I recently stumbled across an article titled, Are These Celebrity Photoshopped? The Answer is Always Yes*. I followed a link to some photos which showed the original and enhanced pictures of a number of female celebrities accompanied by a laundry list of exactly what was changed in each shot. It was eye-opening and encouraging to see how average these icons actually are. It’s no surprise that images are manipulated, but seeing exactly how it’s done is akin to Todo pulling the curtain back on the wizard:
You can’t unsee the truth.
The women in these pictures were beautiful before they were changed. A form of beauty created by a combination of genetics, eating disorders, plastic surgery and expert hair and make-up. The before pictures seemed almost doable, like any pretty girl could achieve that look. The enhanced images seemed completely out-of-reach. It left me wondering:
Why have we allowed our culture to sell us an image of beauty that is not only unattainable, but unreal?
Why do we let them trim inches off waists, add cleavage to bustlines and erase any trace of age on the face?
What do we gain as a society by creating an image of our species that only exists in computers?
Who benefits from creating an image of beauty that does not exist?
These are not rhetorical questions. I sat with these thoughts until the answer finally dawned on me.
Selling something that doesn’t exist creates insatiable customers.
By setting up not just an unrealistic image of beauty, but an unreal image of beauty, companies have a market that is always searching for something, anything to get their customers closer to that image.
It’s a perpetual mirage and we are always thirsty.
We really haven’t come that far from history’s famed seekers of the fountain of youth.
Here’s another question to ponder:
Who wants to live a life with a definition of beauty that excludes them?
Not I. It takes effort to fight against such a pervasive cultural image. We have to constantly remind ourselves to tune out almost every message we receive about our own beauty and the standard of beauty. It would be helpful if celebrities, models and those blessed with good genes stopped participating in these damaging marketing campaigns. All hail to Kate Winslet when she decried an unauthorized, computer-trimmed version of her body in a magazine. All hail to Jaime Lee Curtis for her famed, unedited photo shoot. But those two drops in the bucket are not enough.
We need to surround ourselves with art from eras that celebrated and elevated that natural beauty of women.
We need to surround ourselves with loving eyes and kind words.
We need to resist plastic surgery and not say it’s OK if it makes someone feel better. We need to help those people who feel ugly recognize their innate beauty.
We need to filter our information sources so that we hear wise voices more often than snarky snippets.
We need to boycott the most flagrant perpetuators of unrealistic beauty and call out those who abuse us subtly.
We need to redefine beauty as a culture.
We need to define beauty with a mirror.
*NOTE: I am so sorry that I can’t find this link. I thought I had saved it, but after spending two hour following links, I have given up the search. If you happen to know the link, please leave it in the comments.