This mix of revulsion and fascination with the human form has a name: body horror, a term generally used to describe works of fiction depicting grotesque images, intended to frighten and reveal social anxieties. The overwhelming impulse toward pity or fear or even derision — “You paid money to look like that?” — applies to real-life bodies we gawk at, whether through a screen or on the streets.

It speaks to how we, the observers, are perhaps more shaken by the pretense of artificiality than any actual body-modification procedures or the industry that peddles them. In this way, the botched body becomes a warning, a reminder of the unspoken standards we are held to. What’s most revealing, and most similar to when we find ourselves drawn to horror movies, is our inability to look away.

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