Media, culture and society


Hypodermic Needle Theory is a theory that suggests that mass media has a direct, immediate and powerful effect on its audiences (Hypodermic needle model, n.d.). The audiences are passively receiving and completely accepting the intended messages sent by the mass media to them. "It suggests that mass media inject messages and information directly and uniformly into audiences' minds who immediately will be influenced" (Al-Hassnawi 2009).

The Korean movie Time is about a couple, Seh Hee and Ji Woo, who have been together for two years. Seh Hee started to get jealous when her fiancé, Ji Woo, eyes other women and especially when they were making love, Ji Woo gets excited thinking of making love with another woman. This made Seh Hee think that her fiancé is getting tired of her and the way she looked. And so she decided to undergo plastic surgery so that her boyfriend will fall in love with her all over again. She disappeared for six months which is good enough for the scars to heal, leaving Ji Woo hurt, depressed and thinking that Seh Hee does not love him anymore. When Seh Hee came back as a new See Hee, she tried to seduce her old boyfriend but Ji Woo is still in love with his old girlfriend Seh Hee. She managed to win his heart but she is jealous with her old self as Ji Woo is still very much in love with the old Seh Hee. When Ji Woo learned the truth about Seh Hee and See Hee that they were the same person, he went crazy and decided to go to the clinic where Seh Hee did her plastic surgery. He, too, went to change his face to let Seh Hee feel what he felt when she changed her appearance. "Time is steeped in a quiet, disturbing violence that censors feelings and mutilates the soul through body surgery" (Time (Shi gan) [2006] (Korean Movie), 2007).

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Time is considered an example of a Magic Bullet Theory or Hypodermic Needle Theory because of the influence and manipulation that the media producers and creators created in the movie. They manipulated the audiences' thoughts and injected information and messages about plastic surgery. The movie conveys the message to the audience that in South Korea, it is very much easy to go under plastic surgery because plastic surgery clinics can be found everywhere and that it is a norm for the South Korean citizens to undergo cosmetic surgery. It also tells the audiences that people, especially women, should look beautiful and attractive so they can be easily accepted in the society. Furthermore, this movie suggested that men are attracted to women who are beautiful and attractive. And so, those people who have watched this movie, especially those girls who are attached, will think that their boyfriends or husbands would want them to look more attractive like in the movie. Thus they will have the mindset of undergoing plastic surgery so as to please their boyfriend's or husband's wishes of having attractive and beautiful girlfriend or wife. Even to those who are single, they will also undergo plastic surgery so that they could get their preferred and chosen partner.

"In countries such as China, Taiwan, Japan and especially South Korea, plastic surgery appears to be on the rise and can be described as a commonplace by some accounts" (Tewari & Alvarez 2009, p.550). "Plastic surgery has become so common in South Korea that more than thirty percent of Korean women between the ages of twenty and fifty have had a cosmetic procedure" (Cosmetic Plastic Surgery in South Korea, n.d.). Looks for South Koreans are very important as it would ensure them socioeconomic benefits and also they will be very proud of themselves and gain self-confidence. As there is an intense competition for jobs, education and marriage partners, Koreans keep improving their looks so as to achieve their goal on getting to the top in society. "In Korea, it has become a piece of street wisdom that appearance is the most important qualification for employment as well as for enhancing self-confidence" (Chang & Kim 2005, p.122). Even though there is news about the negative side effects of having ample amount of cosmetic surgeries on one's face, this does not really prevent the people, especially the Koreans, from getting their cosmetic surgeries. According to Japan Probe, when the Korean woman who have " botched double-eyelid surgery has one eye that opens much more than the other and one of her eyelids cannot entirely close" (James 2007) did not really convince the customers from getting their procedure done because they know that it is a rare case to have it and that they trust the surgeons to do a perfect job on their faces.

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"The most popular Korean plastic surgery operations, double eyelid surgery to create an upper eyelid crease and rhinoplasty to enhance the structure of the nose, are very different from their equivalents in the West" (Cosmetic Plastic Surgery in South Korea, n.d.). To have bigger eyes in South Korea is every girl's dream and so most of the girls in the country will go for plastic surgery for the eyes. "Teenagers as young as 14 are doing it, and eye jobs have become a favorite high school graduation gift from proud parents" (Ko, n.d.). Winter vacations are when clinics in South Korea are busiest. This result from the many senior high school graduates who want to change their appearances to have better chances in entering college or the workplace. The vastly popular choice of undergoing plastic surgery is getting double eyelids. Nose jobs have been also rising in popularity among teens in South Korea. Competition is what South Korea has become, thus leaving behind conservation. Due to the popularity of teenagers undergoing plastic surgery, parents are so willing to let their children undergo plastic surgery because they are afraid that their children will fall behind, not just in academics but also with aesthetics. Dr.Shim Hyung Bo, a plastic surgeon practicing in Seoul said that "Parents make their kids get plastic surgery, just like they make them study. They realize looks are important for success" (Ko, n.d.).

Plastic surgery in South Korea is not only popular with women but also with men. They feel and think that it can improve their career prospect if they undergo plastic surgery. In the South Korea's entertainment industry, looks is very much important as much as the talent counts (Gluck 2001). Korean actors and pop singers undergo plastic surgery to look more attractive and to please their fans. In a BBC report, Kim Suk Min said "I got my nose done to please my fans, so I could look more attractive. Also I had some breathing problems, and the surgery helped with that as well" (Gluck 2001).

Since plastic surgery is so common in South Korea, it does not matter to them if their idols have undergone plastic surgery. The people could not really care less if they see their idols has undergone plastic surgery or born with natural beauty. For them, being famous needs to be attractive and so the citizens in South Korea, especially the actors, actresses and pop singers goes under the knife just as to keep up with the trend and to please the society. It does not matter to the people if one has undergone cosmetic surgery as because beauty on the outside makes one person stands out in the society. For instance, "BoA has been reported to have had plastic surgery for her eyes at least three times, along with numerous operations in other parts of her body and yet, she continues to be one of the biggest-selling acts both in her homeland and in other Asian countries like Japan and China" (K-Pop's Dirty Little Secret: Plastic Surgery, 2008). Cosmetic work adds value to the Korean actresses and pop singers' careers instead of having negative effects from it.

Considering the vast popularity of plastic surgery in South Korea, people from other countries flock to the country to have their plastic surgery done as the price of getting the surgery done in South Korea is much cheaper than in any other countries. According to online news from Japan Probe, during the Golden Week in Japan, Japanese traveled to South Korea to get their plastic surgeries done and since the holiday was quite long, it gave the patients to let their swollen faces heal before they returned back to work (James 2007). It is common for the Japanese to get their double eyelid done and make their eyes big, same as the Koreans, because they do not really like having small eyes.

The media influences women to live under increasing pressure to look attractive through the TV dramas and reality TV shows, advertisements and movies that they show on TV, movies or newspapers and magazines. The media conveys the message that women should be slim, fashionably dressed, wears make up and must undergo plastic surgery to look beautiful and sexy (Chang & Kim 2005). With the TV shows like Americas Next Top Models and Victoria Secret Fashion Show, the messages that the media producers conveys to the audiences are that women should like those on TV so as they could be like and accepted by the society. Celebrities have a very much big impact to the audience's mindset and influence them on how they should their appearance look like. Especially the Western celebrities, they set the fashion standards to the Third World countries. "The people of Korea have grown more comfortable with the idea of plastic surgery as their entertainers and even political leaders have flaunted altered features" (Cosmetic Plastic Surgery in South Korea, n.d.).

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Since the boom of Korean Wave on early 1990s, South Korean artistes influence not only the citizens in South Korea but as well as in other countries. Even though there are numerous good-looking Korean girls who does not need to undergo surgeries, they still want to go for cosmetic surgery as they have been influenced by the pictures of their favourite Korean pop singers and actors "who have impossibly big eyes, breasts and oddly western looking faces" (Korean actors before and after plastic surgery pictures, 2009). Foreigners flock to South Korea just as to have plastic surgery because they know the surgeons in South Korea are very much expert as they have done justice with the looks of the Korean artistes. For instance, Cate Siu is from Hong Kong who is a fan of South Korean television shows flew more than 1,000 miles to a clinic in South Korea for an operation to raise the bridge of her nose, make her eyes appear larger and sharpen her chin (Fairclough, n.d.). She was inspired to go for plastic surgery because of her favorite Korean actress who is the beautiful soap-opera star, Song Hye-Kyo, whose bee-stung lips and feminine features she admires.

According to Chung Jong Pil, a surgeon who runs the Cinderella Plastic Surgery Clinic in a fashionable Seoul neighborhood that a lot of his patients bring a picture of a Korean star from a magazine and will tell him that they want to look like the Korean actor or actress (Fairclough, n.d.). People think that Korean actresses are very pretty even though they know that they had undergone plastic surgery. Lee Yihsiu, who runs the Taipei office of International Plastic Surgery, says that "Korean pop culture has made plastic surgery fashionable" (Fairclough, n.d.).

In the movie, the director connected the starting and the ending by showing the audience when the old Seh Hee bumped to the new Seh Hee outside the plastic surgery clinic at the end of the movie. The director was trying to convey his message to the audience that in time, we will ask ourselves why did we went for plastic surgery and in the end, make our lives miserable just because we wanted to change our appearance for our loved ones.

In conclusion, the movie Time has so much effect on the audiences' mindset regarding about plastic surgery. It will make them think on whether or not having plastic surgery will cause them positive or negative effect in their lives. As for the Koreans, this movie does not really affect them that much. It is a norm to undergo plastic surgery because it is a trend for the South Koreans to do so.