Self-mutilation. Think about that word. What first comes to mind?
In The Sick Series, most readers will find John Branch’s self-mutilation horrific and incomprehensible. He is deceitful, manipulative, and selfish, but his compulsions and desires are the spawn of self-hatred, neglect, and lack of love. What do you think we should do with a man like John Branch? Most people would probably say he should be locked up, put on meds, and forced into therapy.
But what is the difference between what John Branch does to his body and what happens under the plastic surgeon’s knife? Women and men who want attention from the opposite (or same) sex, are willing to get sliced and chopped and patched back together. They risk infection and death and deformity. They will stick foreign objects inside their bodies. Think about that. Slicing open your skin, sticking a foreign object inside, and sewing it up.
Swaths of flesh are removed to tuck the tummy. Nipples are cut out and placed elsewhere. Fat is violently vacuumed from asses. We aspire to self-love and self-acceptance and but our behavior show just how fragile our sanity is.
Yet, we judge. The old woman who had her face stretched back over her skull, her hair dyed to cover the gray, and her eyebrows permanently tattooed onto her face will wrinkle her nose in disgust at the pink-haired punk with full arm sleeves, body piercings, and horn implants.
These are all alterations to the body for attention, for love, for acceptance. And it’s perfectly acceptable in our society. How is it different from what John does and the reasons why he does it? Is it no less sad and barbaric? Isn’t it a cry for help?
I think that’s why people can relate to The Sick Series, and what makes it most disturbing.
John Branch’s crazy is our crazy, just on an exaggerated scale.
It’s like watching those plastic surgery shows when they cut around the face and lift it up like the layer of cheese from a New York pizza. We identify ourselves so much with our appearance, our bodies, our faces, but when our flesh is on the operating table, you can see it’s nothing but a piece of meat. As soon as the doctor lifts the skin from the skull, the face – the identity – vanishes.
I hold nothing against plastic surgery and body modifications. I have tattoos and piercings, and probably a third of the people I know have had “some work” done. I believe each person should be allowed to do with their body as they wish, no matter what the reason.
I’m presenting this comparison so people will not be so quick to judge, so that they will realize that we’re all very much alike after all – down to the need for acknowledgement, attention, and to be accepted. Down to the desperate lengths we go to win love and keep it.
Down below the skin. To the meat and the bones.