Beauty as an optical illusion

Posted on October 12, 2009.

Fashion models in ads are optical illusions and the award-winning  video Evolution of Beauty, from the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty proves the point eloquently. Watch it at:

Digital cosmetic surgery - nip-and-tuck, botox and liposuction, on the screen, with a click - render these models picture-perfect (excuse the pun) and thoroughly unreal.

There is no way a non-photoshopped  woman can attain that perfection. Hey, we are human. We have flaws.

In France and the UK, women lawmakers recently proposed that ads should disclose when their photos have been digitally manipulated to a great extent. They argue that bodily digital perfection in ads undermines the body  image and self-esteem of girls and women.

Anorexia, bulimia, eating disorders, obsession with thinness  and unnecessary cosmetic surgery follow. Meanwhile, sales of weight-loss products and push-up bras soar.

The tricky problem for lawmakers and advertisers alike is where to draw the line between (acceptable) touching up a pimple or a wrinkle and engaging in full (unacceptable) deception.

Among the most egregious offenders: the French magazine Paris Match nipped the bulging love handles of President Nicholas Sarkozy, in evidence while he canoed bare-chested in the USA.

Oprah Winfrey always has a waist in the cover of O magazine, while flat-chested Keira Knightley miraculously acquired big boobs for her recent Chanel Mademoiselle perfume ad.

The alcoholic drink Campari must have some magical effects on bones because actress Jessica Alba got sharper collarbone and knee definition, longer arms and a tinier waist in its recent ad.

Eating disorders once afflicted mostly affluent white teen girls in the West.  Now they have spread across the world, among all ages and ethnic groups and, increasingly, among young men.

It is  harder to quantify how the unreal perfect bodies in ads distort the self-image of girls and boys worldwide.

Watch the video and share your thoughts about the proposed disclosure measures.