When I was in my teenage years, spending a vast majority of my free time perusing Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour, I wish I would have known what I know now about pictures in the media.
Almost every photograph displayed in magazines has been modified by Photoshop.
I would say “all” instead of “almost” all but that’s like saying that Lysol kills 100% of germs. You just don’t go there. Ergo, if Lysol only kills 99.9% of germs, Photoshop is only used on 99.9% of pictures in magazines and in doing so only distorts the image of beauty to about 99.9% of people who are exposed to the photographs.
(I really hope everyone on the Interwebs knows I’m joking in these captions. If you’re unaware, though, rest assured. I am being all kinds of sarcastic here.)
When used properly, Photoshop can be quite useful to photographers. It can actually enhance pictures by brightening shadows, bringing out brilliant colors, adding accents in soft focus effects, etc. And in that vein, I am perfectly okay with the use of Photoshop. As a matter of fact, if that was the extent of it, I’d be all about Photoshop being used on 100% of photos in magazines.
It’s when editors use Photoshop to distort people that Photoshop becomes an enemy.
Most of the time, Photoshopped images aren’t perceived as fake. That’s why they are so dangerous. Photo editors are so bloody good at making real people look perfect. And I can’t speak for most young girls (the target audience for a huge chunk of magazines chock full of Photoshopped models) but at least for me, I didn’t know what Photoshop was when I was younger, and I certainly didn’t know how much it was used and to what extent the photos were modified .
When Teenage Lindsay gawked at a flawless starlets in magazine spreads and did not find a single pimple, scar, or even PORE on anyone in the magazine, and compared them to her broken out, porous, normal face, she became so very aware at how far away from perfection she was. And, just two pages later, Teen Lindsay would find a picture of a stick-thin model in a bikini, with not a single dimple, roll, discoloration, or crease in all the places Teen Lindsay had them (not even in the crook of the model’s arm! How is that possible?) And then, a couple pages later, Teen Lindsay would stumble across an article entitled something along the lines of, “How to Drop 10 Pounds and Get Your Best Bikini Body THIS WEEK!” or “Easy Ways to Get Rid of Nasty Zits and Unsightly Pores” or “You Really Look Like Shit. You Should Feel Like Shit, Too.”
Teenage Lindsay did some semblance of research by buying more and more and MORE magazines, until she finally realized the harsh truth (“truth” being the only logical conclusion that can be made without the knowledge that Photoshop exists): every person in a magazine is perfect. You can’t be photographed in a magazine if you’ve ever had a zit. If you’ve ever had a scar. If you’ve ever had body fat. I concluded that not only is perfection the accepted norm but perfection is clearly attainable, because if it weren’t there wouldn’t be such stark evidence of it in stacks of magazines on newsstands the world over.
After coming to the conclusion that you must be perfect to be in a magazine, I asserted that there must be something wrong with those of us who aren’t perfect.
It’s crushing, really, to believe that you are not the normal one in this scenario. Rather, you are the oddity, you are the unnatural, you are the wrong.
So many years later, as a twentysomething self-love warrior fully aware of Photoshop’s presence, I still find myself falling victim to photographs in magazines. Even though I know in my head that the pictures I’m seeing are 100% fake, I still sometimes find myself believing that if I could only look like that, life would be better. If I would just work out a little harder, if I just let my ED relapse, if I lost 50 pounds, if I got microdermabrasion, if I got a tan, If I changed…
I could look like that. I could look like her. I could stop looking like me.
But the truth is, I could diet/exercise/cake on make up/flat iron my hair/make myself miserable all day everyday and I still wouldn’t be perfect. I’d still have stretch marks on my boobs (I got C cups for Christmas my freshman year of high school) and pale skin and all the zits in the world and body hair in places I can’t reach with a razor and soccer-player thigh muscles and…
a waist that isn’t smaller than my head:
Nope. Photoshop is the only thing that can make your dreams of perfection (and freakishly disfigured abominations) come true.
For more Photoshop disasters, check out this amazing site!