by emphasizing the male’s position as protector and provider.3 Conversely, Charles Ray
applies a similar technique of body modification to two of his subjects, but does so for
very different reasons. Part of the somewhat grotesque aesthetic quality that Family
Romance possesses lies within the son and daughter, located to the right of their parents.
Both children possess physical traits and facial features that communicate their young
ages, but are oddly tall to where they are the same height as their adult parents,
establishing a certain sense of equality among all members of the family. But perhaps this
concept of equality does not stem from their actual role within their families, but rather
how they view themselves within their society, specifically regarding body image.
During the 1980s, only about a decade before this sculpture was created, the plastic
surgery and extreme weight loss culture made a dramatic emergence, and infiltrated the
lives of many young adults throughout the country via the media and celebrity culture.
By presenting the youth of America with body types biologically unattainable by people
their age, the poor body image phenomenon began to unravel. “On the medical front,
plastic surgery, whose repeated and purely cosmetic employment has been legitimated by
Michael Jackson, Cher, and others, has become a fabulously expanding industry … In
1989, 168,000 procedures were done, up 80 percent over 1981...”.
4 Therefore, in an age
where surgery and real-life body modification in the pursuit of idealized beauty were
ruling popular culture, perhaps Ray chose to modify the children within the piece,
especially the young girl, to look unattractive in an effort to display how she viewed
herself within a growingly plastic society. Her disfigured face, contorted body, and messy
hair contradict the ideals of beauty during this time, so instead of modifying the young