I have to admit to only having the vaguest idea of who actress Rachael Leigh Cook was prior to reading these recent comments. She’s just not on my radar, so I asked Kaiser if she knew of her. She remembers her from 1999’s She’s All That, and says the film “was so horrible, it was actually charming.” Rachael seems to be doing TV work now and I guess she’s on USA’s Psych. Anyway Rachael was a guest at a conference on media impact on youth, and she was very outspoken in her opposition to the rampant Photoshopping that goes on in the industry. I really like what she had to say, although I find her stance a little severe.
Actress Rachael Leigh Cook has joined forces with Academy Award winner Geena Davis, The Creative Coalition, and Girl Scouts of the USA for a Summit in Washington, D.C to address the impact of media images on youth. The group addressed particularly the struggle girls go through reconciling media’s idealized portrayal of women with their own bodies and self-worth.
“I did not grow up getting told about how manipulated the images we see of women and girls out there are, and I think it’s an absolute travesty that young women are seeing what the media is feeding them,” Cook told Pop Tarts. “It breaks my heart to be part of an industry and part of a machine that really pushes out these images and propagates these really terrible standards that are false.”
This is something Cook, 31, can relate to first-hand. After completing her first film “The Babysitter’s Club” at age 15 in 1995, the actress battled her own body image-related demons.
“I remember gaining quite a bit of weight on the first movie that I worked on because, ‘hey, free food!’. You’re at that stage where your body is just changing so actively, so it was a natural change, but I remember finishing that film and realizing that I had gained probably 10 pounds over the course of filming which is a lot when you’re only 5’2,” Cook said. “I knew then that I needed to go and really try and get healthy. I went too far in the other direction and I worried my parents for a while, I think it’s fair to say. I think that it’s something that many, many teenage girls go through, especially ones that are achievers and ambitious. You’re looking for a sense of control, and when you’re in a really transitional phase in your teenage years, I think it’s a pretty normal reaction to develop food issues.”
The “She’s All That” star is now not only urging youth to go online and Google “Photoshop Tutorial” to learn exactly what experts do to the images of all the celebrities and models out there, but she also wants the American public to know that even papparazi snaps aren’t all they’re purported to be.
“Nothing that you see is real, even if you look at what looks like a candid photo of someone, anything can be done. It is false advertising and false advertising is a crime so why isn’t this a crime? I’m just up in arms about it,” Cook added. “People need to know that there are actual lenses that are put on cameras that make people stretched out. If you saw these actors in person, you wouldn’t even recognize them as the people you see on TV. It’s just all a complete illusion and maybe it should be viewed as art, the way that art isn’t real. The way that a picture of a rose can be beautiful, but it’s not a real rose.”
I don’t think we should criminalize Photoshop at all, but some kind of small print disclaimer might be called for, i.e. “image has been digitally altered.” This will probably never happen, is too difficult to execute and I’m not really arguing for it, but wouldn’t it be interesting if all advertisements and magazines were required to include a link where people could view the original image prior to editing? Like just to show the reality of the original image even with lighting, makeup and hair? They’d come up with new ways to make the original photos more flattering, but it might cut down on the massive Photoshopping that goes on.
A commenter on one of our Kirstie Alley “weight loss” posts once pointed me to this Exif viewer which allows you to see how much a photo is edited based on file data. I don’t really understand how it works, but it tells you how many times the photo was edited and saved, which in the case of the Kirstie Alley legless weightless photo was something like 16 times. When we saw Kirstie again after she supposedly lost 50 pounds she definitely didn’t look as thin as she did in that photo.
So does Photoshopping give impressionable young people unrealistic body ideals? Definitely. Maybe with more awareness of how easy it is to digitally alter photos we’ll help protect our kids from the negative impact of those images. Even if you realize that the models really aren’t as thin and gorgeous as they look in the ads, they still have the power to make you feel unattractive, though. They also have the power to sell you crap you don’t need, and that’s what this is really all about.