Beautiful Liar

Yes, this may be a title of a song by Shakira and Beyonce, but it illustrates quite nicely that “beauty” portrayed in the media today is a lie. Just like the unobtainable appeal of ideally orgasmic sex in porn or the food of perfection on the Food Network, the advertisements and commercials ever-present in our daily lives convey a false view of what is “beautiful”.  It portrays an ideal that cannot be attained. As Frederick Kaufman stated in his article “Debbie Does Salad”, “Recipes made on-screen rarely match their printed correlatives in books” or on the website (pg. 57).  Barbara Nitke, porn photographer offering her expertise in this article, continues, “That’s exactly the way the porn thing works. The sex, of course, is impossible to replicate.” The “perfect” women portrayed in various media outlets are not real. Yet, these ever-present “thin-ideal” images continue to affect women. 

Few people can even hope for their body to resemble the 6’, long legged, high cheek boned model that is half naked and “perfectly” toned, tanned, and thin within the pages of your Cosmopolitan or other  magazine of choice.  However, these magazines (and commercials) suggest that with their exercise routine or advertised makeup, skin lotion, and hair products, you may achieve this “perfection”.

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This is a photoshopped cover image of Katy Perry.

This implication is simply a lie.  Not only is it false because everyone has a different body type, and healthiness is not determined by how skinny you are, but the photos are, the vast majority of the time, heavily touched up and photoshopped.  Even with this aside, the photos are being taken by skilled photographers who are quite capable of portraying their subject in an artful light, with makeup artists and hair stylists coating their models with products that make them only vaguely resemble their natural self. At this website there are pictures of models without makeup, and it amazes me how different they look from their images on TV, in advertisements, on billboards, and in other publications. Here, they look like an average person, rather than the ideal presented by the media.

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This is a picture of Victoria’s Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio, plus-size model Crystal Renn, and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover girl Brooklyn Decker shown without photoshop at a shoot for “Glamour” magazine.

My mom would catch me watching “America’s Next Top Model” when I was in middle/high school, and she would say, “That is junk.”  She would get upset, and now I understand why.  Last semester, for my media audiences class, I did a project on the effects that can be correlated with “thin-ideal” images in the media.  I was horrified at some of the results in relation to female self-perception and self-esteem. Despite the fact that these ideals are impossible to achieve for the aforementioned reasons, it doesn’t stop women from wanting to look like Gisele or the plethora of other models prevalent in magazines, TV, movies, billboards, and more.

These thin-ideal images in the media affect people, even though we may know they are touched up and not real.  It doesn’t prevent people from buying beauty products, staring at models like Gisele as idols, or often having a negative body image.  I wonder what can be done about this.  It is a very difficult subject because I definitely do take pleasure in reading magazines, viewing awesome fashion ads, and even watching “America’s Next Top Model.” Maybe it’s not all bad.

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