re-picturing FEAR AND LOATHING IN PHOTOSHOP

“Do I worry about overly retouched photos giving women unrealistic expectations and body image issues? I do. I think that we will soon see a rise in anorexia in women over seventy. Because only people over seventy are fooled by Photoshop.” (Tina Fey, p. 157, Bossypants).

During our recent vacation, I read Tina Fey’s Bossypants and loved it. Seriously. I laughed aloud almost every other page. I didn’t even mind the curious, sometimes irritated, glances from fellow tourists. However, I have to take issue with Ms. Fey’s commentary on Photoshop. Even with her clever wit, I think she answers the wrong question when it comes to Photoshop and you won’t get to the right answers, if you ask the wrong questions.

Being fooled by lack of knowledge is not the problem with Photoshop.

Are you fooled by Photoshop?

I didn’t think so.

If you are…check out some of the most blatant Photoshop offenses. Unfortunately this is only the tip of the retouching tools.

Everyone knows that advertising + photoshop = ideal images of women (that even the models themselves cannot achieve). If you don’t believe me, check out this time-lapsed video of a cover shoot from Dove.

When we are able to look at advertisements rationally, we can see that Photoshop is used for one reason and for one reason only.

To make us buy, buy, buy. And, then, buy some more.

Everyone logically knows that the models used to sell products on the pages of fashion magazines (and everywhere else) aren’t real people.

The problem is that advertisers don’t try to appeal to our rational, logical minds. Because ads are everywhere, most of the time we are not even aware that we see them. Even though we see almost 3000 advertisements each day, for example, most of us could not pinpoint the last advertisement we saw. However, when you start paying attention, you will find them on almost every webpage you view, in your e-mail, on television, on billboards, on buses, even on the food we consume.

And, ads are most influential when we aren’t paying attention. Then they can prey on our unconscious, most basic emotions, fear, shame, guilt, self-disgust – the emotions of our inadequacies.

When we’re paying attention, we can see that advertisers copiously use Photoshop on models to make them look flawless and make us consumers afraid of getting fat, ashamed of and disgusted with the bodies we currently have, and inadequate if we don’t fit cultural ideals of beauty (young, extremely thin, perfect hair, white teeth, no blemishes, no wrinkles, large boobs, non-existent hips, and the list goes on). And guess, what? If tomorrow, we were all granted perfect, size-2 figures, then advertisers would use Photoshop to make models look heavier.

But, when we’re not paying attention (because we’re busy, tired, stressed, preoccupied), we don’t see the lies these ads sell. We just end up feeling afraid, ashamed, disgusted and guilty about our bodies.

Advertisers offer us the answer to the loathing of our imperfect bodies. And no, it is not to use photoshop on our own pictures (although I absolutely love this parody of photoshop, Fotoshop by Adobé. It treats Photoshop like the next fad diet or exercise regime).

The answer is to buy ______ (insert their product here).

Pay attention today. How are advertisers using Photoshop to make you feel the emotions of inadequacy? What can you do to reduce the impact of advertisements in your daily life?

  1. Did you see the recent coverage about H&M using entirely fake, digitally created bodies for their website? And my husband just received a copy of a men’s magazine with a picture of Michelle Williams on the cover with a blaring headline along the lines of “who knew Michelle Williams had such an incredible body” over a picture that was clearly photoshopped and looked entirely fake. It’s no wonder every time I see a “real picture” of myself all I can see is crow’s feet and tummy fat!

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