Featuring often-graphic operating-room footage, home videos, personal "before" and "after" photos, and interviews with patients' doctors and lawyers, Plastic Disasters is a graphic, disturbing look at the dark side of the typically American notion that medicine can make everyone look beautiful, this HBO Documentary Films presentation follows three people - two women, one man - who are recovering from disastrous plastic surgeries.
Lucille, whose "plastic surgery journey" includes collagen injections, two facelifts and a nose job, believes her cosmetic surgeon performed her nose job too soon after her first facelift, causing her skin to swell and then sag, which made her look 20 years older and, she says, left her with problems breathing and swallowing. Mona, whose bowel was punctured during a routine liposuction procedure, sustained an infection that led to more surgeries and persistent bed sores that wouldn't heal. Eventually, both of her legs had to be amputated. And Tony, who wanted to have a nose job because he thought it would make him look younger, ended up damaging his nasal bones during the procedure; he has since had four additional surgeries to correct the problem.
Though plastic surgery is widely used today for non- essential cosmetic reasons, we learn that, in fact, it evolved out of necessity. One of the doctors interviewed in the film explains that the origins of plastic surgery can be traced back to the First World War, when many soldiers suffered gunshot wounds to the face. Doctors began to recognize that these horrible disfigurements, which often made the men social outcasts, could be just as devastating as having a serious illness, and developed innovative techniques to reconstruct the face. After the 1970s, when breast implants were introduced and plastic surgeons started advertising, cosmetic surgery took a steep upward trajectory. Today, we learn that "Over 9,000,000 cosmetic surgeries are performed each year in the United States." What's rarely advertised is the chance of something going wrong: "The total number of medical complications is not a matter of public record."