Real Women Have Pores

Posted February 5, 2014, under Ad Absurdum

This was originally going to be an article about funny Photoshop fails.

Like this.

But in the course of our research, we learned how widespread an entirely different sort of Photoshop fail had become. It’s not a new thing, but it’s become so revoltingly prevalent that we had to speak out.

It was either do a ranty Lunch Meat or try rioting in the streets, but we don’t really have enough people here to make that work.

We’ve talked before about how Photoshop can be used to significantly alter appearances. It was bad enough back then, but it kept getting worse. We are now at the point where retouchers apparently think their job is to make everyone look like Eating Disorder Barbie.

This is disturbing on a staggering multiplicity of levels, but let’s stick to the pure design issues.

Message Matters

It’s not overstating it to say that the purpose of the graphic design industry is to accentuate and forward our clients’ message.

So what does it mean when someone uses Photoshop to flay the meat off of Jennifer Lawrence, an actor well-known for her outspoken rejection of the “Hollywood ideal” of body image?

Left: A healthy young woman. Right: Unfortunately not a promotional tie-in for The Hunger Games movies.

Whether intentional or not, it is an arrogant dismissal of the ideals she – and many like her – stand for. Sure, Lawrence wasn’t the client, the magazine was – but let’s be blunt: She does movies where she’s wearing little more than blue body paint, and she looks amazing. That’s the girl you think needs a Photoshop diet?

Exhibit B: What about an actor who doesn’t just reject the “Hollywood standard” but gleefully defies it?

Hey, it’s that movie with Sandra Bullock and someone who vaguely resembles Melissa McCarthy!

The purpose of retouching is to remove blemishes and make certain details more clear, as we covered in that earlier Lunch Meat. Pores are not blemishes. Skeletal women are not only not attractive, we are legitimately concerned for their health.

It Gets Worse, But Also Funnier

This is all kind of heavy, but the good news is that in the process of working photos over, retouchers often make mistakes, and each mistake robs the publisher of credibility.

Considering the nature of the errors, we have to wonder if the retouchers themselves are rebelling against being forced to make parodies of beauty for their living.

There’s a sophomoric joke in here somewhere, I know it.

Someone honestly thought no one would notice.

Even children. For shame.

What the actual hell? Just… I don’t even… Humans don’t look like that.

The Beautiful Backlash

This has been going on for a while, and people are getting fed up and doing something about it.

In 2012, Julia Bluhm, then 14, successfully petitioned Seventeen Magazine to stop running falsified images and show their young readership real people. Her activism didn’t stop there; she is now part of the “SPARK” movement, an activist group dedicated to ending the sexualization of women and girls in media.

Lingerie companies like Victoria’s Secret are among the worst offenders in Photoshop perversion. American Eagle’s lingerie store, Aerie, has launched an ad campaign that seems to be a direct response to that. Their campaign slogan is, “The Real You is Sexy,” and they include a promise that none of the models are retouched in any way.

This is probably the only possible context where we could run a picture like this in the Lunch Meat.

It’s our fervent hope that all publishers, designers, advertisers and retouchers quickly get the message and change their ways. It’s making us all look bad, not just the women in your magazines.

Rigney Graphics is a Pasadena graphic arts company that can help you create an impact with design and marketing solutions for print and web.