Several years ago, when I first started writing and became involved with multimedia, I remember hearing snippets of conversation about “airbrushing.” I had no idea what this meant. I imagined somebody taking a little hand-held paint gun and glossing over a celebrity’s photo to improve the appearance. This might mean smoothing out wrinkles in one’s skin, making hair look fuller, or plumping up lips. In any case, I understood that the objective of airbrushing was to give the public a more beautiful image.
Today, I think the more widely-accepted term is “photoshopped.” Meaning, if a picture is photoshopped, it’s been digitally enhanced. I’ve always assumed this means, again, something like heightening cheekbones or slimming waistlines, all for the purpose of presenting an ideal model. But it seems I’ve been slightly naïve in my thoughts concerning airbrushing and photoshopping.
Augmenting and Enhancing
On YouTube is a video produced by Dove skincare company called “Dove Evolution.” The video chronicles one woman’s transformation from rather ordinary to glamorously beautiful, thanks in to a number of beauty treatments. Professionals curled her hair with hot rollers and applied foundation, eyeliner, lipstick, and other cosmetics to her face. Tiny blemishes were concealed until she had porcelain-like skin, her under-eye circles disappeared, and she acquired a smoky-eyed, vixen-like appearance. Satisfied, photographers snapped the perfect photo.
I thought the woman looked beautiful in her final shot. Apparently, though, she didn’t meet the standards of visual perfection, so her photo was revamped using Photoshop. In the video, you can see how her lips were plumped, hair perfected, and eyes moved farther apart and enlarged. Her neck was elongated and her cheeks thinned until her face looked sculpted. Then, and only then, was the photo posted to a billboard for all the world to see.
Ultimately, the finished product didn’t even look like the model’s original face. This woman possessed a natural, girl-next-door appearance. She was attractive without makeup, and with it, she was beautiful. After the Photoshop applications, she looked too perfect for words. Numerous videos like this can be found all over the Internet. Having seen this one, I have to ask if all photos go through the same rigorous touch-ups. And, having wondered that, I can’t help but ask if society’s perception of beauty is based on nothing but computer simulation? If this is the case, we have very distorted ideas about women.
Sending the Wrong Message
Magazines, billboards, and television shows have instilled Americans with the belief that women aren’t attractive until they’re perfect. In fact, we have neither the concept of, nor the appreciation for, natural splendor. Because of this, women go to extreme measures in order to meet the most widely accepted standards of beauty. They undergo surgical procedures to enlarge certain body parts and shrink others; they spend money on cosmetics and skin serums that promise to produce youthful results and berate themselves if their reflection doesn’t mimic what they see in the media.
How can we ever move past these false ideals if Photoshop continues to rule the beauty world? How can average women who walk the line from bedroom to kitchen to conference room to play room ever feel confident in themselves when their imperfections cannot be digitally concealed? And how can we accept ourselves the way we are when we all want is to be considered beautiful?
Something is terribly wrong with society at large. We cannot embrace the human form as it naturally is, which means we are chasing unachievable ideals. It's time to move past these ridiculous practices and look for beauty where it truly begins: in a person’s soul.