True Beauty or Photoshop?

This week I had a fascinating conversation with Kathy Ireland about the realistic portrayal of women in the media. Ok, well it wasn’t exactly a conversation. It was more like Kathy Ireland replied to my tweet.



I had almost forgotten about that amazing Jamie Lee Curtis “True Thighs” story in More magazine in which she showed the world herself before and after the makeup, lighting and photo manipulations were applied. Thanks to Kathy Ireland for that reminder.

But as I tweeted to Kathy Ireland (did I mention that I had a twitter conversation with Kathy Ireland?) I do show my students the fascinating video, “The Photoshop Effect” in which a young lady, with an already fit and youthful body, undergoes a full Photoshop makeover.

I think it is important, particularly since my students and I regularly use Photoshop as a digital media tool, that we understand the impact of this technology on our society. The film drives the point home that nearly all commercial photographs of celebrities are edited with Photoshop to remove any “imperfections.”


I recently found this spoof of a beauty product commercial,  Fotoshop by Adobé, which explores a similar theme. I think it is extremely well done and worth taking a look. It is particularly interesting if you know how to use some of Photoshop’s manipulation tools.

Howard Rheingold says that we need to use our built-in crap detector. I think it is an essential part of media literacy, but it seems that many people are unaware that the photos we see in magazines, in advertisements, honestly everywhere we look are “doctored” to make the models look better. One company even used real model faces on computer generated bodies to achieve that “perfect” look. Isn’t it time for greater awareness in this area?

What are the implications for young, impressionable girls who compare themselves to these impossible to attain standards? Do they get in on the action and do Photoshop makeovers on their Facebook profile pictures? Do they turn to YouTube asking that community, Am I Pretty? Do they starve themselves to try to be as thin as computer software can make models?

I’m not by any means an expert on these questions I’ve raised here, but I do intend to continue raising the issue with my students since we are learning about this technology. I’m a big fan and a long time user of Photoshop. Heck, I wouldn’t have chatted with Kathy Ireland on Twitter without Photoshop! I just really think we need to be aware of what the implications of using it are, and do our best to increase awareness.


2 thoughts on “True Beauty or Photoshop?

  1. Bill, Love the spoof video, and of course, your picture of you and Kathy — Photoshop is just a tool, Photoshop can get a bad rep for this, It is really about people using Photoshop in a unethical ways, like lying to the people who buy the crap in the first place, or should I say, FotoShop by Abode.. Ha Ha!

  2. A real human’s face on a body produced by Photoshop…. The equivalent of a drawing, no? Nearly total artifice. How does this compare to the print advertising of the 1950s and earlier, when ads were almost entirely populated with hand-drawn human figures. Those women and men were unrealistically fit. Did people not compare themselves to the ads so intensely because they were drawn? Their artifice was on explicit? Or did people try to make themselves conform to those images, too?

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