You may need seen The Weeknd’s altered face on the web currently – both bloodied and lined in bandages or remodeled by fake cosmetic surgery. With the 30-year-old singer set to perform at the Super Bowl LV halftime show on Feb. 7, it’s going to be fascinating to see whether or not he continues the act earlier than a whole lot of hundreds of thousands of viewers.
The adjustments to The Weeknd’s face did not merely seem in a single day.
Relatively, they surfaced as a gradual crescendo, as notes in a bigger association.
Initially, there have been facial bruises on the finish of his “Blinding Lights” music video, through which an all-night bender ends in a automobile accident. He sported a bandaged nostril for performances on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in January 2020 and “Saturday Night Live” in March 2020. Later that March, the bloodied nostril and lips appeared on the cover of “After Hours,” his most up-to-date album.
He took the efficiency a step additional whereas accepting two awards on the 2020 American Music Awards, displaying up along with his complete head lined in bandages, which worried some fans who assumed the bandages have been actual. When these bandages come off for the “Save Your Tears” music video, a face disfigured by extreme cosmetic surgery is revealed – a rigorously constructed visage created utilizing make-up and prostheses that make him almost unrecognizable.
As an anthropologist who has been analyzing the societal implications of plastic surgery for over 15 years, I used to be struck by The Weeknd’s use of this medical apply.
What, I questioned, was he making an attempt to say?
Initially, I would assumed the bruises and bandages have been a metaphor for The Weeknd’s wrestle with drug dependancy, a topic he has long explored in his music. He is famous that, when scripting his music movies for “After Hours,” he was inspired by the movie “Worry and Loathing in Las Vegas,” through which author Hunter S. Thompson, performed by Johnny Depp, typically hallucinates or spirals uncontrolled.
Nevertheless, one other key emerges within the movies from the “After Hours” album. In all of the movies, individuals are continuously watching him, whether or not it is the group of stiff, masked followers within the “Save Your Tears” music video or the frantic crowd reaching out to seize him as he tries to flee on the finish of “Until I Bleed Out.”
In each instances, he appears to be evaluating fandom to an unsettling lack of privateness, one the place his very security is at stake. It is not that he fears his followers will damage him. It is extra a commentary on how his movie star standing makes him weak to a prying gaze always.In his most violent music video up to now — for the track “Too Late” — the themes of cosmetic surgery and fandom collide. Two rich white ladies with bandaged heads discover his severed head and swoon over it, earlier than deciding to homicide a Black male stripper to allow them to connect The Weeknd’s head onto that muscular physique.
The racial dynamics of the video are laborious to overlook: The ladies appear to exoticize Blackness and cut back the physique components of two Black males to things that give them pleasure.
Folks love musical performances — or artwork, extra typically — as a result of it is pleasurable to soak within the proficient work of different folks.
Within the movie star tradition of late capitalism, nevertheless, artists are discovering it increasingly tough to separate themselves from their artwork: The present continues after the work has been revealed or the efficiency has concluded. Followers really feel entitled to entry all elements of their private lives – even their our bodies.
Communication scholar P. David Marshall has written about the methods through which the general public assumes celebrities are robotically open to — or deserving of — scrutiny due to their fame. When their privateness is invaded, it is merely shrugged off as coming with the territory.
Some celebrities, just like the Kardashians, lean into it. They’re keen to reveal themselves in more and more invasive methods — whether or not it is by social media or actuality tv —as a result of they wish to exploit the symbiotic relationship between media publicity, wealth and energy.
However different celebrities, like Lady Gaga, have been forthright in regards to the methods through which fame has harmed their psychological well being. Musicians like Sia and Daft Punk have gone to nice lengths to cover their faces and defend their privateness, making it a part of their act.
Through the use of bandages and prostheses to cover his face, maybe The Weeknd can also be telling us that components of his life are off limits – and may keep that means.
The Weeknd additionally appears to be acknowledging the immense pressures that celebrities really feel to evolve to unrealistic magnificence requirements. Superstar journalism could be significantly merciless when well-known folks fail to measure up, with the paparazzi making a fortune off pictures that demonstrate celebrities as vulnerable or imperfect.
Feminist and literary scholar Virginia Blum has written about how celebrities are admired for his or her potential to remodel and beautify themselves, and but additionally they grow to be canvases for harsh critique when it appears they’ve gone too far with cosmetic surgery or have aged ungracefully.
For celebrities, it may possibly typically appear that there is not any pleasing anybody. By making these considerations with superficial magnificence a part of his artwork, The Weeknd appears to throw that mirror again at his listeners, asking them to mirror on the irrelevance of his look to his craft.