Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Artificial Images of Beauty

I was doing my normal internet celebrity site procrasti-surfing today when I came across these unfortunate allegedly pre- and post-photoshop pictures of Britney.

If these are true, and I can't imagine they aren't because, sadly, Britney definitely does not look anywhere close to the "post" picture these days, it proves once again what outrageous feats techies can perform with photoshop, and how far from attainable the looks of celebrities are for normal women who don't walk around with photoshop in their back pockets.

I mean look at the difference. It's crazy. Droopy cheeks and jowl line? Gone. Minor bumpy imperfections on chin? Gone. Lines under eyes and on neck? Gone.

Those changes don't surprise me half as much as the extremely creative "touch-ups" on her eyes, lips, hair and head angle. Where her eyes looked washed out and dead originally, post-photoshop they appear larger and perfectly symmetrical. Her lips have a fuller, more deeply shadowed pout and her hair and head shape appear entirely different, going for example from a flyaway wispy artichoke head to a glammed up 'do full of body and shine. Last but not least, the angle of her head was tilted to the left so that she appears post-photoshop to be holding her head straight instead of leaning to the right.

It's incredible how different the two pictures look. Almost no feature of Britney's appears to have been left au natural. How long can anyone - even once super hot Britney Spears of the skintight red leather jumpsuit - keep up that kind of a facade?

But, of course, that's beside the point. The point that matters is the massive disconnect between the homogenized images of female beauty (although more and more this applies equally to men) put forth by the media and our celebrity-crazed culture and the faces and bodies of real unaltered women and girls. Maybe this just matters to consumers of that celebrity-crazed culture like myself, who willingly and happily get sucked into admiring and dissecting the artificially created women that grace the red carpet and then find themselves looking in the mirror at their smile lines a little too critically?

I don't think so. You don't have to be a willing consumer to be hit between the eyes with images of artificial female beauty. Walking down the street in Manhattan I can't ignore the images that leap out at me - fake boobs, botoxed foreheads, injected lips, airbrushed buttocks - from the magazine stands. Turn on the TV, check the net, or go to the movie theaters, and it's the same thing. I suppose you could avoid the overwhelming glut of artificiality if you avoided all forms of media, but that seems impractical and a large price to pay: foresaking society to avoid the negative images it vomits forth.

I'm not worried about me. I'm confident in my inner beauty and I like what I see when I look in the mirror (except those laugh lines and a few other little things that will do me no good to focus on). But, I do worry about young girls. In this country they are constantly accosted with unrealistic images of women - images they will never attain unless they go under the knife. It shouldn't be like that.

Although a rarity in the U.S., except for the gym which isn't really the kind of environment I'm talking about, I've always found it liberating to be in the presence of other naked, normal female bodies. For example, in Sweden I went to an outdoor sauna on the beach where women of all ages and shapes lazed around naked in the sun, chatting with friends, seemingly unconscious of their nakedness. Those kinds of experiences gave me an enormous feeling of linked sisterhood and made me look far less critically at myself, than I otherwise might have.

Nearly every woman has something beautiful about her. It's too bad our culture doesn't celebrate that reality.


wood said...

hmmm. I can't believe those are the same pictures -- is it possible that the top picture is from the same photo shoot as the picture they photoshopped? I can't believe they could completely change her hair and lips and head angle like that. Even if they are different shots from the same photo shoot, it still shows how drastically they photoshop pictures to make the person look inhuman and unattainable by removing lines, jowls, and undereye bags.

amazing. great post, love your comments on beauty.

Gypsy said...

Images of "real" women, examples of attainable beauty, are few and far between these days. That's why I love businesses like Dove and Malia Mills (who uses real women to model her bathing suits, even if they don't make the suits in above a 10).

Gypsy said...

Great post, by the way. :)

Ally Bean said...

"You don't have to be a willing consumer to be hit between the eyes with images of artificial female beauty."

that is so true. and while intelligent men and women understand that the ideal of beauty is being manipulated, most Americans don't get it. and this kind of scares me.

SisterFriend said...


I love this post! I whole-heartedly agree with all that you have written.

What if our culture celebrated laugh lines as something earned from a life of happiness? I think aging gracefully is a beautiful thing.

Personally, I am endeared to the "imperfections" in those I love. I love my boyfriend's crowsfeet, for example.

And what you wrote about your experience on the Swedish beach.... I think I am a European trapped in a woman's body. To celebrate our 30th birthdays, my best friend and I went to a beach in Europe, and I decided to wear my birthday suit. It was a very freeing, even a spiritual experience. Me, in my most natural state, communing with nature itself. I felt very close to God. It was a celebration.

When I think back on that experience...who cares about airbrushed beauty? I just want to celebrate human life as it was meant to be! Not some plastified version.

Thank you for a thoughtful post.

Buttercup said...

Wood, they can do Amazing things with photoshop. I wouldn't put it past them.

Gypsy, I checked out that brand. That's great.

Ally Bean, it scares me too.

Sister-Friend, Thanks for your thoughtful comments!