Sunday, February 13, 2011

Construction of Reality

The first key concept to use when studying media is "all media constructs reality". This means that the media only presents part of the story, giving a selective view that only shows the parts of reality that are favourable to them. It can be as simple as slightly photoshopping a picture or as extreme as editing out entire segments of TV show. When viewing an ad, watching a movie, or listening to a song, it is important to remember that everything you see has been put in front of you as a choice, and that often the media does not tell the whole story.

One example of this that is very prominent in today's media filled society is airbrushing. Many ads found in magazines, especially ones featuring celebrities, have been drastically altered to give the final product an unrealistically perfect look. This is shown in this ad from a couple years ago for the movie King Arthur, starring actress Keira Knightley.
Keira Knightley King Arthur
This picture shows the original photgraph taken of Knightley, and then beside it you can see the final product that was distributed in magazines everywhere. There are many noticeable changes to her body, such as a larger chest, a skinner stomach, and more defined cheekbones. In addition, there have also been major changes in the brightness and contrast to give her skin a darker glow and make her features more dramatic and pronounced. 

Another example of airbrushing is seen here, with a before and after image of Faith Hill that was on the cover of the magazine Redbook. For the final cover shot, Faith has much a slimmer back and neck area, as well as a very slimmed down arm and stomach. Her skin has been lightened and smoothed, with much work around her eyes and mouth to reduce wrinkles, which are something that occur naturally in many women.
I really believe that the sensation of airbrushing is a very negative concept, especially for teen girls. As we flip through magazines and see these ads, they make us feel so inferior to these women with their perfectly shaped bodies. When we see these tiny waistlines and smooth, clear skin, we can't help but believe that we too need these assets to be considered beautiful. By drastically photoshopping pictures, the media is saying that there is something wrong with being curvy or having a pimple, and that in order to be featured in an ad, these natural things are just not acceptable. There is so much pressure on girls to look a certain way, and these ads condone the idea that beauty is about "perfection" and that there is only one way all girls are supposed to look. 

However, this construction of reality has sparked some advocacy from popular celebrities, such as Britney Spears. Earlier this year, she asked Kohl's to release both her original and airbrushed photos for one of her most recent Candies advertisment, seen below. Many changes have been made, including shrinking her waist and stomach, toning her butt, thighs, and arms, as well as changing the colour of her hair and skin. However, Britney Spears lives the life of a celebrity, so she has more time and money to be able to stay in shape and focus on her appearance, something the average girl or women doesn't.  
Although she did let the advertisers use the airbrushed photos in the campaign, she took a step forward in the right direction by openly releasing the originals. This lets young girls know that it is unrealistic to try to look the way women do in magazines, because these images of  "perfection" are not even close to reality.

1 comment:

  1. I definitely agree that most airbrushed/photoshopped photos can be very harmful, as they definitely give very narrow and very unrealistic ideas of what beauty is. You're right that there is a recent trend for models to release the "before airbrushing" photos of themselves in an attempt to make it look like they agree that these type of airbrushed photos are harmful, but I think what Britney Spears is also showing in these photos is that her body looks pretty good even without airbrushing. Celebrities like Spears spend thousands of hours and dollars on their appearances, as it is essentially part of their job to look good. Average people do not have the money to afford personal trainers, specialized diet plans, etc., so even though celebs release photos of themselves without touch-ups,they are still showing a rather unrealistic representation of what real people look like.
    This is a great first entry! I'm looking forward to reading more of your posts.