A Miami-based plastic surgeon is under investigation after commissioning a song and music video that encourages plastic surgery for a character whose nose is described as a "beak like Jewcan Sam."
Dr. Michael Salzhauer, 40, funded the video "Jewcan Sam" to "connect" to a younger audience.
The creator of the song, a band known as The Groggers, describes itself as a "Jewish pop-punk band with a comic twist."
At the time of making the song, subtitled a "A Nose Job Love Song," the band's lead singer, L.E. Doug Staiman, jokingly asked whether the doctor offered a group rate on rhinoplasty.
"I told him, 'It's funny you're commissioning us to do this, because most of our band members have these massive, deformed noses,'" Staiman said. "And he generously offered nose jobs to the entire band. But I was the only one who went through with it."
"Jewcan Sam" is a play on "Toucan Sam," the cartoon mascot for Froot Loops breakfast cereal with the protruding, multicolored beak.
The Anti-Defamation League, an organization committed to the fight against anti-Semitism, did not return requests for comment.
"The song is meant to be funny, not offensive," Salzhauer said.
But not everyone has found the take-away message so funny.
"This is just disturbing that a doctor would play into the frailties of the human condition," said Dr. Malcolm Roth, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Salzhauer reportedly flew the band from Queens, N.Y., to Miami, where they shot the music video and Staiman underwent surgery at Salzhauer's practice, Bal Harbour Plastic Surgery. Staiman said he made the offer to the band because, in his professional opinion, they all could use nose jobs.
The music video stars Staiman as a Jewish high school student in love with a classmate who tells him he isn't good enough for her because of his nose. The song opens with the lines, "I want her, but she don't want what I am/She says you got a beak like Jewcan Sam/She says I only go with guys/with perfect upturned noses, so cut yours down to size."
So, in order to win the girl of his dreams, he has the surgery. In the end, she rejects him again, and a teacher immediately hits on him.
Salzhauer said that while some might find the song sad or even offensive, the message is in fact quite deep: No one should undergo cosmetic surgery to please somebody else.
"The singer was able to express in a very tongue-in-cheek way that you shouldn't base your self-esteem on someone else or go under the knife to get validation from someone else," said Salzhauer. "That never works out. He doesn't get the girl in the video."
But the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), of which Salzhauer is a member, said the video is "offensive and inappropriate."
Because of its content, and because it was commissioned by one of its members, the ASPS "has initiated an investigation under its Code of Ethics which clearly requires ASPS members to uphold the dignity and honor of the medical profession."
Roth said he could not comment specifically on the investigation but, generally speaking, if a member of ASPS is found guilt of breaching its Code of Ethics, the physician can end up on probation, have his or her benefits put on hold, lose membership, and even lose board certification, he said.
Salzhauer has expanded his plans since The Groggers recorded the music video. He is now holding a contest in which people can make their own music videos for the song. The video creator who receives the most views on YouTube will receive a free rhinoplasty.
The video and contest are an attempt to connect with a younger audience using social media. Although Salzhauer said he recognizes that this campaign might be controversial or seen as encouraging young people to get plastic surgery, he doesn't see it that way.
"This is how people connect nowadays, through social media, and it's a little bit cutting-edge," he said. "It can start a discussion on something that is common but still a little bit stigmatized."
This is the second time Salzhauer has given away plastic surgery. In 2008, he gave away a "mommy makeover" to promote his book "My Beautiful Mommy," which explains plastic surgery to children.
Salzhauer noted that most of his clients are between 15 and 30, which is no different from when he was young, and girls in his class received rhinoplasties as bat mitzvah gifts, he said.
But Roth of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons said plastic surgeons must be sensitive to the realities of cosmetic surgery, particularly in teenagers.
"This is something elective and needs to be contemplated very carefully by teenagers and their families," Roth said. "There are usually all sort of issues that a normal teenager goes through, regardless of how they appear to the outside world."
Because of the uniqueness of teens seeking plastic surgery, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons issued a briefing paper on the appropriateness of plastic surgery in teens. "Teens tend to have plastic surgery to fit in with peers, to look similar. Adults tend to have plastic surgery to stand out from others," it states.
Board certified plastic surgeons are to evaluate psychological implications in a potential patient before they ever go under the knife.
"A discussion with the patient and family is important to ascertain whether motivation for consultation might be mitigated with something other than surgery," Roth said. "Surgery is not the first step you take when you're not happy with your appearance."