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Michael Jackson’s Facelift

Author: • Jul 2nd, 2009 •

Category: alternate worlds, architecture, body horror, celebrity culture, consumerism, features, horror, Lead Story, medical procedure, Michael Jackson, pastiche, science fiction

Ballardian: Michael Jackson


From the files of Dr Ricardo Battista’s assistant, School of Specialization in Cryogenics, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Melbourne, Australia.


“As Michael Jackson reached middle age, the skin of both his cheeks and neck tended to sag from failure of the supporting structures. His naso-labial folds deepened, and the soft tissues along his jaw fell forward. His jowls tended to increase. In profile the creases of his neck lengthened and the chin-neck contour lost its youthful outline and became convex.

The eminent plastic surgeon Dr Ricardo Battista has remarked that one of the great misfortunes of the cosmetic surgeon is that he only has the technical skill, ability and understanding to correct this situation by surgical means. However, as long as people are prepared to pay fees for this treatment the necessary operation will be performed. Incisions made across the neck with the object of removing redundant tissue should be avoided. These scars tend to be unduly prominent and may prove to be the subject of litigation. In the case of Michael Jackson the incision was designed to be almost completely obscured by his hair and ears.

Surgical Procedure: an incision was made in Michael Jackson’s temple running downward and backward to the apex of his ear. From here a crease ran toward his lobule in front of the ear, and the incision followed this crease around the lower margin of the lobule to a point slightly above the level of the tragus. From there, at an obtuse angle, it was carried backward and downward within the hairy margin of the scalp.

The edges of the incision were then undermined. First with a knife and then with a pair of scissors, Jackson’s skin was lifted forward to the line of his jaw. The subcutaneous fatty tissue was scraped away with the knife. Large portions of connective tissue cling to the creases formed by frown lines, and some elements of these were retained in order to preserve the facial personality of the King of the Pop. At two places the skin was pegged down firmly. The first was to the scalp at the top of his ear, the second was behind the ear to the scalp over the mastoid process. The first step was to put a strong suture in the correct position between the cheek flap anterior to the first point, and a second strong suture to the neck flap behind the ear. The redundant tissue was then cut away and the skin overlap removed with a pair of scissors.

Ballardian: Michael Jackson

At this point the ear was moved forward toward the chin, and the wound was then closed with interrupted sutures. It did not matter how strong the stitches were behind the ears because that part of the King of Pop’s scarline was invisible in normal conditions.

Complications: haematoma formation is a dangerous sequela of this operation, and careful drainage with polythene tubing was carried out. In spite of these precautions blood still collected, but this blood was evacuated within 48 hours of the operation. It was not allowed to organize. In the early stages the skin around the area that had been undermined was insensitive, and it was not difficult to milk any collection of fluid backward to the point of drainage.

Scarring was hypertrophic at the points where tension was greatest: that is, in the temple and the region behind the ear, but fortunately these were covered by the King of Pop’s hair. The small fine sutures which were not responsible for tension were removed at 4 days, and the strong sutures removed at the tenth day. The patient was then allowed to have a shampoo to remove the blood from his hair. All scarlines are expected to fade, and by the end of three weeks the patient was back in social circulation.

At a subsequent operation after this successful face lift, Michael Jackson’s forehead wrinkles were removed. An incision was placed in the hairline and the skin lifted forward and upward from the temporal bone. The skin was then undermined and the excess tissue removed. The immediate result was good, but as a result of normal forehead movements relapse may occur unduly early after the operation. To remove the central frown line, the superciliary muscle was paralysed by cutting the branches of the seventh nerve passing centrally to it. A small knife-blade was inserted from the upper eyelid upward for 3 cm and then pressed down to the bone. External scars on the forehead often persist, and even in the best hands results are not always reliable. It was explained to Michael Jackson where the scars would lie, and the object of the intervention.”


Based on ‘Princess Margaret’s Facelift’, by J.G. Ballard.


“I feel a tremendous rapport with pop artists and in a lot of my fiction I’ve tried to produce something akin to pop art. For instance, I’ve just published a piece in New Worlds called ‘Princess Margaret’s Facelift’, in which I’ve taken the text of a classic description of a plastic surgery operation, a facelift, and where the original says “the patient”, I’ve inserted “Princess Margaret”. So I’ve done precisely what the pop painters did, using images from everyday life — Coca-Cola bottles, Marilyn Monroe — and manipulated them. The great thing about pop painters is their honesty. They’ve turned their backs on the traditional subject matter of the fine arts — which had hardly changed since the Renaissance — and looked at their own environment and decided: yes, the shine on domestic hardware, like the refrigerator or the washing machine, the particular gleam on the mouldings of a cabinet, the moulding of doorhandles, are of importance to people, because these are the visual landscapes of people’s lives, and if we’re going to be honest we’re going to use reality material instead of fiction. I want to do the same.”

‘Sci-fi Seer’, interview with J.G. Ballard, Penthouse Magazine, 1970, Vol. 5 No. 5 (pp. 26-30).

“The relationship between the famous and the public who sustain them is governed by a striking paradox. Infinitely remote, the great stars of politics, film and entertainment move across an electric terrain of limousines, bodyguards and private helicopters. At the same time, the zoom lens and the interview camera bring them so near to us that we know their faces and their smallest gestures more intimately than those of our friends.

Somewhere in this paradoxical space our imaginations are free to range, and we find ourselves experimenting like impresarios with all the possibilities that these magnified figures seem to offer us. How did Garbo brush her teeth, shave her armpits, probe a worry-line? The most intimate details of their lives seem to lie beyond an already open bathroom door that our imaginations can easily push aside. Caught in the glare of our relentless fascination, they can do nothing to stop us exploring every blocked pore and hesitant glance, imagining ourselves their lovers and confidantes. In our minds we can assign them any roles we choose, submit them to any passion or humiliation. And as they age, we can remodel their features to sustain our deathless dream of them.

In a TV interview a few years ago, the wife of a famous Beverly Hills plastic surgeon revealed that throughout their marriage her husband had continually re-styled her face and body, pointing a breast here, tucking in a nostril there. She seemed supremely confident of her attractions. But as she said: ‘He will never leave me, because he can always change me.’

Something of the same anatomizing fascination can be seen in [this] present piece… which also show[s], I hope, the reductive drive of the scientific text as it moves on its collision course with the most obsessive pornography. What seems so strange is that these neutral accounts of operating procedures taken from a textbook of plastic surgery can be radically transformed by the simple substitution of the anonymous ‘patient’ with the name of a public figure, as if the literature and conduct of science constitute a vast dormant pornography waiting to be woken by the magic of fame.”

Annotations: “Princess Margaret’s Face Lift”, J.G. Ballard, The Atrocity Exhibition (1970), RE/Search edition, 1990.


..:: Previously on Ballardian:
+ Jimmy Ballard’s Hospital Review
+ Chariot of Fire: Preliminary Analysis & Damage Reconstruction of the Death of Diana, Princess of Wales

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7 Responses »

  1. Perfect use of Ballard’s piece…this is what it was meant for…the celebrity hysteria bullshit via fake death feeling just goes on and on…wondering who we can insert next into these medical diaries….

  2. …culminating, one would presume, in the bodyshockhorror of ‘Margaret Thatcher’s Reduction Mammoplasty’.

  3. just watched the MJ ‘farewell’ concert on the telly… could barely bring my eyes to focus on his horrid visage. Wrong on so many levels. That crotch-grabbing was quite unsettling when juxtaposed with the rest of his cartoon-like appearance. And what was with those shiny gold centurion shinguards? At least he managed to become a anime character before he offed himelf (no pun intended). File under ‘pastiche’ indeed.

  4. [...] from “black” to “white” to some sort of troubled anime being. Click here to read “Michael Jackson’s Facelift” over at Ballardian — complete with more creepy plastic surgery photos and annotations from [...]

  5. Michael is the forever KING of POP
    no matter how he changed
    we’ll always love him

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