Last month, a botched image appearing on Target’s website featuring a missing block of a model’s bathing suit bottom and a severely thinned arm reminded consumers of the presence of Photoshop in advertising.
Now, two Congress members from Florida, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Rep. Theodore Deutch, are sponsoring a bill titled the Truth in Advertising Act of 2014.
Written by Seth Matlins, founder of the “Feel More Better” campaign that fosters happiness and comfort for girls and women, the bill would limit the amount of Photoshop allowed in media advertising and instigate the Federal Trade Commission to inspect retouched photos in an effort to challenge eating disorders and negative body image.
While some doubt the bill can make a difference in making an impact on the issue of eating disorders, consciously limiting the amount of Photoshop used in advertising could reduce society’s tolerance toward the bodily ideals projected on nearly every magazine or billboard.
In an interview with Digiday.com, a website aimed at professionals working in digital media and advertising, Matlins said the bill would regulate editing in photo advertisements, from altering someone’s body shape to hiding wrinkles – changes that create false advertisements in the name of selling a product, he said.
In addition to challenging the deceit seen in advertisements, the initial shock of seeing a photo prior to its refurbishments would likely emphasize how adjusted society is to Photoshop retouching – which is a problematic form of compliance.
While society has become familiarized toward digitally-altered, glowing skin, re-sized stomachs and smoothed cellulite, the fact that these ideals bear stark influences on the self-perception of girls and women is something that should be socially normalized.
RadarPrograms.com, a resource offering treatment programs for those suffering from eating disorders, reports 50 percent of commercials targeting women address physical attractiveness and the average adolescent is exposed to 5,000 advertisements discussing attractiveness annually.
Additionally, Matlins referenced a statistic from the National Institute on Media and the Family in an article to the Huffington Post stating 53 percent of 13-year-olds are dissatisfied with their bodies, with this reaching 78 percent at age 17.
While some argue the link between the development of eating disorders and the exposure to images in the media is undefined, the already problematic epidemic of poor body image paired with unrealistic, contrived beauty standards found in the pages of Cosmopolitan or even on boxes of hair dye seem to imply vulnerability to these standards is indeed probable, especially since 69 percent of fifth- to 12th grade girls gain their understanding of the “perfect body shape” from magazines, according to a USA Today article.
Along with the negative effects on body image, the mere fact that leaked photos prior to Photoshop magic can make headlines, as Lady Gaga’s unedited Versace advertisement recently did, it is clear it is more socially acceptable for a photo to be rendered unreal than it is for it to closely display humans as they are.
While this bill is only a small step in inciting a collective reconsideration of beauty standards and reducing the occurrence of eating disorders, it has the potential to begin a change off-putting enough to make people reject the usual, acceptable and unfortunately unavoidable Photoshop improvements.
Isabelle Cavazos is a sophomore majoring in English.