By now you’ve surely heard about the Ralph Lauren photoshopping debacle. In a nutshell: Model Filippa Hamilton was digitally whittled and twisted into a comically carnivalesque Laffy Taffy of a human being. Website BoingBoing wrote about it in their Photoshop Disasters section, where writer Xeni Jardin now-famously mocked, “Dude, her head's bigger than her pelvis." Ralph Lauren got its knickers in a bunch and had their lawyers send a take-down notice to BoingBoing, saying it was an "infringing image." The problem: BB is totally within its rights to post the ad – it’s called fair use. I mean, if I got sued every time I commented or snarked about an airbrushed image I saw, I’d be in a jailhouse slammer in rural Alabama, spooning with a she-man named Berle.
The good news: Polo Ralph Lauren has tucked tail and admitted,"For over 42 years we have built a brand based on quality and integrity. After further investigation, we have learned that we are responsible for the poor imaging and retouching that resulted in a very distorted image of a woman's body. We have addressed the problem and going forward will take every precaution to ensure that the caliber of our artwork represents our brand appropriately."
Here’s my problem: Did anyone ever actually look at this image and think, for even one millisecond, that it was real? The poor model’s body was manipulated to such an irrational extent that it ceases to look human any more. It’s like someone holding up a picture of Oh No! Mr. Bill and saying, “No one has lips that full and luscious! He’s obviously had Juverdern!” Um, no, it’s a cartoon man, made of Playdoh. Same with this RL chick. So much attention is being paid to this uber-obvious example, when there are a gazillion other equally egregious (but simply not as apparent) airbrushed women floating through our daily media. It’s pictures like this and this, where the “after” picture has been radically altered but in very subtle ways. These are the images that catch people’s eyes without them knowing it. These are the pictures that worm their way into our subconscious and make us feel like something is missing – bigger boobs, fuller hair, fewer wrinkles. That Ralph Lauren pic was so out-of-whack, it was laughable. The other images that make us all feel like garbage are just sad.