close reading to further clarify my intentions with this video.
.00-.15: The video begins with a woman standing on a television and blood begins to stream down her leg onto the television and eventually floods the entire screen. This is meant to represent the destruction of the natural female body that occurs to achieve the ideal beauty that is projected through mass media and television. The video then cuts to a a woman’s shoulders as hair clippings fall down her back furthur emphasizing transformations women go through to achieve beauty. These transformations, whether big or small, are all influenced by media and all require technology to achieve thus creating a cyborg reality in the pursuit of beauty.
.15-1.20: The video then cuts to mannequins in a beauty supply window. Mannequins represent artificial beauty and perfection that is impossible to achieve, however women attempt to achieve mannequin perfection through surgical procedures. The poster of the woman in the ad for wigs is another representation of the impossible standards of beauty that media projects. This woman is also a representation of cyborg reality as she is a chimera of technological innovations, retouching programs (certainly this poster was photoshopped), and natural woman but how natural is she? This is something we will never know. Will we ever be able to tell how natural a woman is? Is it really important to distinguish cyborgs? Or are we all cyborgs since we all slightly modify our bodies using technology to achieve beauty? Next, the video cuts to a scene of a photoshop evolution and clips from a facelift procedure furthur emphasizing the blurred lines between human and cyborg. In this scene, I read quotes from Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto, forming a relationship between her definition of cyborg and the cyborg reality that can be achieved through plastic surgery and photoshop.
1.20-3:37: Here, the video juxtaposes images using clips from the science fiction movie Brazil and clips from an actual surgical procedure known as an “ethnic nose job.” I chose these two images because it illustrates how “the boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion” (155). The movie clips may seem like it is parodying plastic surgery but in reality, plastic surgery is even more invasive than the clip from the movie. In Brazil, the woman’s face is lifted by large clips and the surgeon marks her face with red paint and stretches her skin back with his hands, finally placing a plastic wrap over her entire face as she smiles thinking she has achieved what the doctor and media consider beautiful. The ethnic rhinoplasty is not so different as the doctor is cuts away parts of her nose, literally erasing an ethnic marker of her identity. The before and after pictures display her natural self and then her new cyborg reality and ethnic distortion emphasizing the tradition of racist male dominant capitalism that Haraway refers to in her manifesto. The video then cuts to a clip of a fashion show with models walking down the runway and these models all look eerily similar, is our race to achieve beauty and perfection erasing our diversity?
3:40-5:42: In the final shots of the video cut to a girl walking through a hall filled with cyborg woman, she seems fasicnated by these cyborg women and even resembles them herself. These images paired with Haraway’s statement “a cyborg world might be about lived social and bodily realities in which people are not afraid of their joint kinship with animals and machines, not afraid of permanently partial identities and contradictory standpoints.” (155) pose the question of whether are finally accepting and embracing these cyborg unities that we have developed through our technological advancements. I end the video with a powerful image of a woman standing between two robotic arms. The woman is on a rotating platform and the robots dance beside her. The woman is frightened and resistant of these arms coming towards her, but she is helpless as they inch closer and begin to make a physical mark on her by spraying yellow and black paint on her dress. The robots have made their mark on the woman similarly to the way in which technology makes its mark on women through surgical procedures and photo editing software. The woman walks away from the robots defeated, her dress covered in paint but the audience cheers and embraces her new cyborg identity. Finally, the woman twirls in her new dress accepting her new identity as well and embracing the marks that technology has made on her.
Song Choice: I chose to include the song “Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison because it foregrounds the ideals of beauty the media projects, but it also has lyrics that underscore the role of deception and beauty, “I don't believe you, you're not the truth / No one could look as good as you / Mercy.” This line deals with the blurring lines between what is natural and what is artificial, what is human and what is cyborg? Perfection, according to mass media standards cannot be achieved through natural means and thus the woman whom Orbison believes to be perfect must be a cyborg, she must be unnatural.
funny video about cyborg plastic surgery: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imAecxs6zTE
Donna Haraway, "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-
Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century," in Simians, Cyborgs and
Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York; Routledge, 1991),
Hispanic Ethnic Rhinoplasty Patient [Video]. (2008). Retrieved May 7, 2011,
German Fashion Animation [Video]. (2007). Retrieved May 7, 2011, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xo7Qg4wGkiY
MILAN W S/S 11 - BYBLOS FULL SHOW [Video]. (2010). Retrieved
May 7, 2011, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgaGUjbogdk
Brazil (1985) – Plastic Surgery [Video]. (2010). Retrieved May 7, 2011, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEQDkYv4xtA
Weird Science of Alexander McQueen [Video]. (2006). Retrieved May 7,
2011, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bCShCcD3N0
Classique, Jean Paul Gaultier [Video]. (2007). Retrieved May 7, 2011, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvVtQUFt73o
Roy Orbison. "Oh, Pretty Woman.” Oh, Pretty Woman Album. Monument