According to the Telegraph, fashion magazines now not only employ the familiar trick of skinnifying and plasticizing unacceptably fleshy actresses and models, but also use the magic of Photoshop to plump up other women whose images might be unacceptably thin now that concerns about the effect of ultra-thin models is finally maybe starting to be taken just a little bit seriously. Not seriously enough to use bigger models, mind you, but seriously enough to photoshop a little more T&A on the ones they do use.
One of the companies mentioned (who retouched the photo of Cameron Diaz that accompanies the article) has a portfolio on its website (warning: Flash-heavy) that allows you to see just how unreal women (and some men) have to be to be considered magazine-worthy. (In fact, you may have seen some of these images before: Liss at Shakesville included them in her Impossibly Beautiful series, noting, “Even when you’re already perfect, you’re not perfect enough, and always in the same damn ways.”) That portfolio is a glorious example of the impossible beauty standard: Kelly Clarkson has been shrunk, while Julia Stiles has been filled in; Beyonce’s hips have been redrawn to erase a muffintop, while Eva Longoria’s hips have been curved up and out. Looking through all these photos, I get the eerie feeling that they’ve stolen flesh from one woman only to add it to another.
This is the quintessential operation of the beauty “ideal”: it is just that, an idea, sold to us as something to strive for not despite but because it is impossible. Even the women who look like that don’t look like that! The outrage of this is not only that people who are not models or actors are held to a standard that constantly moves to something less real, but also that models themselves are forced to maintain unfeasible weights (often via verbal abuse and threats of unemployment) and then are demonized for it, making the fashion industry even more exploitative than it already was. You must be skinny and curvy at once, tiny and voluptuous, recognizably yourself but without the the lines and planes and wrinkles of your own body.
These pictures, whether thinned out or plumped up, are a lie. We know they’re a lie, and the publishers know we know. If you haven’t already stopped reading “women’s” or fashion magazines, Shapelings, please — stop now. They will never stop lying to you.