By J. DeVoy
A few years ago, the Dove Campaign For Real Beauty tried to give false hope to plain janes everywhere that actual beauty doesn’t exist at all, and is a consequence of extensive photoshopping. A viral youtube clip showed an above-average girl getting made up, and then photoshopped into a supermodel.
Naturally, American women, whose average BMI is starting to resemble a pretty good ACT score, are upset about these computer-enhanced depictions of beauty. Pay no attention to the fact that they’re 20 pounds heavier as a group than they were in 1990 – it’s the marketers’ fault! And now, this collective delusion has metastasized into proposed legislation: Arizona House Bill 2793.
The thrust of the bill is concisely stated in its plain language:
A. AN ADVERTISER SHALL NOT USE POSTPRODUCTION TECHNIQUES TO ALTER OR ENHANCE PRINTED MEDIA ADVERTISEMENTS THAT ARE DISTRIBUTED OR DISPLAYED IN THIS STATE.
B. IF POSTPRODUCTION TECHNIQUES ARE MADE IN AN ADVERTISEMENT THAT IS DESCRIBED IN SUBSECTION A OF THIS SECTION, THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER MUST BE CLEARLY AND LEGIBLY STATED IN THE ADVERTISEMENT:
POSTPRODUCTION TECHNIQUES WERE MADE TO ALTER THE APPEARANCE IN THIS ADVERTISEMENT. WHEN USING THIS PRODUCT, SIMILAR RESULTS MAY NOT BE ACHIEVED.
C. AN ACT OR PRACTICE IN VIOLATION OF THIS SECTION IS AN UNLAWFUL PRACTICE UNDER SECTION 44-1522 AND SUBJECT TO ENFORCEMENT THROUGH PRIVATE ACTION AND PROSECUTION BY THE ATTORNEY GENERAL. THE ATTORNEY GENERAL MAY INVESTIGATE THE ACT OR PRACTICE AND TAKE APPROPRIATE ACTION PURSUANT TO CHAPTER 10, ARTICLE 7 OF THIS TITLE. (source)
Of course, this is a huge waste of time and resources, and the bill will never become law. In fact, its sponsor, Kate Hobbs (D-Phoenix) acknowledges the bill has virtually no likelihood of success, and is just another annoying publicity stunt at the expense of addressing real issues.
We just wanted to bring it to the table and start a discussion,” she said. “We need to bring attention to these body-image issues, especially with young girls. Girls need to know that they don’t have to look perfect.” (source)
I get that self image is important to women, especially young ones who haven’t been exposed to the withering criticism of anyone who has ever accomplished anything in life (let alone perennial curmudgeons like Scott Greenfield and Brian Tannebaum). But there’s an easier solution: Instead of imposing new restrictions on advertisers and content producers, why doesn’t Hobbs tell her constituents to put the fucking donuts down? If she’s going to involve the legislature, why not create a refundable tax credit for people’s gym memberships? That would send a better message: That by in large, you are in control of your life experience, and it is not the responsibility of others – especially those trying to sell something – to accommodate shame and guilt.
If advertisers used normal people in their materials, nothing would ever get sold. What’s next, banning female porn talent from getting fake breasts? Barring men from going to the gym, lest they use their labor to deceive women into finding them attractive? In this day and age, with airbrushing having been prevalent for at least two decades, nobody looks at a magazine or other image and thinks “this is a wholly accurate depiction of reality.” Airbrushing and editing is as commonplace and readily accepted as Makeup – something that Hobbs will waste state resources trying to ban next, so that she can bring attention to the scourge of women being forced – forced, I say! – to use eyeliner to enhance the appearance of their eyes.
Thankfully, there are some voices of reason in Arizona:
Louie Moses, creative director of the Phoenix-based Moses Anshell advertising agency, said the advertising industry should be allowed to police itself.
“I don’t like legislation that tells us what to do and what not to do in marketing,” Moses said. “I know what’s right.” (source)
Yes. And that is because the First Amendment protects speech, not feeeeelings. But, with people like Katie Hobbs in office, the frivolity of emotion will fight for center stage, and against bedrock constitutional principles prohibiting this kind of limitation on speech. Sure, cigarettes bear warning labels – but they also cause cancer and death. An overly flattering depiction of someone causes, what, a pang of guilt in the reader that he or she should be on a recumbent bike?
Katie Hobbs, who confirms all of my negative assumptions about social workers, apparently believes that her political office is the appropriate platform for this kind of advocacy. She is mistaken and, I believe she should be voted out of office. Her time could be spent getting Arizona to adopt a badly needed anti-SLAPP statute that has meaningful consequences for abusive litigation (the current one is garbage). Instead, she has chosen to be the enemy of expression.
Since I don’t like dishing out criticism without proposing an alternative, here’s a solution: If you’re threatened by the depictions in advertisements, look better. My morning regimen is 2 ozs of apple cider vinegar, followed by a whey protein shake and a cocktail of pills including VPX Redline Black-on-Blue, Zinc, Magnesium, Vitamin D and Vitamin C. Lift heavy 2-4 times a week, and try to do 30 minutes of cardio a day. That’s pretty much it.
I know that it’s tempting to think “oh, that’s $xxx I could bill in the hour it took me to do all that!” Well, how is your billing going to look when you’re laid up for a week, (or two, or three) following a heart attack, bypass surgery, or stroke? What about the months of subsequent rehab, and the fact that these changes will have to be made in your lifestyle anyway – presumably when your billing rate is even higher? With prevention, a triple-bypass can be reduced to an outpatient angioplasty, which ain’t that bad in the scheme of things. Just as importantly, though, you can look good until the end, and not have to have your poor little feelings trampled by an overly flattering advertisement.