Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Is That a Person Or Is That Photoshop?

You’ve probably seen that Photoshop time lapse video, in which a female model is essentially transformed into a Barbie doll. (If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it on Youtube here). Global Democracy made this video in 2011, but it has recently picked up steam again on the Internet. People are likely watching it with a mixture of awe and horror, thinking, “So that’s how they look so perfect!”

But really, should we be surprised? In the deep recesses of our minds, we all know that Photoshopping happens. (And it happens with both women and men, but my discussion will be confined to women). It’s one of those things we accept. It’s just how the media works. Yet, we females continue to gaze at magazine spreads and comment on how gorgeous that celebrity is. We see photos of wispy models and remind ourselves to go to the gym later. And when a video like Global Democracy’s pops up, we become outraged at this blatant transformation of a human being into a nonhuman being. But we know, as we have always known, that this is the normal process of editing a photograph for societal consumption.

Clearly, it’s easy for us to forget that fact. When we look at a magazine cover, we get swept up into the immense attractiveness of the cover’s subject. She looks normal, so she must not have been touched up very much, right? We forget to remind ourselves that this cover has undergone significant treatment.

Now, I know I said I wouldn’t get into celebrity issues, but I might have to retract that statement. I’m finding lot of relevance in celebrities to the issues I want to discuss. A recent article on Huffington Post discussed the edits on Jennifer Lawrence’s June 2011 Flare magazine cover. An alarming gif included in the article shows how much Lawrence was trimmed at the waist and altered in other areas of her body. Scroll down to the comments section and you’ll find a variety of reactions. Some say exactly what I have just articulated: every magazine uses Photoshop, so why are we surprised? Others cry that Jennifer Lawrence is stunning the way she is, why would she possibly need to be edited this much? Lawrence is actually considered, in the celebrity realm, to have a slightly fuller figure. She has become the image of body acceptance. But let’s be honest here: Lawrence is an incredibly fit young woman. The fact that she is the woman heavier girls are supposed to identify with is problematic. She still looks nothing like the girls who really do have fuller figures. It’s like we’re saying, “Well, we still need our celebrity women to look fit and pretty, so here’s Jennifer Lawrence. That’s the best we can do.”

After it was revealed recently that Vogue touched up Lena Dunham’s cover shoot photos to make her look thinner, many people expressed outrage. In her HBO show “Girls,” Dunham frequently exposes her slightly heavier body and imperfections. She has become, like Lawrence, an image of body acceptance. So why, some fans are wondering, is she being retouched if she is supposedly showing girls how confident they should be with their bodies? Dunham has sided with Vogue. An article by The Guardian discusses this controversy, and includes quotes by Dunham in which she says, “Vogue isn’t the place that we go to look at realistic women.”

So is that why, despite the fact that the public clearly doesn’t appreciate it, the media continues to Photoshop bodies? Because they’re not supposed to be real anyway?

Here’s the problem with that: if I, as a female, look at the perfect cover of a perfectly beautiful woman and there is no disclaimer reminding me that this image is not in fact real, I can’t help but take it as real. The knowledge of photo editing automatically gets pushed to the side without a reminder. Why else would girls be skipping meals in an effort to look like that model in their magazine? Yes, Vogue should not be the place we look to for realistic women, but clearly we do it anyways.

If we continue to Photoshop images, we need disclaimers. We need those reminders. We need a magazine cover to tell us at the bottom in fine print-but not too fine-that the image on the cover has been retouched. How hard can that be? If we start doing that, perhaps we’ll stop looking at models as physical aspirations. And perhaps, in the distant future, we’ll reach the point at which we don’t even need Photoshop at all.

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