There must be thousands like me who turn on the TV for the news at six and find ourselves staring at Ann Robinson as she finishes her latest Weakest Link. And staring is the operative word. Why’s that face so strange? Look at those eyes, eyelids divorced from life, stripped of emotions, a perpetual stillness in an ever changing skinscape; look at the muscles on the face as they refuse to budge as she tries to convey something that is meant to be witty, or meant to be a put-down. She has a face frozen by botox, and numbed by the surgeon’s knife. She is not human. She purports to be human, but is nothing more than a construct of others, an ideal that might be idealised but is nothing other than dehumanised.
Worse than that: I see her face everywhere. A sister-in-law turns up at the door with the same expressionless expression – but how can she express herself when the very mechanical means of expression are frozen? She is like my computer screen when the operating system cannot bear yet another version of ITunes: the machine needs a re-boot to live again. The sister in law and Ann Robinson are screaming for a re-boot. They are frozen, the Apple beachball circulating for an eternity unless I commit the ‘terminal’ error of closing the whole system down in the hope that it will revive itself on a re-start.
I keep seeing these people, they are multiplying. Is that Paul McCartney? How can it be with those eyes? Those are not the eyes that sang Hey Jude – they are the eyes of the living dead. Is that Tom Jones? Is it not unusual, Tom? Do people in the Welsh valleys look like you? Cliff Richard, well, I suppose I could expect that evolution, he’s finally become the Living Doll that he always sang about. But Kirk Douglas? Spartacus re-born as an aged Barbie Doll? Kirk, you’re finally not Spartacus!
We need a word for these freaks. John Wyndham springs to mind, because their growing oneness, the inevitability of them all becoming identikits of each other, with the exact same eye non-movements, the exact same perfect and line-less foreheads, the exact same stretched and taut cheeks, brings forward the image of the children in the Village of the Damned. All the same; all frozen; all perfect and yet all so deeply flawed. Stripped of their humanity. And yet, at one, meaningless level, flawless.
The word, though, comes from another of his novels. Triffids. These mutants are as dangerous as those damned plants, and increasing in that exponential manner that characterised their expansion.
And I suppose, like the heroes in that novel, those of us who refuse to participate will find it increasingly harder to ignore the imperialism of these damned face-twisters.
I know what we’ll call them. We’ll stick with Wyndham. We’ll call them Stiffids. The ever-growing number of the stiffest of faces; those who have become the very denial of who we are and what we are and what we become. We’re going to have to fight the bastards because today they are winning; today they are everywhere, on everyday just before the News at Six, on every time Jools presents some revered oldies.
Funnily enough I was just idly watching a programme about Robert Plant on the telly. I hardly ever watch TV - not out of snobbery, just never been much of a TV addict - but I stumbled across it and thought I'd sit down and give the old bugger the benefit of the doubt. I'm so glad I did. He's NOT a Stiffid! He has an impermeable membrane of ego around him: that childlike conviction that WHATEVER he decides to do has some significance, even if its only for himself; and he has the money and the seeking spirit and the musical curiosity to indulge all his whims. He makes no attempt to look any younger than he is. He just doesn't care. His vanity is such that he is completely comfortable with the way he looks and presents himself. I may not buy his records any more but I say good luck to him and I wish there were more like him.
Just caught up here with your post, Pete, and it was such an "oh, so that's it" moment for me. I swear, sometimes I wonder where my mind's at. I would see at these faces, Ann Robinson in particular - she must be the queen of Stiffids, and stare at them in wonder. I had thought it was some part of the aging process. You know, when the inner self begins to show on your face. I had not realized there was a simple physical explanation, made the connection that these Stiffids were the result of botox. Goes to show how far off the beaten track I live, in a world where botox usage and plastic surgery is extremely uncommon. Maybe simply because of the expense and the lack of local plastic surgeons or whoever does the injections.
However, pharmaceuticals are cheap everywhere and I have often associated the lack of facial expression to anti-depressant usage. Prozac was handed out like candy amongst my age group, particularly females, and there was a time a few years back when I would have been hard put to find someone who wasn't on an antidepressant. Some professionals even inferred one was in denial if they refused to take them. Anyway, there was always that somewhat emotionless expression I attributed to their usage. Interestingly, the word most used by those I know as a reason for going off these drugs is 'compassion'. They say anti-depressants made them loose their sense of compassion - as was obvious on their facial expression, or lack thereof. And now, I'm wondering how many Stiffids are on antidepressants?