Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Creating Beauty

What is the popular idea of feminine beauty? As Courtney mentioned in her blog post, there seems to be a dichotomy between models and average women... and there is definitely a reason why. Every time we see a picture of "beauty", it is not a real representation. The women we see advertised are not what most women look like, and in addition, the images are so altered that we can never be sure what they really look like. However, this says something about our concept of beauty as a society.

Since the beginning of recorded history, women have been known to wear makeup. Why is this? Beautifying oneself is an idea that has always existed, and who can say why it originated. Perhaps it was to attract the opposite sex, or perhaps it was just to make oneself feel more beautiful. However, our current society has taken this idea of supplementing beauty to new levels, by digitally altering images even after makeup has been applied to already gorgeous models. The art of retouching has always been fascinating to me. Every image we see nowadays, I can assure you, has been retouched in at least some small way. This has an extreme effect on our self-images and gives us all a false sense that these "perfect" people exist out there somewhere, and that we are just not anywhere near their level.  

The idea that really captures my attention is the fact that an image can be altered in such a way that most viewers would deem it more attractive than the original. By stereotyping beauty like this, retouchers reenforce this unattainable idea of attractiveness, and specifically, feminine beauty that permeates the media. This website has many examples of images before and after retouching.

In the above images, the differences are slight, but I know that when I look at the two, the right one seems to have a "perfect" quality that the other lacks. While both are attractive, the image on the right clearly represents an idealized form of beauty that someone could never actually achieve. Her back is smoothed out, small skin imperfections are erased, shine is added to her eyes, and even the nose is slightly altered, making an overall more "perfect" looking woman. This example is nowhere near the most extreme that I've seen, but it still shows that we as a society can't accept natural beauty, and must alter it in order to make it more attractive. Why is this? Why have we been conditioned to think that women in their completely natural state are not the most beautiful?

Or do you disagree with me? Which do you think is more attractive? Do you think that our need to alter ourselves to perfection is twisted and degrading towards natural beauty, or is it just that our sense of beauty has always included an altering of what is naturally there?


  1. This reminds me of a video campaign I saw earlier showing the transformation a model undergoes through both makeup and retouching: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYhCn0jf46U

    I like the note the video campaign leaves off on: "No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted". I think that we have been so conditioned to think what is beautiful, that we don't realize how distorted and unnatural these standards look. I was going through the site you linked to and all the models looked beautiful. It wasn't until I saw the before picture though that made me realize how strange the women looked after being retouched. It also goes for people who undergo cosmetic surgery. I think this cycle is caused by lack of self esteem that is perpetuated by society's receptiveness towards it.

  2. I definitely do not feel as though our culture has always disregarded natural beauty, but with the invention of photoshop and photo manipulation, the idea of natural beauty has become a thing of the past. I do have to agree that while both pictures you show as an example picture a very beautiful woman, the one on the right definitely looks like a "perfect image". I think that or a very long time, women have gone out in search of products to alter their natural state, however, I feel as though there is a large difference between the altering of one's self, such as with make up and the difference between someone completely altering an image. Altering images often times give this false belief that all women should look like these models, but these models themselves do not even look like their photos within magazines.

  3. I was going to make a blog post out of this, but I feel it doesn't have all that much substance, so would just be worth mentioning in a comment: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2012/04/23/the-real-life-ukrainian-barbie-doll/

    The above article is about the "Real-Life Ukrainian Barbie" that is going viral right now. From what I've read, this model hasn't admitted to photo-shopping her photos, (and some photos without make-up on, etc have been found,) so it is believed that she definitely is real. However, there is no way that someone could have achieved this body naturally, so it is very likely she had undergone an extreme plastic surgery.
    The point is, if someone is willing to go to such drastic measures to have such a body, what does that say about our society? A lot of people are disturbed by this woman. Yet, before she became viral, many people adored Barbies and may really have desired a "perfect" body that the doll has. Obviously, these proportions are unhealthy, but it took a real-life woman to show this. And still, one admirer was quoted as having put "You're beautiful" as a comment under every one of the Real-Life Barbie's photos.
    When will this madness stop? Will natural beauty ever be commended again? Our view of what is beautiful and how to achieve this is becoming so distorted that it isn't a surprise so many women AND men (because photoshopping and body building exist for men too,) are taking drastic measures, such as anorexia, bulimia, and/or multiple plastic surgeries, to become this unattainable image.

  4. Using retouched images to advertise cosmetic products seems ridiculous. People get the false impression that using the company’s product will give them the real life effect that the model in the photo has—giving people an unrealistic expectation because the models themselves are already retouched. However, although photoshopping seems to be becoming more and more prominent in the industry, I recently read an article that said an advertisement for mascara that promises “2X more volume” and features Taylor Swift was withdrawn due to claims that Swift and her eyelashes were too photoshopped. Finally, steps were taken in the right direction by taking down enhanced images in advertisements that give people false impressions of what a cosmetic product actually does. Hopefully more companies will follow this example and try to highlight natural beauty instead of creating it on a computer. However, since seeing these “perfect” models has already set the standard, will it be difficult or even impossible to reverse this effect?

  5. And here is the link to the Taylor Swift article I read in case anyone is interested in reading it!


  6. Our standard of beauty is certainly flawed in the sense that the beauty that we so often see in advertisements is unattainable naturally. I think you do a good job explaining this truth, and I think it is something that we need to consider seriously. One reason that we may perpetuate this image of unattainable beauty is that advertisers are trying to sell their products. In this day and age, corporations and business try their hardest to sell their products, regardless of the methods necessary. If woman of extraordinary beauty are portrayed in cosmetic and clothing ads, than people assume that beauty can be reached if they wear or use those products. For the most part, we are enhancing beauty just to sell a product- to get people to feel self conscious about their own beauty and fall into the belief that if they buy products that beautiful people wear, than they too can become beautiful, and thus, accepted. This is a sad truth about our society, but most people buy products because they are insecure with the way that they look. How couldn't we? The only people that appear in media are beautiful- our only visual representation of beauty in America comes from a surreal beauty that media projects onto the world. When we think of beauty, we think of them- the mysterious models, the fantastic actors, because thats all we have to go off of.

  7. The huge emphasis on photoshopping and photo manipulation of already beautiful people puts into question the concept of beauty. What constitutes beauty? Ultimately, like taste, class, and culture, beauty is a social construction. It is created by those with wealth, those who want to profit from their marketed merchandise. It is an abstraction, something we learn to conform to because of the ubiquitous images of the media's perception of beauty. This social construction leads to the dichotomy between models and 'average' women. I find it interesting that you mentioned that the photoshopped images are misleading and are ultimately unrealistic. The media aims to produce items misleading consumers to think they can create that specific look.

  8. I was recently creeping on facebook (story of everyone's life) but, because of this post, paying more attention to the standard senior-year-professional-photo-shoot default pictures. Do these companies edit their photographs in the same way that modelling agencies do? Because my friend's "flawed" skin appears flawless, and it's really unsettling. Those pictures don't accurately represent her, and after knowing what her skin really looks like, I honestly think they make her look worse.

    It's interesting how I instinctively recognize model pictures as beautiful, but when they're of my friends, I'm repulsed. This just goes to show that reality is much better than this strange fake world we've created with photoshop, but since we have no reality to compare those billboards to, we're forced and taught to accept them.

  9. Beauty has been and always will be an important aspect of the society but we should always know there is more to beauty than just the outer aspect. An interesting perspective on uremboh.blogspot.com/2012/06/is-beauty-only-skin-deep.html


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.