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The Baroque Body: The Role of Body Modification in Scott Westerfeld´s Uglies

Kristi Scott
By Kristi Scott
Humanity in Cybernetic Environments

Posted: Mar 20, 2010

(with co-author M. Heather Dragoo)  Abstract: As a genre, science fiction provides a uniquely fertile medium from which we can extrapolate the defining characteristics of personhood, explore our future potentials, and project our current selves onto tomorrow. One such example is the Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld.

The series builds on a socially stratified environment, akin to Huxley’s Brave New World, but built around the contemporary surge in popularity of cosmetic surgery instead of a prenatally-determined class system. The world created by Westerfeld suggests that while body modification is for many today an expression of individuality or chosen community, it is creating a new and coercive ‘normal body.’ The extreme and abnormal becomes the norm.

Once extreme body modification measures are adapted, new rogues will push the boundaries again to stand out as individuals. Beauty standards reflect a cycle of rebellion, conformity, and rebellion. Westerfeld’s trifecta of uglies, pretties, and specials are subversive political images targeted at the young, the potential early-adopters of body modification, highly susceptible to peer influence and with considerable disposable income.

Through the Uglies lens, the body is a transformational medium, a social commentary carved with a knife in flesh. Thus, this paper will seek to juxtapose the changing nature of the body with social dynamics from a humanistic perspective.

Download the book that includes this chapter here.

Kristi Scott M.A. is an IEET Affiliate Scholar. Her work centers on the way popular culture presents issues of identity, body modification, cosmetic surgery, and emerging technologies. She has been a freelance writer since 2003 writing for a variety of magazines over the years, most recently as a writer and copy-editor for h+ magazine.
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