As If Beauty
“That's what a star is … someone who is always re-creating themselves anew. ”
Joan Hyler, Hollywood manager, in “Altered States”
Brian D'Amato's updated Frankenstein novel, Beauty, makes clear the narcissistic side effects of celebrity culture. The narrator, Jamie Angelo, transforms aging faces with a combination of Artificial Skin, photography, painting, and, later, computer generations. He calls his craft “beauty technology”: “industrial materials designed to imitate or … surpass nature” (39). He specializes in celebrities (“celebrity-makeovers, ” as he calls them) whose faces desperately need to measure up to the camera's intense scrutiny (127).
Jamie creates the template for his girlfriend's new face on the computer. She is not intended to seem quite real; that her beauty is unnatural is essential to its power. Nevertheless, the instant Jamie “releases” her to the public, she becomes a paradigm for others to emulate. 1 As D'Amato suggests, however, modeling oneself on two-dimensional images is inherent in movie-star culture itself. Plastic surgery is insufficient because it's limited by real flesh. Working with Artificial Skin (absolutely smooth, poreless) is like taking an airbrushed image and importing it into the domain of real life. This is plastic surgery's unconscious