Tag Archives: photoshop fail

Hey! Don’t “Shop” My Kid!

The girls of South Park learn about Photoshop.

Mahli had always been told that the birthmark on the side of her neck was a “beauty mark”.  So when the photos came back with the birthmark erased, Mahli was very upset.  As if an important part of her were taken away.  Unfortunately just like learning about Santa and the Easter Bunny and the Stork, at some point in our lives we need to learn about Photoshop.  But Mahli had a good excuse for not understanding.  Because Mahli was only six years old.

Mahli and her family learned the harsh realities of the alternate Photoshop universe when her school pictures came in.  Mahli’s picture was digitally retouched by the school photo company to remove the young girl’s birthmark.  They also digitally changed the color of her bow and removed a little snot off her face.  All of this was done without the parents’ permission.

“I don’t want a perfect photo,” said Mahli’s mum, “I want a photo of my perfect child.  It’s her first school photo from primary school, and that’s kindergarten gone.”

Now some of you might be thinking, “Big deal!  Photos are altered all the time.  My 10-year-old nephew is brilliant at it!”

But it is a big deal.  Mahli’s parents had spent time carefully teaching her daughter that her birthmark was part of her.  That it was part of what made her special and beautiful.  Mahli had learned that this was a part of her that she need not be ashamed of or hide.  And then the photos come back with that part of her erased.  What message does that send to a little kid?  Suddenly, that part of her has been digitally removed as if it was too terrible to be seen by the public.  Suddenly she learns that the wider world has different standards than her parents taught her.  And that from now on, any images of Mahli that are for public consumption, must be changed to present an acceptably homogenized view free from “blemishes”, “uninspired fashion choices” or even the “odd accidental booger”.  Because it’s not important who you are, it is only important how you appear in the yearbook, or daddy’s wallet or grandma’s social media feed.

Mahli’s mother is not having it.

“We’re very concerned about what that’s doing to her body image. When she’s 18 how is she going to feel when she looks at that photo and she still has the birthmark but the photo doesn’t?

“Why instill in a six-year-old that she needs to have a complex about what she looks like?

“She’s not doing a fashion shoot for Cosmopolitan magazine, she’s having her photo taken for the family album.”

These are very good questions indeed.  I’ve seen a  lot of commentary online blaming the school and the photo company.  Some have even noted that while Mahli has been honored for respecting others and their things, the school and the photo company didn’t afford her the same courtesy.   But the company that altered these photos without permission (Academy School Photography and Production) surely didn’t just digitally alter this one photo.  Undoubtedly they have retouched many, many school photos, probably for years.  And nobody seemed to complain.  In fact, they probably found that when the photos were retouched, the parents BOUGHT MORE PICTURES.  Academy School Photography and Production is a business.  They would not engage in a time consuming and expensive process unless the net result were more sales.

It’s pretty easy to see how it happens.  Any schoolteacher can tell you that no matter how carefully you prep your little darlings for school photo day, by the time the kids arrive in line to be immortalized on photo day, things have probably gone seriously awry.  Hair is mussed.  Shirts are stained.  Faces are smudged.  A little hair straightening here, a little teeth cleaning there, a little spot removal and voila!  The kid in the photo looks the angel that walked out the door in the morning.  And thus sales go up.  Ah and if a little extra alterations, a few pounds shaved, a few freckles removed, eyes brightened and all that jazz help the parents maintain an illusion that their kid is “perfect” and “media ready” so much the better.  Sales go up and up.  And that comes down to the parents.  Unless parents insist on raw, unaltered photos.  Unless they refuse to buy pictures that have their kids prettied up in post, this process will continue.  Parents need to make a stink about this process.  Not just one parent who tried extra hard to instill body love in her little girl–all parents need to say something.

Because what is at stake here is not just a school photo or a beauty mark.  What is at stake here is how kids learn to perceive themselves and their bodies.  This is part of the process that makes six-year old kids worried about getting fat.  This is part of the process that makes kids under 12 one of the fastest growing groups of eating disordered people.  This is part of the process that makes grade school kids torture each other both online and in person about differences until their very young victims consider suicide.  It’s all part of the thing.  Part of the thing that causes us to find skilled graphic designers to “fix” our dating site profile pictures–the thing that robs us of our humanity and makes us present ourselves as perfect pictures of ourselves rather than our authentic selves.

It reminds me of a surprisingly touching moment in the television show, “South Park” (of all places).  Wendy sticks up for a girl on the cheerleading squad who is less conventionally attractive than the other girls.  All of this changes, when the girl’s newly (and dramatically) retouched photo appears on social networking.  Suddenly all the boys want to date her.  The girl’s boyfriend can’t wait to flip out his phone and show off pictures of his “hot, new girlfriend” to his friends. Soon all the girls at school are doing it…

…except for Wendy.  When Wendy protests that these images aren’t real, when she speaks up at school and even the local news about the process of retouching these photos, she is accused of being “jelly” (jealous) and is told if she doesn’t shape up she’ll be sent to “Jelly School”.  The final scene of the episode as Wendy ultimately caves to the peer pressure is surprisingly poignant and marks the first time ever an episode of South Park made me cry:

So what’s the upshot here?  Who’s to blame?  The school?  Yes.  The photo company?  Of course.  But we, as a society are all complicit in this problem.  And as a group, we will need to buy the photos with the funky hair part and the freckles.  And we will need to speak up when our imperfections are erased for public consumption.  Because a world where a tough, independent minded, intelligent girl like Wendy’s character on South Park, still feels the need to learn Photoshop so she can create a social media acceptable image of herself makes me so, so sad.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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In EPIC Wardrobe Malfunction, Target Creates Thigh Gap by Removing Young Woman’s Lady Bits

Close up of gruesome wardrobe malfunction. EEEK!

In it’s quest to ensure that all its models are sporting an appropriate thigh-gap,  Target PhotoShop artists appear to have removed a junior model’s vagina altogether.  The image was pointed out by several watchdog groups and blogs not only for it’s garish wardrobe malfunction, but also for the fact that it appears the junior model in question may have also been mutated into an alien creature with a very long torso and very long arms, best seen in the larger version of the photo here:

The photographic evidence of Target’s tampering have since gone viral and Target has issued an “apology” stating:

“In response to your query about the swimsuit image on Target.com, this was an unfortunate error on our part and we apologize. We have removed the image from our Web site,” a company spokesman said. Asked how the mistake occurred, “It was the result of a photo editing error on our part.”

Which leaves me with a few things to say to our friends at Target.  First of all, in your “apology” I have to say that I don’t think that word means what you think it means.  Sure, your PhotoShop guy or gal messed up.  I can certainly understand how that happened.  I doubt that it’s some sort of malicious protest on the part of the graphic designer as some have suggested.  I really don’t imagine that some designer wanted to point out the brutality inherent in the system of PhotoShopping images by blatantly messing up and releasing a picture.  I’ve produced websites and games and DVDs.  I understand that stuff slips through the cracks.  That poor graphic artist is probably not being paid less per hour than your minimum wage checkers and is probably working 80 hours per week on “salary” in a web sweat shop somewhere.  And the junior manager or producer doing Quality Control on those images is probably working just as hard and not getting paid very well either.  And if anybody gets fired over this whole mess, it will probably be them.

Apology? Hmmm. Maybe not.

But I’m sorry to say Target, that you apologized for the wrong thing.  Don’t apologize to me that a graphic artist messed up and released a photo that makes it blatantly obvious that you drastically altered a young woman’s body to convince 12-year old girls that they need to be seven feet-tall, size 00 and have a thigh gap that could hold a soccer ball.  Don’t apologize to me that you got caught.  Apologize to me for feeling the need to PhotoShop these images this way in the first place.  Apologize to me for altering photos to create impossible beauty ideals to products aimed at 12-year-old girls in an environment where hospitalizations for eating disorders in kids under 12 are up 119% (see Pinhas et. al.)  Apologize to me for being so certain that your model needs to sport a thigh gap, a trendy body trait that is nearly impossible to maintain for all but a microscopic percentage of the human race, that you were willing to graphically stretch her on the rack and excise critical bits of her anatomy to accomplish it.  (You could consider the techniques shown in the video below.  These are kinda cool actually.)

Target, you make me sad.  I adore your wide, bright aisles and fun POP displays.  I love your colorful and fun, yet generally affordable housewares, camping gear and sporting goods.  But this has GOT to stop.  It’s time for you to retract your fake apology and give us a real one.  Then tell us how you are going to stop digitally dissecting the already beautiful bodies of your models to sell us a dose of unreality we just shouldn’t have to swallow.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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