Beauty Is In the Eye of the Consumer

Do you remember when you would wake up in the morning and get ready for school, and just when you look in the mirror, you find a large pimple right in the centre of your forehead, and oh no! It’s on photo day. Years from now people will open their yearbooks to show their friends “that kid with the zit”.

This happened at least once a year, we would line up in the gymnasium to get our photos taken and one person would be freaking out on account of their impending reputation as “zit-girl”. Us boys didn’t seem too broken hearted about such misfortunes, and if we were, we weren’t showing it, we’re already “pizza-face” we don’t need anyone calling us “crybaby.”

Heh, Kids.

I remember I was in grade five. One day, a photo day no less, I awoke with a small blemish on my cheek, I didn’t pay it much attention, if anyone asked about it I’d tell them I got punched, by a high school student, he was like 6 feet tall, guys, I swear. So I’m standing in line and in the line parallel to mine a girl from my class is spiraling into dismay as she tries to cover any blemishes or imperfections with some thing called “make-up” which I, at this point, have never heard of. I did not envy this girl, I wondered who she would claim she got in a fight with when the yearbook came out, but I digress. I eventually entered the photographer’s isolated little area, my mind was no longer focused on the pinkish swelling on my cheek, but preoccupied, wondering if you needed some kind of special license to isolate children and take pictures of them, is there some kind of screening process? I hope so.

Furthermore, is that an Umbrella?

I said “cheese”, the bulbs (and umbrellas?)flashed, and the hardest part of my day was over, I stood up to leave when the photographer asked me to wait a moment, please let there be a screening process.

“Did you want us to take care of that” he pointed at my cheek. I was confused because the picture had already been taken, did he want to re-take the picture? Was that just a practice picture? Or did he just want to do me a favour? Do I want this man to do me any “favours” in his little photo tent?

“What do you mean?” I asked, in the least sexy way I could manage.

“Well,” he say’s, “we have this new computer program that we can edit out any little blemishes and make you look perfect”

“Ghee whiz” said Little Mitch, “that sounds neat.”

“So should we go ahead and do that?”

I opened my mouth to say yes, but then I paused, I thought isn’t this kind of cheating, who is this man to decide what I should and shouldn’t look like? Why should I let him impose this standard of beauty on me, I should be proud of who I am. Actually I was thinking “but I already told Jimmy that I got punched by that 7 foot tall college student, when the pictures come back everyone will call me a liar…a beautiful liar”

“Yeah go ahead and do that”

“Okay, I’ll just mark that down on your card, give this to the woman outside”

“Okay thanks, I got punched”


“My cheek, I got punched by this, like 30 year old guy, he was like 8 feet tall”


Years later in high school I would learn about things like body image, and truth in advertising. It’s only now that I draw a parallel to that anecdote, they offered to Photoshop me and I said yes. My innocent, albeit lying, little mind didn’t see anything wrong with a little touch up, no one looks perfect everyday, why shouldn’t the extra effort be taken to make me look my best, especially since when the photo’s come back my mother is hanging that sucker on the wall, and she loves me just enough to see my face for its inner beauty. That’s a bad thing, because no amount of convincing its getting that ugly mug taken off the wall.

Actual photo hanging in my mother’s home

I think we can all agree that this is a necessary evil, one of the worlds little white lies. It’s when we cross into the realm of advertising that we should concern ourselves more with the truth.

I guarantee I’m not the first person to tell you this, take a moment and Google the words “Body Image Media”, the first five results read as follows:

                Body Image, Media, and Eating Disorders…

                Beauty and Body Image in the Media

                Girls and Body Image: Media’s Effect How Parents Can Help

                The Media, Body Image, and Eating Disorders

                Body Image – The Media Lies – Our bodies Ourselves

The polls are in: The media is evil, and my fingers are probably in close proximity to my mouth right now.

I followed the second link it reads the least biased, and my best chance of finding an even handed evaluation of the issue of body image in the media. What I found was a demonization of the magazine industry, love thyself ideology, and purple, lots and lots of purple. The content itself was well written and raised some valid points, what I disagree with is the approach. Anytime the topic is brought up it is immediately dissented, “It is not okay to promote an unrealistic standard of beauty,” “It is not okay to Photoshop models,” etc.

To form an opinion, I assert that you must well understand the subject matter, example, I am familiar with the development, and plot line of the twilight novels, Twilight is the worst franchise to ever see the light of day. Did you get that little vampire pun, that’s called writing.

Lets perform a quick exercise of the imagination, you are in you local drug store waiting in line, let’s say you’re buying candy. Now look to your left and your right, you’re surrounded by magazines, and what do most of them have on the cover? If you said beautiful women then we’re on the same page, congratulations, if you just said women give yourself partial credit.

The photo you see before you of the newest big-right-now starlet has gone through more processing than my driver’s license, and my insurance company wanted $10,000 last year. On the day of the shoot the model is made up extensively, then poses before the camera and multiple pictures are taken of that pose, the model poses differently and more photos are taken, this is repeated as necessary. Note that a photographer will take multiple pictures of the same exact pose without the model moving, only the best will be chosen and those will be altered with editing software, and the best of the best goes on the cover. The model did look something like that at one point in time, but it would be inaccurate to say that’s what the model looks like.

Its not just magazines, consider comic books, there’s no shortage of pseudo bondage when DC comic’s Wonder Woman is on the scene.

Tip: make sure safe search is on before you Google “Wonder Woman Tied up”, damn it Internet, just… damn.

Often times wonder woman appears in peril on her covers without such a scene even occurring in the course of that story, the reason it’s on the cover is to draw you in. Seriously, she’s been tied up so many times I’m convinced they’re just Mad Lib-ing by now.

Wonder Woman is tied to a _______ by _______ in order to steal ________.

Even stripped of its sexual component – this can be found – comic book covers are frequently drawn by different artists than the comic itself.

We can extend this principle to movies as well. In 2004, posters for King Arthur were found to portray Guinivere slightly differently than she appeared in the film, by which I mean they added tattoos.

Photoshop: cheaper than implants

Again we have this occurring in a non sexual context: a theatrical poster from Thailand, for 2009’s District 9 showed several alien robots charging into the foreground, the film does in fact feature the robot we’re shown, but just the one.

I can see at least 1, 2, 3…8 things misleading about this poster

From time to time, the truth is stretched in the name of sales but its not all about sex.

The media may skew the details when they digitally iron over wrinkles, but the intent isn’t to create an unrealistic standard of beauty or to force conformity, it’s to sell a product. Yes it’s wrong, but not for the evil reasons we’ve assumed. They do it because we asked them to, when a society values beauty so highly, what would you show them to get their attention?

Advertisers shouldn’t be forced to only use models above a certain BMI, not only can we argue that that is discrimination, but it’s become a selling point, the second we hear ‘plus size models’ we know you’re the company to buy from, that’s called exploitation.

Speaking of plus size, aren’t we facing international weight crises? I understand promoting positive body image – poor self esteem and eating disorders are rampant today – but can we not promote a healthy body image instead? Our people should be encouraged to be the best they can be. I’m not asking you to be as thin as a rail, I’m asking you to walk to the corner store instead of driving, unless you need gas, I can be reasonable.

Nope, nobody’s living in excess around here

Advertising is a very lucrative industry and it always will be, if anything is going to change maybe you should ask yourself what you value. I just bought a new phone, not because a “beautiful” person told me to but because it was the best suited phone for me. Buy a product because it’s what you want.

This entire problem can be solved by thinking for yourself, don’t buy something because it’s sexy, buy it because you want it, and don’t let somebody tell you what to look like, just use your potential, and be the best you can be.

Until next time, make a healthy decision.