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Face/OnFace Transplants and the Ethics of the Other$
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Sharrona Pearl

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226461229

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226461533.001.0001

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A Very Special Makeover: Face Transplants on Television

A Very Special Makeover: Face Transplants on Television

Chapter:
(p.123) Chapter 5 A Very Special Makeover: Face Transplants on Television
Source:
Face/On
Author(s):

Sharrona Pearl

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226461533.003.0005

This chapter looks at the continuation of the face transplant through its mediatization. It focuses on television representations of subsequent face- transplant recipients in the United States, reflecting on the highly conservative, deeply normalizing stories these representations tell. These television representations are mapped onto both the medical- documentary and makeover formats. This analysis shows the rhetoric of the big reveal of the conforming external self, earned by trauma and the work of self- improvement. There is a specific national context to this study, as the United States is the only country for which recipients of the surgery needed a private source of funding. There’s also a gendered story: women make better (makeover) television, a significant advantage in raising needed funds and awareness for the procedure. I consider the role that television portrayals play in making the surgery palatable and acceptable, a trajectory heightened by military involvement in, and funding of, the surgeries and their associated research. The chapter argues that military rhetoric frames the surgery as the solution to the social problem of the injured vet. Except ultimately, the index between the face and the self remains fundamentally vexed, asking us to rethink what we imagine faces can tell us.

Keywords:   makeover television, medical documentary, television studies, military funding, Carmen Tarleton, Charla Nash, Richard Norris, James Maki, Dallas Weins, Mitch Hunter

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