November 5, 2009

Looks like the French are trying to curb the bad influence media has on women’s body images. They proposed a law that would require photoshopped images to have warnings that they had been retouched. I believe it’s currently only looking at newspaper and magazine advertisements. Their reasons is:

“These photos can lead people to believe in a reality that does not actually exist, and have a detrimental effect on adolescents. Many young people, particularly girls, do not know the difference between the virtual and reality, and can develop complexes from a very young age”

In theory, this sounds like a fantastic idea. While it technically is targeting women to improve their body image, it would also educate men/boys encourage these unrealistic ideals because they might not know any better. Except in reality, it just can’t fly.

First, I think it’s pretty hard to find photographs (especially those being used for commercial reasons) that haven’t been retouched at least a little. So, logistically, the question becomes how what kind of retouching needs a warning. Do you need it for rubbing out a zit (because we’ve all had bad skin days and you totally would too if you had Photoshop)? Do you need it  when you make her waist smaller than her head (because it’s pretty obvious that people don’t look like that ever)? Or do you just need it when you make a normal person look a little bit better (when your Photoshop skills are so good that it looks real)?

Second, for the fashion and beauty industries, they’re selling this image. Looking better than normal is their product. Half the point of makeup is to cover flaws, but it’s never going to be perfect. However, that doesn’t mean when I see the ad I want to see that it’s imperfect. It’s the same idea that the burger in McDonald’s ads don’t look like the burger you get in real life. I’m pretty happy seeing delicious-looking sandwiches even if that’s not what I get. Should they have to label their images too?

Third, I don’t think it’ll actually help anyone’s body image. Even if a picture came with a warning, it’s too hard to determine what part is real without seeing the original image. I’m well aware that images are photoshopped, and it’s still hard for me to accept that people won’t ever look like that. Let’s face it, some people just look better, even without the excessive makeup and retouching. And, at least if it was me in an ad being shown to millions of people, I wouldn’t want to give anyone a reason to criticize.



  1. It feels like they’re targeting the wrong part of the problem. The problem isn’t photoshop, it’s aggressive, sexual imagery and a culture that reveres it. Nice try France, but you’re still a bit off.

  2. I wonder if same rule would apply to movies: “Warning to the audience, the actors and actresses in the following presentation are way better looking than you are. Do not feel depressed.”

    • I think you’re missing the point. It’s not that the models look better than average – it’s that they DON’T. They are being photoshopped into looking skinny

    • I would love to see “do not feel depressed” warnings. That would be the best thing ever.

  3. A photography podcast I listen to covered this a couple weeks ago. They said it would be pointless because EVERY image would need this tag. A famous photographer said, recently, the photoshop guys are now more important than the photographer. Like all famous people he was probably trying to intentionally be outrageous, but there’s a degree of truth in that.

    I also think you raise a lot of awesome points that were not raised in the podcast. For example, the burgers on the menus at McD’s do not look like what you get.

    I think, on the one hand, that all this photoshopping has gotten ridiculous. When you start seeing photos (and this HAS happened – google it) where people belly buttons or sexual organs are disappearing, things are going a bit too far. The way I see it is, if you can’t find girls who are skinny enough despite looking like twigs, then perhaps it’s a sign that not even the skinny people look like that and you need to start having real images on the covers and pages of these magazines. If you want to make art, put it in a museum.

    On the other hand, I have no problem with removing blemishes – after all the actress or actor would have done that anyway with makeup.

    However, I think photoshopping in makeup adds is false advertising, pure and simple. They’re saying this cream will make your face look younger like this woman here. But it hasn’t actually done that. This contrasts with the food industry where they can plausibly claim that the burger won’t look like what you see on the menu because that would take forever to do. It’s easier to slop a burger into a container than make it look pretty. It’s fast food.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: