When three people in their twenties and thirties, Luke, Stephanie, and Stacey, collectively underwent over twenty-five hours of cosmetic surgery, documented in a two-hour special episode of network television, we were witnessing the beginning of a significant shift in the public discourse about cosmetic surgery. Before then, the idea that ordinary people would willingly expose their cosmetic surgeries, allowing millions of viewers to examine their “before” and “after” bodies in such detail, seemed unlikely. But more incredible was the very premise of popularizing an extreme surgical makeover, in which people would undergo not just one but numerous cosmetic surgeries to drastically change their appearance. This happened on the show Extreme Makeover (EM), which first aired on ABC on December 11, 2002. Since then, cosmetic surgery has become a regular staple of television fare, featured on other reality shows as well as many documentaries, dramas, and other programs.
Television is one socially important place where the meanings of cosmetic surgery are being generated. Henry