Interviewer: Do you identify as a male, or a female, or somewhere in-between, or not-at-all?
Alves: I define myself as…unique. And special. I don’t want to be like an average person.
One of the topics I follow in the news is body modification. Back in the Nineties, many of these stories focused on mods that reflected “Modern Primitive” and even sort of “Goth” aesthetics…extreme piercings, cuttings, implanting horns, etc. The classic text regarding this subculture was the 1989 RE/Search book Modern Primitives.
Today…the quest to expand the limits of body modding has sort of blended with the reality show plastic surgery vibe, most exemplified by the “living doll” phenomenon: the Human Barbie Doll, and the Human Ken Doll.
As anybody who is at all familiar with the anatomy of said Barbie/Ken dolls is aware—the outward sexual characteristics are really played-down with these plastic idols. I mean, there are curves, and a sort of a surface-level, almost cartoonish “sexiness”…but there is also a neutered quality. Post-sexual, if you will.
This brings me to one of the most high-profile of the current “living dolls”…Rodrigo Alves, who bills himself as The Living Ken Doll. (To be clear, there is another claimant to the title, Justin Jedlica…I don’t know if one or the other will eventually try to trademark the description, and what Barbie manufacturer Mattel will say regarding that)
Alves is a Brazilian socialite/reality show personality who has had more than 50 plastic surgery operations to approximate what he feels is the pinnacle of male beauty—the Ken doll. These mods have included at least seven nose jobs, jaw line reconstruction, a Brazilian butt lift, hair implants, lipo pretty much everywhere, reshaped calves, lip fillers, silicone chest implants, silicone chin implant, AquaLift gel fillers for biceps/triceps/shoulders, and a fake six pack. He also appears to wear a variety of startlingly bright contact lenses which give him an otherworldly look.
Rodrigo Alves is no modern primitive. Rather, he is a Space-Age Baby, Kubrick’s cosmic fetus, the natural progression of Bowie as the alien. He is not looking backwards—but rather quite forwards, much like the other major class of body modders out there, the “cyborgs,” are.
As I’ve noted in my post on Luis Padron, the man who wants to look like an elf, the men and women who get this type of surgery done are embracing a new and powerful image archetype for humanity:
Not only is this a common “look” in both cosplay and the “extreme” plastic surgery community, but it’s a common design for characters in pop-culture itself. It starts with the “Space Child” from 2001: A Space Odyssey, though one could say it started even earlier with Aleister Crowley’s illustration of “Lam” (Lam and the “classic grey” of the Communion cover pretty much the same thing minus the eyes).
Is this “face” a new archetype for humanity? And is contemporary pop-culture, as well as some of these people who choose to have their appearance altered in such extreme ways, sort of “tapping” into it? And/or has the image of the elf, fairy, angel, and others through the centuries and millennia merely the same as this type of “alien?”
We can cringe at the extremity and reality-show cheese aspect to Alves…but it is not inconceivable that it will become commonplace for people in the future (those who can afford it) to simply implant a six-pack and biceps when desired? Heck, by then they could probably just mod their DNA. Or hook up to a direct neural link to whatever fantasy scenario they desired and just live there forever.
For many, judgments rise up to the surface at the mere suggestion of such proceedings. But this just might be the future that is coming, and people have the right, as individuals, to follow that path.
Rodrigo Alves “owes” us nothing: no explanations, no justifications, no fealty to a vision of “traditional” human existence and presentation. This is his unique life, to do what he wants (with the occasional risks and all). And he is doing it.
I try to reach within myself and pull out something with which to criticize his choices…perhaps he is “too obsessed” with the material, the superficial…perhaps he is scared of mortality and death and should cultivate a more “spiritual” attitude.
But how do I know that this—his appearance, his lifestyle, his image, inhabiting this archetype—isn’t his spirituality, how he chooses to express his unique being?
And I suppose that some deep, perhaps genetic part of me is simply fascinated with Alves for the same reason I was fascinated with Bruno Borges…because the Human Ken Doll is, to me, clearly born out of Brazilian culture. And while I’ve never been to Brazil, my mom is from that country.
According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Brazil is second to only the United States in total plastic surgery procedures. I remember my mother talking about her nieces back in Brazil, how they were trying to look perfect, utilizing cosmetic procedures when deemed warranted. There was all this focus on achieving a visual ideal. There was such a stigma on anything considered visually imperfect. How much of this did Alves pick up on in his culture?
But again: how much of this is simply what Alves wanted to do with his life? Being a human canvas; testing the limits of body modification.
As of this writing, Alves is ready to do his 60th plastic surgery procedure—one that he admits he might not even survive. Currently challenging his “crown” is an Iranian young woman who claims to have had even more “extreme” cosmetic surgery in to resemble Angelina Jolie—though she might have opted, at least in part, to use temporary prosthetics to complete her fantastic “look.”
More to read about on Butterfly Language:
The Man Who Is Becoming An Elf (A Modern Archetype?)
Was Jesus A “Shapeshifter”?
Is The Real Future In Cybernetic Implants?