Beauty is a funny thing. Forever a concern for both the beautiful and un-beautiful alike, attaining and maintaining a consistent level of seemingly effortless attractiveness requires, for most of us, a lot of work.

Saturating our television shows, magazines and movies (with the exception of most French films, to their credit), conventional standards of beauty are as inescapable as they are unrealistic. They demand of us a level of aesthetic perfection that most of us simply cannot deliver - not even with the most expensive pills and potions at our disposal.

So, what's a regular Joe or Josephine to do? Most of us end up doing the best with what we have; we avoid fluorescent lights, sing the praises of Polaroid cameras, and try to find solace in our mothers' advice: "Stop obsessing. Nobody's looking at you." We try to remember that as an accountant, a travel agent, or a second grade teacher, it's nobody's business but our own how we look on any given day. In theory, we are free to be comfortable in our bodies and grow old gracefully.
But, what if people are looking at you? What if your paycheck depends on a tiny waistline and invisible pores? What if a graceful embracing of middle-age means giving up on being a sexy leading lady, and dooming oneself to a life of playing grandmothers, midwives, and survivors of the Titanic?

For many movie stars, this is a painful reality. In a profession with a seemingly endless supply of young, beautiful stars and starlets, what's an ugly/less-than-perfect celebrity to do? The answer, of course, is staring at us in our wrinkled hyperpigmented faces: plastic surgery.
Celebrities that go under the knife are far from uncommon, but most of them find amazing plastic surgeons and pay them vast amounts of money to do it well. What's the mark of good plastic surgery, you ask? There isn't one - that's the point. Good plastic surgery is like a good soy hot dog - if nobody told you otherwise, you'd believe it was the untouched work of Mother Nature herself. Unfortunately, these celebrity plastic surgery success stories are about as interesting as soy hot dogs are delicious, and so we rightly kick them to the curb in favor of the disastrous, the nightmarish, and the downright horrific.

But why do the disasters happen? Why would an already beautiful celebrity push her luck for the sake of a more rounded nipple or a more feminine knee? Some would argue desperation. Others, BDD (body dysmorphic disorder). Probably, it's a little bit of both. While some celebrities turn to plastic surgery because they genuinely need it (e.g. Ashlee Simpson, Donatella Versace), others do it for reasons we'll never know, often proving the old adage: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Take Melanie Griffith, for example. She was gorgeous. No, really. Then, in an act of preemptive plastic surgery, Griffith decided she wasn't perfect enough and pumped her lips full of collagen. Whether the surgeon was incompetent, or Griffith just pushed the limits of her face (see Michael Jackson's collapsing nose), the surgery was a disaster. While definitely plumper than they had been previously, Griffith was left with an inkblot for a mouth and forever doomed to walk the red carpet looking like she'd drunkenly applied her lipstick in the car. Future starlets, take heed.
Some celebrities have famously used plastic surgery to turn themselves into monsters, but we can't learn too much from their mistakes. Often, the really extreme plastic surgery nightmares are the least exemplary because they hint at actual insanity and not simply the pursuit of beauty. Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, that guy who turned himself into a tiger, the list goes on and on.

As wacky and unpredictable as they appear to be on Letterman, these celebrity monsters aren't funny. They're just sad, and to make fun of them would be like making fun of the mentally ill, which is kind of, well, not cool. Pity them, yes. But don't laugh. It's the pointing and laughing that got a lot of them into trouble in the first place. Michael Jackson used to be called "big nose" in middle school. Think about it.

With the list of celebrity plastic surgery nightmares growing by the day, and updates on their various indiscretions readily available in glossy print at our local newsstand or grocery line, one can only hope that scientists discover the secret to eternal youth before these beautiful people destroy themselves for our approval. Let's leave plastic surgery for acne scars and hare lips, shall we?

Dishonorable Mentions (click on link for photo):
Joan Van Ark
Burt Reynolds

Stroy By David Smithyman
Starpulse contributing writer