One day, there it is! Right between Jessica Simpson and those people from The Bachelor who murdered each other—it’s your face! It is your face, right? You can barely recognize yourself with the amount of digital correction. They’ve taken out your knuckles and given you baby hands. The muscular calves that you’re generally very proud of are slimmed to the bone. And what’s with the eyes? They always get it wrong under the eyes. In an effort to remove dark circles they take out any depth, and your face looks like it was drawn on a paper plate. You looked forward to them taking out your chicken pox scars and broken blood vessels, but how do you feel when they erase part of you that is perfectly good?
We have now entered the debate over America’s most serious and pressing issue: Photoshop.
A lot of women are outraged by the use of Photoshop in magazine photos. I say a lot of women because I have yet to meet one man who could give a fat turd about the topic. Not even a gay man.
I feel about Photoshop the way some people feel about abortion. It is appalling and a tragic reflection on the moral decay of our society… unless I need it, in which case, everybody be cool.
Do I think Photoshop is being used excessively? Yes. I saw Madonna’s Louis Vuitton ad and honestly, at first glance, I thought it was Gwen Stefani’s baby.
Do I worry about overly retouched photos giving women unrealistic expectations and body image issues? I do. I think that we will soon see a rise in anorexia in women over seventy. Because only people over seventy are fooled by Photoshop. Only your great-aunt forwards you an image of Sarah Palin holding a rifle and wearing an American-flag bikini and thinks it’s real. Only your uncle Vic sends a photo of Barack Obama wearing a hammer and sickle T-shirt and has to have it explained to him that somebody faked that with the computer.
People have learned how to spot it. Just like how everyone learned to spot fake boobs—look for the upper-arm meat. If there’s no upper-arm meat, the breasts are fake. Unlike breast implants, which can mess up your health, digital retouching is relatively harmless. As long as we all know it’s fake, it’s no more dangerous to society than a radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds.
Photoshop is just like makeup. When it’s done well it looks great, and when it’s overdone you look like a crazy asshole. Unfortunately, most people don’t do it well. I find, the fancier the fashion magazine is, the worse the Photoshop. It’s as if they are already so disgusted that a human has to be in the clothes, they can’t stop erasing human features.
“Why can’t we accept the human form as it is?” screams no one. I don’t know why, but we never have. That’s why people wore corsets and neck stretchers and powdered wigs.
If you’re going to expend energy being mad about Photoshop, you’ll also have to be mad about earrings. No one’s ears are that sparkly! They shouldn’t have to be! You’ll have to get mad about oil paintings—those people didn’t really look like that! I for one am furious that people are allowed to turn sideways in photographs! Why can’t we accept a woman’s full width?! I won’t rest until people are only allowed to be photographed facing front under a fluorescent light.
It should absolutely be mandatory for magazines to credit the person who performed the Photoshop work, just like they do the makeup artist and the stylist… in very tiny white print on white paper.
Some people say it’s a feminist issue. I agree, because the best Photoshop job I ever got was for a feminist magazine called Bust in 2004.
It was a low-budget shoot in the back of their downtown office. There was no free coffee bar or wind machine, just a bunch of intelligent women with a sense of humor.
I looked at the two paltry lights they had set up and turned to the editors. “We’re all feminists here, but you’re gonna use Photoshop, right?” “Oh, yeah,” they replied instantly. Feminists do the best Photoshop because they leave the meat on your bones. They don’t change your size or your skin color.
They leave in your disgusting knuckles, but they may take out some armpit stubble. Not because they’re denying its existence, but because they understand that it’s okay to make a photo look as if you were caught on your best day in the best light.
Photoshop itself is not evil. Just like Italian salad dressing is not inherently evil, until you rub it all over a desperate young actress and stick her on the cover of Maxim, pretending to pull her panties down. (That “thumbs in the panties” move is the worst. Really? It’s not enough that they got greased up and in their panties for you, Maxim?)
Give it up. Retouching is here to stay. Technology doesn’t move backward. No society has ever de-industrialized. Which is why we’ll never turn back from Photoshop—and why the economic collapse of China is going to be the death of us all. Never mind that. Let’s keep being up in arms about this Photoshop business!
I don’t see a future in which we’re all anorexic and suicidal. I do see a future in which we all retouch the bejeezus out of our own pictures at home. Family Christmas cards will just be eyes and nostrils in a snowman border.
At least with Photoshop you don’t really have to alter your body. It’s better than all these disgusting injectibles and implants. Isn’t it better to have a computer do it to your picture than to have a doctor do it to your face?
I have thus far refused to get any Botox or plastic surgery. (Although I do wear a clear elastic chin strap that I hook around my ears and pin under my day wig.) I can’t be expected to lead the charge on everything. Let me have my Photoshop.
For today is about dreams!
- Tina Fey, Bossypants, New York, 2011