This chapter presents our theoretical approach to cosmetic surgery and its discourses. We argue that cosmetic surgery tourists are seeking value, and that for many of those we spoke with, their bodies were the only asset it was possible for them to invest in. We argue that existing feminist theories of cosmetic surgery fail to account for material, fleshy bodies that change over time. Whilst most cosmetic surgery theories point to an external (‘perfect’) body of popular culture to which the cultural dopes of cosmetic surgery are subject, we point instead to instances of melancholy for a lost body, when comparisons are more often with one’s own body as it used to be than with ‘image culture’. Images do however provide guides and possible styles: when one wants to change one’s body, one has to illustrate how. So, while we do not see cosmetic surgery as totally outside any regime of images, we argue that images have a more complex and nuanced role than cosmetic surgery discourse allows. The chapter includes a discussion of the PIP scandal as a way to interrogate the workings of this discourse.
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