The World-Wide Nip and Tuck

Cosmetic surgery can make a huge difference to the self-esteem and lives of individuals who have been disfigured or feel that they have an issue with their appearance that is insurmountable. Cosmetic surgeons argue that even though beauty comes from the inside out, we all have to look in the mirror and be comfortable with who we see. Most people agree that having one or two procedures to enhance your appearance is not a problem, but what happens when you use cosmetic surgery to make yourself into something or someone completely different? There are cultures which are obsessed with changing their appearance to match the ideal through surgery and some would call this obsession taboo. There are others that take it even one step further. In this week’s Taboo: Extreme Collectors, one man takes his Superman collection to the extreme, using cosmetic surgery to become a part of it.

In a survey about body image conducted by Dove, 90 percent of the women they polled around the globe stated that they wished they could change a part of their appearance. Some countries seem obsessed with doing just that. Brazil, the United States and China are the top three countries for the most cosmetic surgeries performed. In Brazil more than 11.5 million cosmetic operations are performed a year. There are even surgeries done at a reduced rate, sometimes even at no cost, for the poor. In China the number of surgeries performed on young-adults is rising rapidly. In a country where people in search of a job submit a photograph with their application, meeting a standard of beauty can help your career. When physical alteration is a standard to meet the ideal of beauty in the world, does it become taboo? What if the ideals of beauty you work to obtain are your own?

Herbert Chavez calls himself the ‘Filipino Superman’, but he wasn’t born that way. He is a longtime collector of Superman paraphernalia, an obsession that started when he was a kid. Superman was his favorite superhero, not just because of his superpowers, but because he loved people and stood for justice. Collecting memorabilia for a fictional character is not unusual, but Chavez took it a step further. He didn’t just want to emulate the characteristics of Superman, he wanted to be him. In the last 15 years, has undergone a series of cosmetic surgeries to change his appearance including a thinner nose, whiter skin and a chiseled jawline.

With his permanently altered appearance and a pair of blue contacts, Herbert Chavez does resemble the man of steel, but has he gone too far? Philipp Blom, a writer and historian thinks so and notes in this week’s episode of Taboo, “Of course, it’s also a spectacular misunderstanding because you don’t resemble Superman by looking like him. You resemble him by being like him.” Becoming a living component of your own memorabilia collection is just one of the ways an obsession can cross over into the taboo.

Tune in too Taboo: Extreme Collectors this Sunday July 15 10 et/pt and see how just how far an obsession can go.


  1. Nila Atkins
    Roseburg Ore
    July 22, 2012, 2:19 pm

    This is so sad, This young man seems to be unable to seperate himself from the fantasy world and what is reality. He has even taken it so far as to alter his facial appearance to look like his childhood superhero. This young man needs to seek a trained therapist. He obviously is compulsive and obsessive by believing that he can be just like him. But he needs to realize that Superman is not real. and so is his idea that he has to be like him. Herbert will never have a normal life, relationship or ever be able to fit into society at a normal level untill he does