In the last month a time-lapse video showing the extreme makeover of UK actress Sally Gifford Piper has gone viral. The video, directed by Tim Piper for GlobalDemocracy.com, exposes the drastic physical alterations made possible by using a combination of cosmetics and Photoshop.
The debate regarding whether or not dramatically altered images in various forms of advertisement can contribute to body image issues and various eating disorders is nothing new. In June of 2011 the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted new policies concerning body image and the use of Photoshop in advertisement, stating that
advertisers commonly alter photographs to enhance the appearance of models' bodies, and such alterations can contribute to unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image – especially among impressionable children and adolescents.
While news sites such as The Huffington Post and The Daily Mail have been quick to jump into the discussion concerning image alteration in advertisement and body image issues, few have taken the discussion beyond this point. In the above video, Jean Kilbourne—noted author, speaker, and filmmaker—speaks to the wider implications this practice may have in society.
According to Kilbourne, advertisements do more than sell products. They outline parameters for our values as a society while selling concepts concerning love, success, and normalcy. While Kilbourne notes the importance of the effect this has for body image and self-esteem, the discussion focuses on the darker ramifications this practice can have in a society.
Using a slideshow of images, Kilbourne points out how the women are often literally portrayed as being an object. Whether their body is turned into a beer bottle, a car, or a video game console the result is the same: a human being hacked apart and turned into a thing. While this may seem harmless, Kilbourne notes that this practice has a complex effect on how we think about and therefore treat people. Ultimately, it promotes violence against the group being objectified.
This idea is nothing new to feminism, and it has been met with its own heated debate. Before picking a position, however, consider these words from Kilbourne:
Turning a human being into a thing is almost always the first step towards justifying violence against that person. We see this with racism, we see it with homophobia, we see it with terrorism. It's always the same process. The person is dehumanized and violence become inevitable.
April would love to know what you think, so please share your thoughts in the comments section below!
Related articles by April Pettit: