As an editor of sites dedicated to women and womenthings, Ive been writing and assigning stories about Photoshop disasters, Photoshop fails, Photoshophorrors and anti-Photoshop regulationfor probably as long as youve been reading them (A. Long. Time). And I agree with many of your recent comments that the Internets obsession with discovering and publishingthese re-touched images has gone too far, becoming a kind of witch hunt,almost as exploitative and damaging as the photocrimes theyre uncovering (see the Lena Dunham/Vogue cover SNAFU earlier this year). In fact, here at HelloGiggles weve recently discussed ceasing all Photoshop coverage, not only because were over it, but because there just seems to be a million better and more inspiring ways to spend our brains and words than beatingupon this dead re-touched horse.
But then. Well, then something like this happens.
These before and after photos of a 2009 V Magazine shoot of Lady Gaga by famous fashion photog Mario Testinowere leaked today. Normally, all usdesensitized post-Photoshop-world folkwouldnt think a thing about them. It looks like Gagas head has been replaced with a different, more flattering head with a softer/sexier expression (if you look closely through all the re-touching shadows, or gape at the original photos for a particularly long time, youll see this is the same body position, with what very much looks like a new head). Yawn, yes, of course. She looks friendlier in image two. Her skin has been brightened and oranged a bit and a theres a lifting and roundening of sorts of her lone in-the-shot boob. Ok, sure, you go on with your bad selves, photo re-touchers. Her tattoo looks brighter, too, so you can really see her tattoo. Fine, fine.But theres one other thing thats seems to have happened to Lady Gaga in the after picture, the one that ran in an international style magazine and was posted all up in the interwebs for all her young (and old) fans to see: It looks like Lady Gaga has been given visible ribs. If this is true, SOMEONE HAS PHOTOSHOPPED BONES ONTO A HUMAN WOMAN SO SHE LOOKS SKINNIER THAN SHE IS.
Just when you think the Photoshopping scandals are finally over, when you think youve seen every thigh gap and erased waist and Barbie skin and no-butt in the world, someone goes ahead and says, Just the illusion of having zero fat is NOT ENOUGH. We need to SEE SKELETON.
So, why is this a big problematic deal? For starters, Gaga has meaningfullyspoken to the public about her struggles with eating disorders, confessing that she battledanorexia and bulimia since she was 15. Shes become an advocate for self acceptance and fought back against media haters who criticized her physique. She started initiatives called the Body Revolution and Born This Way to promote positive body imageand to help her fansaccept themselves as they are. In 2014, seeing this side-by-side comparison of an already thin and fit starmade emaciated through Photoshop is not only counter to all the work shes done as a positive role model for body acceptance and self-love, its damaging. [Ed note: Commenters have pointed out the timeline here -- Lady Gaga's body image initiative started in 2012, these photos were taken in 2009. We're not suggesting any of this is her fault and we hope this Photoshop situation has improved in the past five years.]
But the other fairly Captain Obvious thing that bothers me about this image is, by enhancingthe appearance of bones, the people who worked on these photos are saying that protrudingribs are more attractive and sexy and, ultimately, better and more visually appealing than non-visible ribs. And thats a sucky, scary standard to put out into the world.
Images affect us. They shapehow we think about our own standards of beauty. Especially when were young (this is what they mean by impressionable, though Ive always been annoyed by the powerlessness implicit in being impressionable). I remember the famous actresses and pop starsI was obsessed with in the 80s and 90s and I bet you do too. I wanted to emulate them and I definitely used them as style guides. I hung pictures of them on my walls, stared at them nightly, andfor better or worse, they helped me define what I thought looked good and cool. Lady Gaga is aninfluential pop star admired by loads of young women pictures of her matter.