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Staying young

“From fantastic to plastic”

George Orwell once wrote that everyone has the face he or she deserves by the age of 50. These days, says Kathleen Stock in Unherd, “most 50-something female celebrities seem to have exactly the same face”, which they have paid good money for: cheeks “stuffed like upholstery”; foreheads “stretched taut as timpani skins”. At the moment, the artist “still somewhat recognisable as Kylie Minogue” has a new single out. Not only does she sing it with the “bland anonymity” of a virtual assistant, but her facial muscles now seem confined to “disdainful lip curls or slightly demented eyebrow arches”.

MailOnline says that in her new video she “sizzles in a series of racy red numbers”, and, yes, in the controlled context of a music video the “imprisoned celebrity face” can still look reasonably normal. But after a certain point no amount of good lighting or photoshopping will help and, to the media, you will become just another star who goes “from fantastic to plastic overnight”. Just look at Madonna, who resembles “a living cartoon character”. It’s nothing to do with sexiness; these cosmetic interventions are purely defensive, an attempt to stave off decrepitude and death. And plastic surgery has become so commonplace that even my own dentist is offering Botox. What will be the effect of all this? We disappeared behind masks during Covid, but at least we could take them off at night. Now we seem to be trying to insulate ourselves from human mortality. Which is odd, because what we are actually doing is “moulding a death mask out of still-living flesh”.