Last night I came across a TV reality show that held a certain ghastly fascination and sucked me into watching it for a while. I won’t reveal which one it was (too ashamed of myself), but let’s just say it featured a bunch of forty-something women who run in rich and powerful circles in which the females have to maintain a certain glossy look, usually with the help of multiple plastic surgeries and procedures.
There was a scene in which about five or six women friends were seated around a table shooting the breeze (as Holden Caulfield would say), and it struck me that they all looked closely related, even though they weren’t. Did they all have the same surgeon? Or did their surgeons all have the same training? Or had the women merely had the same procedures done?
It was uncanny—as in, “they’ve entered the uncanny valley”—how much they resembled each other, and how oddly inhuman they looked. Barbie dolls appear less plastic than they.
If you’re not familiar with the term “uncanny valley,” it’s a useful one:
Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori stated in 1970 that the more human a robot acted or looked, the more endearing it would be to a human being. For example, most lovable Robot Buddies look humanoid, but keep quirky and artistically mechanical affectations. However, at some point, the likeness would seem too strong, and it would just come across as a very strange human being. At this point, the acceptance drops suddenly, changing to a powerful negative reaction.
“That’s a human, but there’s something really wrong with them.”
My sentiments exactly last night—and these women really were humans, not computer animations.