Thursday, April 24, 2014

Banish the Airbrush? Maybe Not Yet...


Everyone has an opinion on it, and today I was unexpectedly drawn into a debate over it. Perhaps surprisingly, I stand on the 'let's not banish all airbrushing' side. Here's why...

*Advertisements are, at heart, consumerist propaganda. Cute green geckos don't really help us save money on car insurance, not everyone who wears clothes made from cotton sings an indie-cute song about it and no matter how many fancy bottles of colored vodka I've tried, I've never turned into a tall, svelte French woman surrounded by handsome men in suits. (Trust me on that last one...) Advertising as we know it began long before photoshop, back in the 1920s, when pictures were added to advertisements to sell products. The pictures showed '20's era starlets smiling and wearing glamorous clothes- and who didn't want to be that girl? Deodorant and toothpaste and mouthwash, etc, flew off the shelves while everyone reached desperately for the glamorous image that accompanied it. Even without photoshop, advertisements are unrealistic representations of a split second of staged enthusiasm that rarely has anything to do with a product, and instead speaks to our self image hang-ups, if we allow it.

*High fashion is fantasy. For most of us, even those who occasionally wear designer labels, high fashion is an artistic fantasy. The pieces are untouchably expensive, they're delicate and they're few in number. The advertising campaigns that go with them are also fantasy. When we see a gorgeous mermaid holding a bottle of $85 designer perfume, we're not supposed to debate if mermaids exist. When we see Lady Gaga lounging with a purse on her arm... well, when was the last time that ANYTHING Lady Gaga did was considered anything other than fantasy? Personally, I love photoshoots. I love high drama and surrealistic images, black and white photography, intense makeup, crazy concepts, magic. I've hung many of my favorite advertisements up on my walls or pasted them into a special as inspiration over the years. They're artistic and inspirational and idea-prompting, especially for me as a writer, airbrush and all.

*We all present ourselves in the best light we can. Come on, how many of us have slapped a gauzy filter onto our photo when we're battling a particularly awful round of Acne Wars? Get your hands up, join me, because we've all done it. We learn our lighting and our angles (soft lighting and straight on or held up and pointed down, for me). We learn selfie-tactics. We apply makeup or fix our hair. None of us look that babetastic during every single second of our lives, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't have a fabulous profile picture on facebook.

*Self image issues are tearing us apart, yes. We're all obsessed with self image. We're obsessed with our weight, with being overweight or underweight, with gaining weight or losing weight, with wondering why we talk about weight, with talking about why we shouldn't talk about weight, or being afraid to admit we want to lose weight, because someone will pop up and say FAT SHAMER, YOU SHOULDN'T PROMOTE UNHEALTHY WEIGHT LOSS/EATING DISORDERS/DIETS. This won't be solved by banishing airbrushes in advertisements. Airbrush is a scapegoat. We need to take responsibility to teach our young women, our young men, our friends, our own brains, that media images are fantasy and entertainment, not reality. We need to remind ourselves every day that we have worth, whatever our body looks like. We need to be good to each other and to ourselves. We need to make positive changes if we want to. We need to support each other in those positive changes. We need to know that human beings come in all shapes and sizes and colors. We need to know that labeling someone else by their weight is only a sign of deep insecurity. We need to stop hating on fat AND thin people. We need to teach young girls why they shouldn't be cruel to each other over appearance or personality or anything. We need to remember not to be cruel to ourselves. We need to be kind to our bodies, our minds and our souls.

That's our responsibility every day.

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