For the most part I have no problem with photo retouching. I have done it on myself on occasion. The stray zit, frayed hair, weird background object that looks like it is jutting from the head. But there has become a standard in the magazine industry that I believe is doing the readership an injustice.
The most recent example is the total transformation is of singer and song writer Kelly Clarkson on the cover of Self magazine’s September issue. Many fans and activists were in an uproar as to how unrecognizable she was from her current true self. Many felt that her face was altered and curves were shaved off her arms, stomach, thighs and butt. I have seen the cover. I had also seen Kelly Clarkson in a few recent interviews. There was more than the odd lump or bump removed. She was completely streamlined.
The American Idol superstar who has stressed many times to the media that she is happy with her body and does not care what anyone else thinks has only made lukewarm comments about liking the cover. In other words she played it safe so as not to ruffle the feathers that help keep her in the media eye. Why are there not more women like Kate Winslet and Jamie Lee Curtis who strongly voice that these kinds of manipulations are wrong.
Self magazine seems to be eating up the extra publicity so I can’t see the latest round of backlash deterring other magazines from reducing their retouching/manipulation. The editor-in-chief of Self, Lucy Danziger, defended the retouching in their blog stating:
“Did we alter her appearance? Only to make her look her personal best. Did we publish an act of fiction? No. Not unless you think all photos are that.”
If other photos are touched to this degree then yes, they are fiction. We have all seen Clarkson’s “personal best” and this definitely is not it!
We are not saying that every lump and bump and hairy mole has to be shown but there has to be a limit on the retouching allowed. Not only for covers but for the ads under them. Especially if we consider the main buyers of magazines and how it has been shown that they are obviously affected by what they see (mainly young girls/boys, women with low self esteem, and men). Someone needs to stand up and take responsibility for the cover and what it represents and so far all I have seen is a bunch of sugar coating.
While this whole brouhaha has brought the concept of photo retouching in to the foreground yet again; unfortunately, it has disappeared just as quickly and things are going on as usual — magazines are over retouching and customers are continuing to buy. The only way to get them to stop is to stop buying (and tell them why you stopped buying) but it does not seem like the majority is willing to do that. So what else can magazine editors deduce from our behavior?