June 4, 2003:
My girlfriend uses mechanical implements of self-mutilation to bend her body to what she believes to be her will. Which is to say, she uses gym machines to sculpt a flat tummy.
"For energy," she says. Or, "To be healthy."
I'm skeptical. We've all seen photos of civilizations which value artificial body shapes. Grotesquely elongated necks, stretched earlobes, tiny feet. Accomplished via long-term self-torture using mechanical implements at levels of technology available at the time. You could call this "art": our bodies as canvas. It might be more appropriate to label it oppression: it's predominantly women who undergo this mutilation.
The current form of this very old abuse was commercialized, beginning in the 1980s, via the standard mechanisms through which capital creates artificial needs. Advertising, predominantly. "Flatten your tummy or you won't get a man." Repeated so often and at such expense that people internalize it uncritically, particularly younger women born into what are now the dominant cultural norms. To the enormous profit of the exercise industry, a new market segment that didn't exist thirty years ago.
One day people will laugh when they view images of our contemporary body shapes. Ultimately the flat-tummy look is as artificial and unnatural, and as ridiculous, as the giraffe-like necks of earlier cultures.
TriadCity satirizes these induced needs through characters called "Flatheads". Flatheads use exercise, wooden boards, and sometimes surgery to flatten the tops of their skulls until objects such as boxes can rest on them comfortably, as if they were table tops. Along with Deathsuckers - cigarette smokers - these are the only characters who can be legally killed.