20 February 2009 | groggo
The sad story of breast implants
As an older male on the far side of 50, I have often wondered about the attraction of breast implants for women. In almost all cases, they have been pressured by themselves or by twisted cultural demands to believe that such surgery will alter their personalities and make them into very happy people.
I watched this chilling DVD last night, and I'm still shocked and somewhat awed by it. Writer/director/producer Carol Ciancutti-Leyva has scored brilliantly by fulfilling the obligations of all great documentaries: to make us THINK about a subject, so much so that we either want to embrace it, or feel outraged by it or want to do something about it. When filmmakers can galvanize you that way, they have more than done their jobs.
Ciancutti-Leyva's enquiry involves female breast 'augmentation' or 'enhancement'. She skillfully documents the cases for both sides: those who want the procedure (and receive it) and those who want 'explants,' the removal of those foreign, silicone-shelled, chemical-filled substances that were once part of their pride and joy.
This film should be mandatory viewing for anyone considering this procedure (apparently a stunning 300,000 implant operations -- and growing fast -- in the U.S. alone every year). Many of these females are barely in their teens, highly impressionable post-children who, in effect, hate their breasts and think 'augmentation' will transform their lives. And in many cases it does: for a few short years. And then the problems emerge: after an average of seven or eight years, the implants begin to deteriorate, rupture, even calcify. In grisly detail, we see the extracted (surgical) results of implants gone bad -- yellowish, putrid, liquefied blobs that once resided in the breasts of women.
It was disturbing to watch the quasi-sordid shenanigans of the 2003 U.S. Federal Food and Drug Administration's highly questionable 'hearings' (and eventual endorsement) of the procedure. For some inexplicable reason, more than half of the panelists hearing depositions (and many condemnations) on the subject were themselves plastic surgeons with a lot to gain (or lose) from panel judgments. If this wasn't a conflict of interest, I don't know what is.
If it was up to me, I would give Ciancutti-Leyva an instant award for her contribution to this subject. I would also give a special award to Dr. Edward Melmed, the earnest 'explant' plastic surgeon who removes hideous debris (the footage may turn your stomach) that gestates in 'augmented' female breasts for many years. He also helps these women to believe in themselves again as the 'real' people they once were before their artificial 'beauty' was bestowed upon them by implants. For his troubles, Melmed has (rather predictably) been ostracized and made a pariah by his fellow plastic surgeons.
To balance Melmed, Ciancutti-Leyva offers Houston-based Dr Franklin Rose, a prestigious plastic surgeon who has performed thousands of 'enhancements'. He also has his own political agenda: he condemns those inconvenient 'liberal' (read 'radical') women who have the audacity to decry the procedure and cause his industry embarrassment and criticism. One imagines Rose, in his secret psychic 'other world,' seeing such female 'obstructionists' as little more than hysterical, REALLY uppity neo-Emma Goldmans storming the barricades and threatening the comforts of male domination. This doctor is revealed on camera as a familiar figure in world literature: a man immersed in rigorous denial on one hand while he counts his growing mountain of money on the other. As if to ensure himself about implants, he repeats the words 'it's safe,' at least four times in one interview. He also hauls out that all-too-familiar cop-out line 'I'm only filling a need, a demand.'
This film should have a worldwide distribution without delay.