Picture Perfect

How many of us stand in the check out line at the supermarket and cast an envious glance at the flawless complexion of the perfect model/entertainer/actor on the cover?

Those of us with skin “imperfections” such as freckles or acne may experience a whiff of annoyance and some feel outright jealousy and self-loathing. When we see an actress on the cover, so beautiful she looks like she was created by CGI, we mentally decide that this is what we ought to look like. Society has dictated that our faces and our bodies are flawed and the ones on the cover of the magazine are what is acceptable.

And we’ve inhaled and embodied this fallacy for most of our lives.

We continually pinch our waistlines and groan that “if only” we could take in an inch or three. Could I slim down my nose a bit? Any sign of a new wrinkle or grey hair is met with utter revulsion. But at 40-plus years old, I don’t expect to have the body or the face that I had 20 years ago.

Below is the upcoming November issue of Vogue Magazine with Kate Winslet gracing the cover. In case you’re confused, the image on the right is the real Kate at a recent red carpet affair, while the unnaturally perfect image on the left appears to be her Avatar. They’ve even airbrushed away her trademark moles. While the actress has previously been an outspoken opponent of such techniques, it is her heavily retouched image which readers will see on the fashion mag.

Photograph from Guardian.co.uk

Interestingly, another website reporting on the Vogue cover invited readers to “get Kate’s flawless look” and proceeded to inform us on all the creams we could use to achieve this. They never once mentioned I could use a good graphic editor, though. I love Kate Winslet and her acting skills, but Vogue itself could do with some retouching of the way they see their readers and think about how they are creating impossible expectations in the minds of young people.

We have funded entire industries in an attempt to create on ourselves what can only be done via computer and Photoshopping – creating the most perfectly flawless skin and perfect body. We then ridicule the “imperfect” beings among us.

A co-worker of my husband chuckled at the sight of another associate and commented on her “spillage”.

“Her what?” my husband asked.

“Her spillage. See how her waist spills out above her skirt?” She chuckled again. She must have thought this was so funny. She, who pretty much damaged her knees by over-exercising, in an attempt to reduce her body fat from 7% to 0%.  Or as close as possible.

Of course, we would never see this “spillage” on any magazine or newspaper. Our models can’t possibly look like that.  Not like a real woman with (gasp!) hips. Meanwhile they continue to feed us stories of the latest celebrity diet or magic cream that will melt away fat, tone the skin, fade dark spots, and pretty much bring about world peace.

But don’t for a moment think that retouching is only for those of us normal people with a few bulges. In 2010 a former editor of Cosmopolitan magazine admitted to airbrushing skinny models to look more healthy. Go figure.

A few years ago there was a campaign calling for magazines to stop airbrushing photos as it was detrimental to the health of young readers.  In 2008 the Daily Telegraph reported that magazines would be banned from doing these technical touch-ups. That ban never materialized.

I don’t want anyone to ban retouching photos in a glossy magazine. I’m sure a little editing is necessary for the magazine industry. After all, they want to sell their products. However, the extremes to which this has been taken needs to be toned down.

In the meantime, can someone tell me, where has Glamour misplaced Kristen’s arm?

Photoshopped Kristen

9 replies

  1. The last line of this made me bust out laughing– how awkward.
    The Kate Winslet comparisons are so bizarre, it really makes you wonder. The whole thing is really kind of unsettling– I saw a comparison of a Victoria’s Secret ad full of models with one of thouse froofy Dove ads with “real women” and it really was pretty alarming how gross and skinny the Victoria’s Secret models looked. I’m sorry, if you can pass a basketball between your thighs while your feet are touching then you need to get thee to a burger joint.


    • On the Huffington Post there was a slideshow with quite a few airbrushing faux pas with missing limbs and body parts in awkward positions. Many of them were VS models. They’re really just too skinny with abnormally big boobs. Is that look normal?

      I would think that after seeing an overly airbrushed pic next to our own faces we must feel absolutely horrific. It’s just not right.


  2. I am sure that men like us regular women and are intimidated by those perfect women! I was married to a man who, no kidding, looked like Pierce Brosnan. I was so “honored” when he married me (#2 husband) but later realized he was arrogant and a major player, too!


  3. This is quite funny because I had this conversation with a once close friend and she just couldn’t understand where I was coming from. She was completely wrapped up in the media’s idea of beauty and perfection. I showed her a magazine cover of Beyoncé and explained that she looks damn near white, but I was met with, “you’re just a hater”. I let it drop because I knew I couldn’t get through to her.
    I completely agree with you Belle, those magazines, coupled with the images on screen, have done serious damage to the average woman’s self image in so many ways. I’m very passionate about this particular subject, so I could go on and on listing personal examples.
    As you said earlier, realistic men prefer some meat covering the bones anyway.


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