December 10th, 2012

Sisters of the surgeon’s knife: entering the uncanny valley

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.

I think.

13 Responses to “Sisters of the surgeon’s knife: entering the uncanny valley”

  1. DonS Says:

    Big Rich Texas? Did I win anything?

  2. neo-neocon Says:

    DonS: unfortunately, worse than that. Much worse (hides face in shame).

    Hint: it was on TLC.

  3. Sam L. Says:

    TLC–You, Neo, are learning what NOT to do. Would that others…

  4. Oldflyer Says:

    Guess I am a throwback, but I appreciate the look of graceful aging and the natural look in general.

    Not opposed to a dab of make-up enhancement to accentuate a woman’s natural assets, and I really enjoy seeing a woman who is dressed stylishly.

    However, I don’t know how the idea of rather grotesque breast sizes, and skin stretched to a ridiculous extreme became the standard for attractive. Well, one dissenting vote.

  5. artfldgr Says:

    he was wrong. the more human they are the more we are creeped out and dislike them. like the cartoon for xmas with the train… and other robotic things…. we are ok with robots looking other than human, or animal. but the closer they get the less we like them.

  6. artfldgr Says:

    oh… and recently an asian man just divorced and sued his wife. why? she had plastic surgery to look like that and had an ugly baby… the surgeons knife only goes so deep… his point was she committed fraud (at what point does fake boobs, the knife, makeup, pushups, foundation gear, plastic eyelashes… constitute a lie?), and he was very unhappy… and won…

  7. artfldgr Says:

    but if you think all htat is freaky, check out the women who want to look like manga…

    Woman Has 10 Plastic Surgeries to Look Like Anime Girl

    and this one would make a feminist go berserk

    Anastasiya Shpagina, 19, displays her real-life anime look in this photo from her Facebook profile.

    here is before an after

  8. neo-neocon Says:

    artfldgr: isn’t this comment of yours in agreement with what he’s saying? Isn’t he saying the closer the robots get to human the more uncanny and weird they seem?

    The video I posted has a little bit about those Japanese anime-resembling ladies.

    Creepy, indeed.

  9. MissJean Says:

    I had a similar real-life experience, Neo, in the early ’90s when I was given tickets to a charity event for something or other (as a starving student, I didn’t care as long as I was fed free food). I asked a couple of middle-aged women if they were sisters, and there was some smirking when they said, “No.” Later someone armed me told me that the women had the same plastic surgeon who did their noses and eyes. And they were bleach blondes with tans
    and similar builds, too.

    As for “uncanny,” I have always found it creepy when unhappily-married people choose someone who could be their unwanted spouse’s doppleganger. I can understand having a certain standard of beauty, but to choose someone whose voice, mannerisms, etc are so reminiscent of the ex (or soon-to-be-ex). Or worse, to mold the person into the ex’s look by asking her to wear her hair a certain way or something. That’s creepy to me.

  10. kcom Says:

    I saw a commercial for one of those Real Housewives shows, where they’re all standing left to right at different distances, and that was my immediate thought – they all look the same. Kinda weird.

    P.S. Which is the opposite of fictional families on TV where all the kids and parents look different. When I see a family in real life, where all the kids share traits and you can see they’re related and you can see those traits in the parents, I’m reminded of how fake TV families are.

  11. Paul A'Barge Says:

    NeoNeo was it this one?

  12. neo-neocon Says:

    Paul A’Barge: Bingo.

    But shhh, don’t tell anyone.

  13. John Dough Says:

    Shame on you neo….. Descending into the depths of trash TeeVee like that. You’re better than that crap. Aren’t you?

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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