I know Bossypants is kinda 2011, but 30 Rock is back with new episodes (thank God — does anyone else start to despair and watch The Big Bang Theory reruns on TBS ad nauseam during the dark days of December? Just me?), and so my friend Kate and I started discussing this Tina Fey question via email the other day. So, seeing as I’m tres busy making my new website all pretty for you, I thought I’d reprise that email into a blog post and… go!
Kate: I just finished reading Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants, which is great and funny and I really enjoyed it… although I found her bit on Photoshop to be somewhat curious. It also made me wonder if one’s relationship with or ideas about Photoshop in magazines changes if you’re actually, you know, in magazines on a regular basis. I would probably obsess over how I look in those photos, too. But anyway, I’d flagged some pages to show you and then while bored at work the other night I typed up some passages, as I’m curious to hear what you think.
You can barely recognize yourself with the amount of digital correction. They’ve taken out your knuckles and given you baby hands. The muscular calves that you’re generally very proud of are slimmed to the bone. And what’s with the eyes? They always get it wrong in the eyes. In an effort to remove dark circles they take out any depth, and your face looks like it was drawn on a paper plate. You looked forward to them taking out your chicken pox scars and broken blood vessels, but how do you feel when they erase part of you that is perfectly good?(pp. 156-57)
I feel about Photoshop the way some people feel about abortion. It is appalling and a tragic reflection on the moral decay of our society…unless I need it, in which case, everybody be cool. (p. 157)
Do I worry about overly retouched photos giving women unrealistic expectations and body image issues? I do. I think that we will soon see a rise in anorexia in women over seventy. Because only people over seventy are fooled by Photoshop…. People have learned how to spot it… As long as we all know it’s fake, it’s no more dangerous to society than a radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds. (pp. 157-58)
If you’re going to expend energy being mad about Photoshop, you’ll also have to be mad about earrings. No one’s ears are that sparkly! They shouldn’t have to be! You’ll have to get mad about oil paintings – those people don’t really look like that! I for one am furious that people are allowed to turn sideways in photographs! Why can’t we accept a woman’s full width?! I won’t rest until people are only allowed to be photographed facing front under a fluorescent light. (p. 158)
And there’s this whole section on feminism + Photoshop:
Some people say it’s a feminist issue. I agree, because the best Photoshop job I ever got was for a feminist magazine called Bust in 2004. (p. 159)I looked at the two paltry lights they had set up [for the photo shoot] and turned to the editors. ‘We’re all feminists here, but you’re gonna use Photoshop, right?’ ‘Oh, yeah,’ they replied instantly. Feminists do the best Photoshop because they leave the meat on your bones. They don’t change your size or your skin color. They leave in your disgusting knuckles, but they may take out some armpit stubble. Not because they’re denying its existence, but because they understand that it’s okay to make a photo look as if you were caught on your best day in the best light. (p. 160)