Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Warning: People in Magazine Less Perfect Than They Seem

British and French lawmakers are debating a new kind of health warning— one that could affect Photoshop practices. Concerned that retouched photographs of celebrities and models set unrealistic standards for beauty, these lawmakers are proposing that advertisers be required to include disclaimers on all altered photographs, acknowledging any tweaking that transpired.

Cigarette warnings are aimed at preventing cancer. Likewise, Photoshop disclaimers could help curb eating disorders, specifically within the most vulnerable teen demographic. Although retouching is common practice for fashion magazines, many forget that celebrities (even with the help of hair, make-up, and personal trainers) still are not as perfect as they appear on the cover of Glamour.

Under the proposed system, photos would be rated on a scale of 1 to 4, depending on the level of retouching. The NYT details: “A ‘1’ might involve only altered lighting, for example, while a ‘4’ might warn of cosmetic changes via Photoshop… the label would have to include an explanation of the changes.” Champion of the law, British Parliament member Jo Swinson notes, “If people knew they had to describe what they altered, it might make them less likely to do it.”

I’ll admit—I’m torn on the issue. I think lines should be drawn, but does “altered lighting” really warrant any disclaimer at all? Or Photoshopping out a blemish or fly-away? However, egregious examples DO bother me— like giving celebrities unrealistic abdominals instead of showing a more relatable reality. My concern is that It becomes increasingly difficult to set limits when even the most innocuous photograph is usually cropped and color corrected. Our magazines could be littered with the disclaimers, which would be an aesthetic nightmare. But if it changes the questionable techniques used in fashion mags, is it worth it? ••••