November 28, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 51  

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Dorian Gray alive and well in 2003

What the Shuk?
Mark Polishuk

Opinions Editor

For a recent English assignment, I was planning to write a short play spoofing Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Titled “Dorian Gray Orders a Pizza,” a poor pizza boy would’ve become enthralled with Dorian during a routine delivery.

As I was writing this piece of guaranteed hilarity (ahem), it suddenly occurred to me that Wilde’s novel didn’t require a modern update. Why create a new text when the real world provides us with Dorian Grays of all kinds? If Wilde had lived in 2003, he wouldn’t have needed the fanciful notion of a magical portrait to retain Dorian’s youth. The novel simply would’ve been titled The Botox Injection of Dorian Gray. Or perhaps instead of making Dorian a young English gadabout, Wilde could have made his protagonist a budding Olympic sprinter, injecting all manner of drugs and supplements to capture a gold medal.

Since there is no magic portrait to sustain them, the modern-day Grays have to suffer the potential dangers of chasing eternal beauty or youth. Women have gotten silicone poisoning from breast implants, pill-popping athletes are far more likely to suffer liver, kidney or heart failure, and let’s not even talk about the folly of men who attempt a penis implant. SPAM e-mail is not to be believed, folks.

The argument could be made that if some movie star wants to get a bit of plastic surgery, then why is it our business? If some athlete shoots up before a big game, well, then it’s all the better for the customer who buys a ticket or turns on his TV to watch spectacular athletic feats.

This is the type of slippery-slope moral argument Wilde first exposed back in 1890. Dorian’s immunity to nature and society’s laws leads to the inevitable feeling that all such laws are beneath him and thus he feels free to murder and ravage as he sees fit. If we as a society condone these types of dangerous vanity, are we prepared for the consequences? Does the nine-second thrill we get from seeing a sprinter win a race make it acceptable to see that same sprinter die prior to age 40 of a “heart attack?”

Dorian had the reminder of the portrait hidden up in his attic, whereas the modern day Grays coast along in ignorant bliss, their quest for beauty and fame overwhelming any comprehension of what they’re doing to themselves. Their “portraits,” as it were, are the post-mortem CAT scans revealing diseased organs that are as degenerated as the aged character in Dorian’s painting.

Perhaps dying is merely the final step towards achieving “eternal” youth. After all, a talented embalmer can fashion any grotesque body into a beautiful corpse.



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