Airbrushing

Yesterday I read a really interesting article in Marie Claire about whether we should ban airbrushing on models. It got me thinking about whether we should or not, and what the implications of it might be.

On the positive side, it would stop giving ordinary people the impression that the celebrities we see in magazines are perfect. Too many people these days, in particular the younger generation grow up with the media pressuring them from all angles – the internet, newspapers, magazines and the television. They are pressured into what they wear, what they say, the things they buy and even who they choose to be friends with. Airbrushing means that it is these teenagers who are easily influenced by such, get the wrong impression of what normality really is. It shows them that they have to be like this in order to be liked, to be wealthy, to have friends; no wonder the number of cases of eating disorders among under 16s has dramatically increased in the last decade.

However, as this article explains, the negative effects of airbrushing also are apparent in the media. Simply stroll into your local newsagent and take a glance at the weekly gossip magazines. If they aren’t using their front cover to show pictures of celebrities looking too thin, too fat or without makeup, or otherwise, these magazines just wouldn’t sell. So, in theory aren’t we being hypocritical when we cringe at a picture of a celebrity not looking their best – just popping out to get the milk? Aren’t we arranging standards by which to measure beauty, then completely going against them?

In addition, it also puts pressure on relationships; both for the older and younger generations. Many men are used to seeing un-natural looking women who have been airbrushed to look ‘beautiful’ in magazines and on television, when in reality, women just aren’t like that. It’s not just men that are fooled by the media – women too are bombarded with images of tanned, muscly men with toned arms and six-packs, when back here in the real world, not many men have the time, effort or desire to look like that putting relationships under pressure to match up to what they’ve seen in the media.

On the other hand, it can be argued that airbrushing gives women something to look up to and aspire to become. If all the people we see in magazines had blemished skin and wrinkles, would we still bother with our beauty regimes at all? If celebrities had ‘problem areas’ to point at, it may well be the case that no-one would care about their appearance, because the media doesn’t either.

Apart from the countless jobs that would be lost if airbrushing were to ever be banned, there is also the point of how it would change our society and the way we live today. Living in the digital age where we now can edit photos far beyond the dodging and burning tools used previously in the darkroom, people are used to seeing edited photos. The fact remains that people look up to what we see and read about in magazines despite the fact that they KNOW they are edited. Removing these techniques would disrupt the balance of fashion and celebrity life as we know it today – whatever it may be that the world is coming to.

It is of course impossible to accurately predict the effects that this ban could have on the industry and the public, yet the true moral of the issue of airbrushing runs psychologically deeper. Why do we feel compelled to become ‘perfect’? How much of the editing techniques used in the media today really affect us, and to what extent? And why does the media feel a responsibility to airbrush in the first place? Well, we could just blame the creators of photo shop.

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