Informed Opinion # 2
Photoshopping in Advertising
A 14 year old from Maine petitioned “Seventeen” magazine to stop using Photoshop in in their advertisements and photo shoots claiming that it was causing unhealthy body image amongst her friends and other people her age. (Botelho 2012). This sparked a fierce debate on the use of photo shopping and whether or not regulations needed to be put in place by agencies like the National Advertising Division. This paper will explore the ideal of regulation and whether regulations should be put in place in order to help battle the rise in eating disorders in America’s youth. By exploring “Seventeen’s” response to the petition as well as other journalistic articles, this paper will make the argument that regulation’s are necessary as the use of Photoshop as become extreme and is leading to unhealthy body images due to the unrealistic image of beauty being created by magazines and advertisements and the use of Photoshop.
The petition started against “Seventeen” magazine caused the magazine to formally announce that they would no longer be digitally altering images in the magazine in order to encourage women to be comfortable with their naturally and healthy bodies, calling it a body image peace treaty. (Botelho 2012). This 14 year old was not alone when demanding change as more and more celebrities are asking that their photos not be digitally altered including Brad Pitt and Kate Winslett (Dillax 2011). With over 84,000 signatures Seventeen teamed up with the National Eating Disorder Association in order to help fight back against public backlash. While people argued that these images should be considered fake and the beauty of these celebrities are fake because of the immense amount of Photo shopping, “Seventeen” began to understand the effects these fake images created. Realizing that these images spawned a culture of unrealistic body image, “Seventeen” agreed that constant exposure to these fake photographs were unhealthy for young girls and can lead to severe eating disorders amongst the nations youth (Botelho 2012).
“Seventeen” was not alone in the fight against digitally altering photographs; the United Kingdom was one of the leaders in banning advertisements that have had to many alterations (Zhang 2011). While the UK is willing to ban any photo that has been overly altered the United States has not gone that far. So far they have only banned photographs that emphasize and alter cosmetic advertisements. One example is that of an advertisement for Covergirl it was found the eyelashes were altered to suggest the product would do more than what is actually did thus being declared false advertising by the National Advertising Division, Americans watch dog on advertising (Zhang 2011). So while nothing has been done in order to change companies policies on altering bodies, cosmetics can no longer be altered because they are false advertisements. This is an important step because it opens the discussion to whether or not altering bodies and making women thinner can be held to the same standards. While many people would say it’s the photographers and production agencies right to alter these advertisements, the damage being done on body image and emotional health of adolescents is also well documented.
According the Betelho (2012) the practice of digitally altering images of celebrities to give the illusion of being thinner and having perfect skin is widely used in the magazine and advertising industry, it is not a realistic expectation for every day people. Kotz (2009) explains that when looking at images in magazines people tend to study them and focus on the perfection of this images. She continues to say that unlike when looking at yourself in the mirror, it is more likely that people will focus on small details looking at these images and point out that their imperfections of their own that these images don’t have. Skin blemishes are removed and as well as other small details that people will focus on in great detail to only realize that they have these so called imperfections. Because of this 1 in 10 people do things like over exercising and skipping meals to achieve this imagery and these actions can be indications of eating disorders starting to form. (Kotz 2009) This has lead the American Medical Association to take a stand (Dillarx 2012). While the AMA admits that studies have not pinned scientific evidence that this leads to more eating disorders, they do say that this is a complicated psychological and sociological issue that is hard to study (Dillarx 2012). There has been a rise in eating disorders since the use of photoshopping became wide spread which is why some people are suggesting that these images come with a warning label to let people know that these images have been digitally changed and that the people you are seeing do have imperfections.
In conclusion, I believe that either banning or warning labels need to happen for digitally altered photographs. Because of the immense rise of eating disorders since the rise of the use of practice of photoshopping in the advertisement and magazine industry these regulations are needed. While it can not be proved to be directly caused by this practice, the immense rise of eating disorders and the timing of this rise and development of technology cable of altering photos suggest that the two are related. This has lead to a nation wide problem and a culture of unrealistic beauty that is impossible to obtain. Leading to body image problems and eating disorder problems that can have serious effects on young adolescent overall health. Kate Winslett and Brad Pitt and celebrities in general are considered the most beautiful people on the planet anyways why would they need alerting? When the people in these pictures are speaking out against that dangers of the practice I believe that is the greatest sign of all that the practice needs to end or come with disclaimers. Dillarx (2012) claims that the practice actually leads to the objectification and dehumanization of women especially, something that is already an issue within modern society. Finally Kotz (2009) spoke of how nice it was to see Kate Winslett’s arm jiggle when seeing her in person, that reminded her that she was human after all. Anything that can lead to the dehumanization of people is dangerous, especially when it leads to eating disorders and body image problems amongst our nations youth. This practice needs to be changed and addressed before it’s too late.