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No amount of plastic surgery can fix what ails incels: Thoughts on that New York magazine cover story

By David Futrelle

New York Magazine has a remarkable cover story out now on incels — more specifically, on the subset of the “involuntarily celibate” who obsess endlessly about getting plastic surgery in order to transform themselves from supposedly hideous unfuckable monsters into handsome Chads with perfectly chiseled faces.

For some incels — as the story’s author, Alice Hines, makes clear —  plastic surgery isn’t just a fantasy. They shell out tens of thousands of dollars to get the procedures they think will fix their lives. Spoiler Alert: It never does.

Hines’ story centers around two central characters — one a surgery-addicted incel calling himself Truth4lie, the other an Indiana plastic surgeon named Dr. Barry Eppley, the go-to-guy for dudes who want to turn themselves into Chads by artificial means.

The story of Truth4lie is not a happy one. As Hines tells it, he began his descent into the incel underworld on the Sluthate forum after several unsuccessful years as a would-be pickup artist. Sluthate, which began as PUAhate, was morphing from a pickup-debunking forum into a forum for incels obssessed with their alleged ugliness,

Truth4lie took “the black pill,” a concentrated dose of noxious misogyny and body-dysmorphic self-hatred; instead of memorizing pickup routines he spent his time sitting in what he described as his dark, dingy, fruit-fly infested apartment railing against the allegedly shallow women he felt were rejecting him for his less-than-perfect appearance. And more and more he started to fantasize about getting the plastic surgery necessary to “correct” his self-diagnosed facial flaws and transform him into a Chad.

Then he took the plunge, flying from his home in the Netherlands to Indiana to visit Dr. Eppley to get a jaw implant and a “rhinoplasty revision” to correct an earlier nose job he’d decided made him look too feminine.

Truth4lie had high hopes that the surgery would change his life utterly. “I need women, lots of women, to make up for my miserable life,” he wrote on the Sluthate forums.

I want to live in hotels in tropical countries and live a playboy life there, only fucking hot blonde European girls. 

Truth4lie did feel transformed by the surgery — for a time, at least. But he kept noticing new “imperfections” that he felt needed fixing, and returned again and again to Eppley’s clinic for “revisions” and new procedures, one of which, Hines notes, resulted in “an open wound that took months to close.”

He continued getting surgeries in the Netherlands, but he was never fully satisfied. The last time Hines talked to him he was in the hospital recovering from a suicide attempt triggered by the excessive swelling caused by his latest surgery. But he told Hines he was going to keep going until some plastic surgeon finally got it right. “The prospect of a better surgery result is keeping me alive,” he explained.

He’s not the only incel who has discovered that surgery can’t fix all that ails them. Hines quotes an incel called LegendOfBrickTamland, who found himself getting weirdly angry that people were nicer to him post-surgery. “Getting treated better after surgery feels sickening,” he posted on the forums after getting $30,000 worth of work done.

It’s like, I am the same fucking person, and yet I am somehow better because I spent some money and had a man cut my face up. 

Hines’ article is dotted with “before and after” selfies that incels have posted on what is now Lookism — depicting themselves as they are and, through the magic of photoshop, how they dream they could be after plastic surgery. None of them are ugly; indeed most would score reasonably well on the ten-point scale of looks that incels and other manosphereans are so obsessed with.

It’s certainly possible that plastic surgery could make them look a bit more like their idealized photoshopped doubles — with their male-model cheekbones and stronger chins.

But it hardly seems worth the pain and expense, especially when it’s so abundantly clear that the real problem isn’t with the precise configuration of the bones in their faces but with the poisonous ideas in their heads, ideas reinforced daily by the other commenters on Lookism and other incel sites.

But if Truth4lie’s story is a sad but predictable cautionary tale about the futility of the quest for physical perfection, the Dr. Eppley’s story is in many ways more disturbing. One of the reasons he’s become an idol to incels seeking Chadification is that — unlike some plastic surgeons who turn away wannabe patients who seem to suffer from body-dysmorphic disorder — Eppley apparently takes on all comers, no questions asked.

Indeed, he’s evidently so incurious about the motivations of his patients that — despite his huge incel fanbase — he told Hines that he didn’t even know what incels were until she brought the topic up with him.

And that’s a problem, I think. While I believe people should be allowed to get pretty much whatever plastic surgery they want if they think it will make them feel better about themselves, this approach can become a hugely problematic one when you’re dealing with a community of bitter, self-hating misogynists preaching utterly delusional nonsense not only about their own allegedly imperfect faces and bodies but also about the relations between men and women.

These are people who literally believe, against all evidence to the contrary, that no man who is less than an 8/10 on their supposedly objective scale of attractiveness can ever hope to have sex with any women of what they consider reasonable attractiveness. These are people who think that the mythical Chad literally lives a life of financial independence and endless sex, coming home at night to “a threesome with two supermodels,” as one incel put it in a forum post that Hines quotes.

Given their ridiculous assumptions about the allegedly magic power of “Chadlike” looks, there is no way that any amount of surgery will ever satisfy a hardcore incel — even if they’re not, like Truth4lie, obsessing endlessly about imaginary flaws that no amount of surgery can fix, or, like LegendOfBrickTamland, getting angry that people are treating them better. Because no amount of surgery, no matter how innovative, no matter how skillfully performed, is going to bring you nightly supermodel threesomes. Because no one in the world is having those.

Again, the real solution for incels isn’t implanting silicone to “fix” their chins; it’s extracting them from the incel subculture, and draining out all the poison in their brains.

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Atropos Moirai
Atropos Moirai
1 year ago

John Cusack. Emilio Estevez. Anthony Edwards. Noah Wylie.

Justin Timberlake. Robert Pattinson (seriously, Team Edward existing in the face of Team Jacob is proof that women like all sorts). This is my daughter’s generation so I don’t remember many more.

He-Man was a Master of the Universe – that sort of screams “unique hero for a unique destiny.”

Barbie drove a minivan and wore jeans.

Lainy
Lainy
1 year ago

@Atropos

I as a 20 year old like Tom Holland and Cole Sprouse. And from what I’ve seen so do a lot of other young women and teenage girls.

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee

As a 39 year old year old, I can see why people might find Cole Sprouse attractive, but I can’t over seeing him as one of the kids who played Ross’ son on Friends.

Lainy
Lainy
1 year ago

Wwth

Was that him? he was one of the kids on the sweet life of zack and cody but was he friends?

Atropos Moirai
Atropos Moirai
1 year ago

@Lainy

This doesn’t surprise me. You are a young woman of discernment and taste.

It’s almost as if women don’t have one preferred “type,” and that even for one individual woman, she may be attracted to a variety of “types.”

Who knew?
/s

Robert
Robert
1 year ago

I had something of a type back in my early thirties, when I was roaming San Francisco like a lion seeking whom I might devour. Then I met my husband, who wasn’t really my type. But he was so gosh darned wonderful and good-looking that it didn’t matter.

Twenty five years later, and he’s still got my undivided attention. And great legs.

anon
anon
1 year ago

They would benefit from reading feminists.
Especially fat ones. Ijeoma Oluo has similarly written about being angry she was treated better when she lost weight.

anon
anon
1 year ago

That Barbie v He-Man meme was already addressed years ago.
He-Man is a power symbol for men who is healthy (it is possible to achieve in a healthy way)
Barbie is appealing to the male gaze and her body is impossible and unhealthy (underweight to a deadly degree).
Furthermore, you can see more examples of fat men and “ugly” men in media.

In appearance, in general, Barbie isnt really made with women in mind, at least not feminist women; He-Man isnt either. Both are appealing to patriachal standards. He-Man in particular is marketed to boys, not girls.

Additionally, women and feminists as a group have never said that there are no unrealistic images of men in media. “My head hurts today” doesn’t also mean, “your head never hurts”, I teach this to little kids.