Who could have predicted, when “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” opened in theaters, that one of its greatest legacies would be a continuing obsession of young women to emulate her exaggerated, uh, features? Yet here is another example—and there have been quite a few—of a woman mutilating herself in pursuit of looking like the sexy Toon. Model Pixee Fox—I’m sure that’s her real name—wore a waist-training corset for 24 hours a day and spent $120,000 on various cosmetic procedures including a recent operation to have six of her ribs removed in order to achieve Jessica’s apparent 48-14-40 figure.
“I’ve always been inspired by cartoons and Disney movies, all the curves and tiny waists,” Fox told reporters. “People often, they come up to me and say, ‘Don’t take this the wrong way, but you look like a cartoon.’ For me that’s a compliment. My inspiration started with Tinkerbell, but with my transformation, I’ve been starting to look like Jessica Rabbit.”
If you say so, Pixee! Pixee is ill, it’s fair to say, so the ethical issues fall on the shoulders of Dr. Barry Eppley, the Indiana surgeon who admits handling Fox’s surgery and also defends it.
I covered this the last time Ethics Alarms covered a wannabe Mrs. Rabbit (Jessica is a human Toon married to a member Leporidae Family). In that case, the happy aspiring Toon looked like this when all was done…
“When I can afford it I want to enlarge my breasts from a C-cup to a DD, change the shape of my nose and I want to make my ears pointed like an elf,” Kristina Rei said at the time. “It’s good to be different.” As I noted at the time in Kristina’s case (No, I have not checked to see what she looks like now. I am afraid, frankly) the Code of Ethics for plastic surgeons doesn’t give much guidance about when a patient’s desires should be denied. Nor do the medical profession’s ethics rules, which are subject to endless debates about autonomy and what constitutes “harm.” If a patient wants to look like a Toon, a Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade balloon, a cat or a lizard and will be unhappy if she can’t, is the harm giving in to her (or his) perceived needs or refusing them? Plastic surgeons also have a default rationalization in such cases: 15. The Futility Illusion: “If I don’t do it, somebody else will.”
Disgusting as they are, and no matter how large her Chapstick bill is now, Rei’s Thunder Lips are still relatively harmless. Missing Six ribs, though? Eppley claims that the dangers of rib removal are “an urban myth, ” and that he’s removed even more ribs at the request of another patient. “It just seems extreme because it is the only plastic surgery other than liposuction [that removes] normal body parts…,” he says. “In the typical person you’re not losing protections of your organs. I wouldn’t recommend it for an athlete though.”
So he does exercise some judgment, then.
He’s the doctor; if he says that Pixee is safe without six ribs and with a waist the circumference of my upper arm, then I suppose the operation is ethical in the eyes of an ethically dubious profession. My guess is that there’s no way to tell if he is wrong until someone bumps into Pixee and her kidneys pop out her nostrils, or she snaps in two picking a dime off the street. Then maybe his greedy profession might start looking askance at future Jessica-makers.
All right, I’ll say it. This is unethical medical practice, whether the profession has so decreed or not. In fact, I said it before, when I wrote about Sheyla Hershey, once owner of the world’s largest breast implants (size M, supposedly), who had them removed because of serious infections. American plastic surgeons are prohibited by regulations and their ethics code from using breast implants larger than 800 cc, and her breast expansion required four 800 cc implants in each breast, on a woman who is only 5’2″ tall. (Apparently there is no similar prohibition regarding lips.)
My position was that Hershey never could have given truly informed consent for the surgery, because she couldn’t possibly know what was in store for her once she began carrying around breasts the size of beach balls and the weight of bowling balls. The same would apply to giving a woman a waist that would have made Vera-Ellen look like William Howard Taft. Interestingly, at the time I wrote that “No American surgeon would agree to make her look like Jessica Rabbit’s bustier sister.”
Well, I was sure wrong about that.
We shall see what happens to Pixie. For now, all we can do is hope she finds the true love with the right rabbit.
More on Pixie, if you can take it…