Recently, National Geographic featured the bagel head procedure—a variant meme of the body modification memeplex—on Taboo. Since the episode aired, the procedure has gained nothing but negative media attention and criticism in the United States, though it is considered popular in Japan. Ryoichi “Keroppy” Maeda developed the procedure, which consists of injecting saline under the skin of the forehead and pressing down the center of the resulting bulge (Clifton). The result is a forehead that resembles a “sweet buttery” bagel (National Geographic).
It’s difficult for me to understand why people would want to do have this procedure done, but I assume it has to do with wanting to stand out, because there is no way that a person with a bagel shaped head can avoid standing out. Its popularity in Japan could be attributed to its inclusion in the body modification memeplex, because someone interested in the bagel head look is likely to have an interest in piercings, tattoos, or other variations of the body modification meme. It’s unlikely that someone without a single piercing would have this procedure done, because memes “replicate better as part of the group” (Blackmore 20).
The body modification memeplex involves “any method of permanently adorning the body” and is a meme that has been replicated for many years (Body Modification). Body modification can take many forms: body piercing, tattooing, surgical augmentation, and removal of body parts. It has been replicated and changed mainly through tradition and in underground cultures, and new forms of body modification continue to develop and change society.
Variations of body modification have been around for centuries, such as the Chinese practice of binding the feet of women, breast augmentation, and the practice of piercing the ears of infant girls. Feet binding is said to be out of practice. Breast augmentation is still relatively new, and ear-piercing has been prominent in different cultures for years. In contrast, the bagel head is quite new and hasn’t had a chance to replicate as a meme for very long. There is talk of the possibility that the meme could be dangerous, but I guess it doesn’t make a difference, since “memes spread themselves around indiscriminately without regard to whether they are useful, neutral, or positively harmful to us” (Blackmore 7).
Will this meme survive? If Blackmore is right, then there is a good possibility that the meme will become common practice and bagelheads will become popular in the United States. Therefore, we should keep an eye out for more news on this meme. It will be interesting to watch meme theory in action and find out whether society will retain the bagel head meme. I guess we’ll know in time.
Blackmore, Susan. The Meme Machine. Oxford University Press, 1999.
“Body Modification.” Collins English Dictionary: Complete & Unabridged. 10 ed. Web. 29 Sep. 2012. from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/body modification
Clifton, Jamie. “Japanese Bagelheads.” Vice: Beta. 2011. Web. 28 Sep. 2012.
National Geographic. “Bagel Heads.” Taboo. YouTube. 17 Sep. 2012. Web. 28 Sep. 2012.
- Bagel head surgery trend on rise in Japan (thesun.co.uk)