The Illusion of Perfection

I ran across a blog today that talked about airbrushing magazine photos. We all know it happens, so commonly I nearly browsed right past the piece, until I saw it was about Redbook magazine, and the photo in question was of Faith Hill. Wait a minute, I tell myself, I have that issue! Curiosity got the better of me, and so I stopped to read.

Faith Hill is undoubtedly one of the most gorgeous women on the planet. She is one of those gals that men want, and women want to be. She is 39 years old, and looking better at that age than most of us will. So why oh why did Redbook feel the need to airbrush out every single thing about her that might make us think she is a day over 20?
This animation was done by, thanks to them for putting this in such context!!

The lines around her eyes are completely gone, her arms are suddenly stick-thin, her face is thinner, and her waist is gone, amongst other changes. Although I’ve seen what can be done, I still tend to think these photoshop jobs are usually minor things, getting rid of blemishes and such. Had Jezebel not gotten hold of the original photo, I would never have realized just how far this has gone.

We can say it doesn’t matter, but deep down I think it does. It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others, to find out where we stand and how we rank in the world. We probably shouldn’t, and we know this. Yet still we continue to do it. Most of us can look at the Paris Hiltons and Nicole Ritchies of the world and laugh, and know we could never look like that, even if we wanted to. It’s not realistic. They however are not the ones usually gracing the covers of the magazines the majority of American women read. Magazines like Redbook know to put strong, positive female celebs on their covers that everyday people can relate to in some way. We read the pieces and think how normal they are, how they deal with so many of the same issues we do. Then we look at the pictures, and think if they can look like that, surely we could too. After all, they are just like us…right?

It’s treading dangerous ground to make these kinds of comparisons, because as the photograph above demonstrates, what we see is not real. It’s bad enough we have a tendency to compare ourselves to people with personal trainers, personal chefs, and makeup artists. Now we have pictures so touched up we might as well just start calling them digital art, because I don’t think they qualify as actual photographs anymore. To strive to look like that is about as fruitful as wishing we could sprout wings and fly.

I’ve been pleased to see more ‘normal’ sized women featured in these magazines, but obviously the publishing industry still feels we would rather see some fictional, inhuman representation of a celebrity than the real thing. Oddly enough this is in direct contradiction to what other women have told me, and how I myself feel.

So what do you think? Is this kind of ‘art’ acceptable? Do you find yourself comparing yourself to magazine photographs? Do you see this trend changing anytime soon?

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21 thoughts on “The Illusion of Perfection

  1. NO! I do not find this acceptable. Did you know that some woman for some (reputable) center for obesity actually said that Jordin Sparks did not deserve her title SOLELY because of her weight? Umm ‘kay, she’s an amazon woman, and because she’s local I’ve seen A LOT of pictures of her and she is pretty darn svelte. Just not stick thin. It is true about the camera adding pounds.

    I do recognize that there is an obesity problem in America, but I think there is just as big a problem in Anorexia and Bulimia (sp?) due to influences like these. I think the “fashion designers” are just as at fault as the fast food companies for weight problems (I know we are ultimately responsible for our OWN actions). Faith Hill looks AMAZING in her natural state and it makes me sick that the ignoramouses in editing decided she didn’t look good enough. Bastards.

    Yeah, I have an opinion on the subject if you couldn’t tell.


  2. 😈 It irritates me that the magazines portray an ideal that is, for the most part, unattainable. How many young girls know that? They are reading these magazines and wondering why they can’t look like that, thinking they are too fat or whatever. It’s ridiculous!


  3. I have been destroyed by Photoshop. I go to the gym almost everyday and I find that even girls that are there religiously still have at least one part that would never land them on the cover or Redbook or Vogue. I did do a research paper in College about Playboy and was surprised to find that they do almost no Photoshop. They do paint them and pose them awkwardly and they also set up incredibly elaborate sets with lighting hitting the girls at every right and proper angle to “bring out their best, distract the worst and pep up the imperfect.” While I don’t condone Playboy and there’s no way we could ever go around with ambient lighting it at least feels a tiny bit more honest to me.
    But still unacceptable as a woman trying to feel comfortable in her own skin.


  4. Drives me crazy.
    ‘Specially since I spent most of my young adult life…trying to be stick thin…and well, perfect.

    Makes me ill.


  5. When Kate Winslet threw a fit about the photo editing that had been done on her photos, was when I really gave up thinking the photos were real. The majority of women do NOT look “Hollywood”, so why is that what society finds acceptable or preferable?

    Why are we NORMAL folks forced to look at ourselves and some how feel inadequate?

    We will probably never know the answer, but it is utterly disheartening.


  6. ^^ I was getting ready to bring up the kate winslet thing!! I too gave up on hollywood at the same time.
    This is the reason woman (not just teen girls) have such body image issues. I saw that faith hill thing on another website, and was immediately PISSED!! I think its ridiculous that hollywood is still pimping their bullshit. GRR!!


  7. I don’t find it acceptable. Mainly when it comes to teenagers. I don’t think that young girls, can easily understand this. They will compare themselves anyway. I worry about that because eatign disorders in young girls are rampant these days. Just look at all those Hollywood stars! They are almost all rail thin. Sickly. I hope to raise my daughter with enough intelligence and confidence to see past this. Emphasizing on health rather then weight. I started this education YOUNG in her.

    As for me. I don’t buy into it. I may look at the clothes they wear and get ideas form that. I try to eat well. I try to have regular exercise. My goal is to age gracefully. I use moisturizers with uv protection. I go for an occasional spa day. I take good care of my hair and my skin. I just do my best. I am not interested in any kind of invasive plastic surgery. I think wrinkles are beautiful. In some cultures wrinkles command respect and honour. They are not looked down upon. In the greek culture the older you are the more respected you are. It’s not only a youth based culture. There are old fashioned family values. Respect for elders is taught young.

    So, I am not worried about aging. I don’t compare myself to anybody on magazines…but I will copy their style if I like it.


  8. Hi Sara, I saw that article too about Faith. And even though I knew airbrushing happened, it was eye opening to see the extent to which they do it. Without knowing, you really do begin to accept magazine covers as reality. So, it’s good to see what the truth really looks like. And Faith still looks great!


  9. Supposedly Cindy Crawford has said, “Even I don’t wake up looking like Cindy Crawford.” Ever since I read that, I’ve felt better about myself. I am convinced that if my career gave me tons of money and I had to be thin, Botoxed and facialed all the time, I would look just as good as anyone on Desperate Housewives.

    Of course, I would rather not be Botoxed. And I find the airbrushing of magazine photos offensive. I also find it offensive when I gleefully notice imperfections in non-airbrushed photos of stars. It’s a no-win situation.


  10. Wow- that’s weird.

    I don’t think they should be going THAT far with Photoshopping images.
    I can see some minor fixes, but making a person look “thinner” or cloning out real features is just ridiculous.

    What’s worse is that when people meet her in person, she’ll look 100.

    On another though, I met Harrison Ford at a party (8 years ago) and he looked 90 in person. The work they do on his pictures is similar.


  11. While I don’t believe it is acceptable, what I don’t understand at this point is the bitching and moaning about it. Now that may sound harsh, but it is true. It could be easily stopped. If women stopped buying magazines that did such things, eventually “Madison Avenue” would get the point. But they don’t. They continue to buy the magazines, the makeup, the diet products. And hence, if it is making them money, then they are not going to stop.

    I have watched with great interest (and hope) the new Dove ads, hoping they would be successful. Not because I have any great love for Dove, but because I would like it to be proven that using real ads, with real people CAN connect with American consumers, and hence help change the mentality.


  12. I got some pictures done on a cruise, and they were airbrushed… but thats me, the commoner. I think if they want to be role models, they should first accept who they are, other wise we arent going to … FAKE!


  13. I saw that article too. It irritates me that this is the example we as a society set for our children.

    I like my laugh lines. I could do with out my back fat, but I like to “keep it real.”

    Wink, wink. This has to change. Maybe articles like this can help bring about that change. So thanks Sara.


  14. Oh no, my first comment on your site (which is fabulous by the way) and I may be the lone voice of dessent.
    Here’s the thing, everything you see in a magazine is fake. The “editor’s picks” and “beauty tips” are all business decisions made between the magazine and the PR companies representing those products. Have you ever noticed how a certain lotion becomes wildly popular all of the sudden, or the same book gets written up in four different magazines?
    I worked in advertising for 15 years and I promise you that no Pizza Hut pizza you’ve ever eaten looked remotely like the ones we put in the commercial. Magazines, and the celebrities in them, are commodities–products to be sold. And the truth is, for as much as we say we want to see real people, I’m not sure that that is entirely true. I think we enjoy the fantasy, the glamour and the sparkly images we are looking at. This story coming to light (it was even on the Today show yesterday I think) may actually do some good.
    It will let people know not to compare themselves to what they see in magazines, because in this case, seeing is NOT believing.


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