Beauty Talk: Photoshop Disclaimer, Pardon Moi?

It's not news that models in fashion mags are airbrushed, but it seems that the controversy and outrage over their digitally altered flawless skin and emaciated bodies won't go away. Off the top of my head, the latest Photoshop ire has been over Kelly Clarkson's Self cover, Filippa Hamilton's Ralph Lauren ad, and Demi Moore's uneven hip slice on the cover of W magazine. Sure, most of us talk about how much we hate the impossible and deceptive standards placed on us by the beauty and fashion industry, but last night, on NBC Nightly News, we were introduced to a French woman who's trying to do something about it--legally.

Meet Parisian parliamentary official Valérie Boyer. The mother of two teenage daughters, Boyer is proposing legislation that requires advertisers to attach a disclaimer on retouched photos. Simply put: Her hope is that such a law will help young women, including her daughters, feel better about themselves and their bodies.

My thoughts? Good intentions, dud idea. I don't think that placing a Photoshop disclaimer of any sort is going to make a positive impact on a young woman's psyche--maybe on an intellectual level (like for a second), but ultimately, the image will have a dominating emotional suasion. The way I see it, the image remains digitally altered and the fantasy behind it is still ostensibly laid out for impressionable eyes to see. You know how they say "a picture says a thousand words"? Well, I think it's safe to say that those "thousand words" will definitely drown out the few words that might make up a disclaimer. Come on, do you think disclaimers work on cigarette ads?

There are legitimate arguments from all sides of the controversy. I just don't think this latest legislative attempt puts us on the right path toward a viable solution. And to play devil's advocate, let's be real: Fashion photography is a subjective art, and fantasy and escapism play an integral role in the genre. Some of us--maybe on a subconscious if not conscious level--want to be captivated by those what to do? I don't know the answer to this complex, pervasive problem, and it's hard to draw a line on what is permissive to retouch and what isn't. But maybe the fashion industry should start out by inventing a new, less harmful illusion--and making a point to keep the damn curves on it.


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