Anorak | Airbrushed images of super-skinny models don’t make you sick

Airbrushed images of super-skinny models don’t make you sick

by | 3rd, May 2012

IT is tragic when young people get so concerned about their appearance that they deprive themselves of food and fall ill. That’s what happened to Rachel Johnson, a former anorexia sufferer who weighed just four-and-a-half stone in her teens. Now, the 20-year-old Johnson and her mother have launched petition  to ban airbrushed images that target under-16s. They believe that such a ban would help keep young people from striving for unrealistic body ideals.

Johnson  believes  that images of skinny celebs and models fuelled her own weight obsession as a teenager and made it harder for her to overcome her illness. She used to make scrapbooks with pictures of slim models which she would look at as a way of motivating herself to stay away from food and drink. But it wasn’t just altered pictures that upset Johnson her main obsession seems to have been Victoria Beckham who, with our without airbrushing, is extremely slim.

While Johnson and her mother are going after airbrushed pictures, their real concern seems to be with contemporary body images and beauty ideals and those can’t be altered simply by removing altered pictures from glossy magazines and billboards. Anyone who believes prevailing beauty ideals are problematic is going after a phantom enemy by targeting the advertising industry’s airbrushing practices. After all, advertisements reflect and perpetuate ideals that are grounded in society. They express and appeal to our desires, material needs and aesthetic sensibility. Whether you think these are positive or not, you can’t simply do away with them by rendering certain pictures unacceptable. That’s like trying to airbrush public life.

Worse, such an approach contributes to a censorious climate where everyone who feels that they would be better off without certain images or messages around them feels they have the right to call for the government or industry bodies to slap an embargo on those images. In recent years, the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has  upheld complaints  about ads that used young-looking models, ads that poked fun at religion, ads that portrayed women as sexual objects, ads that showed couples fighting… the list goes on.

Of course, companies have a responsibility to tell the truth in their ad campaigns and, critics of airbrushing say, retouched images are not truthful. But images are manipulated from the moment they’re taken, and not just in post-production. Models wear make-up and are told to strike poses. Photographers choose lighting, camera lenses and sets, to create certain looks. The point of advertising is to create an idealised version

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Posted: 3rd, May 2012 | In: News Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink