Picture this: Scarlett Johansson, dream girl, on the cover of your favorite magazine. There she is, as shapely as an hourglass, only timeless. After all, who doesn’t want to look like an hourglass? She is the image of absolute perfection (the computer-generated kind, but still). The question is whether or not we are smart enough to know that she doesn’t really look like that. Surprisingly, the answer is no. Or perhaps this isn’t a surprise at all. On some level we know it, but on another we internalize those images and use them as a means of measuring our own attractiveness. Studies show that men and women internalize celebrity pictures and the outcome isn’t good. For instance, it can force us into that dangerous cycle of raiding the fridge for midnight snacks. More seriously, it can lead to body dissatisfaction and even a variety of mental health disorders.
At this point, we might as well be working for that #Batmanbod because celebrity magazine cover bodies are just as fictional. Simple retouching is long gone. Magazine editors don’t think twice before photoshopping a head onto an entirely different body. Even for your average social media user, photoshopping has become so mainstream that most of us are engaging in the act (daily), without even realizing it. That picture you cropped your ex out of before making it your Facebook profile picture? You’re photoshopping. Maybe you think this is pretty harmless stuff. But, consider this. Seriously. We are no longer just making the beach look a little sunnier. We are editing our very lives. We are so obsessed with image that we won’t post a picture on Facebook without making sure we look perfect first. Five years ago it would have been strange to airbrush a picture for Facebook. Today, 60% of women have no problems with editing their photos before they post them online.
The point is this: if Hollywood has taught us anything, it’s basically that we are all common trolls. But, if your nose is a bit troll-like and upturned more than 106 degrees, which is the mathematical definition for an acceptably beautiful nose, you’re in luck because Photoshop is on sale in the iTunes store for $3.99. But, let’s be honest. We all know (or should know) that celebrities aren’t that #blessed in the beauty department. Here’s the evidence to make yourself feel a little better, if you don’t believe me.
The lips: the first thing a man notices. Unlike the booty, big lips haven’t always been on trend. In fact, thin lips were considered most attractive in the 1700s and early 1900s. It wasn’t until the ‘70s that big lips were considered in, a trend that has basically stuck since then. Why are big lips so attractive you ask? Apparently women with larger lips have higher levels of the sex hormone ‘estrogen’ which means they are more likely to bare more children. Who knew? Nevertheless, many are not blessed in the lip department. If you don’t believe me, see Kylie Jenner’s Instagram account. Also, in case you were wondering, the ideal set of lips is as follows: full, red and warm for women and medium-size lips for men, which will convey masculinity and generosity.
His anaconda don’t want none, unless you got buns, hun. In fact, men have always preferred a little extra junk in the trunk, dating back as far as the 19th century when women would wear bustles to make their backsides a little larger. Interestingly though, it is not a large bottom that is attractive, but rather the curve of the spine. Not that you’re taught to care about that. A big butt will get that anaconda to strike. Nevertheless, not even Kim K’s infamous booty can escape a little photoshopping. Let’s refer to her most recent attempt at balancing a champagne glass on her backside (which, for the record, is basically impossible – many have tried and failed). The consensus from the experts is that the image was almost certainly enhanced, even if Mrs. Kardashian-West denies it. Britney Spears once had her bottom size reduced. Nevertheless, thanks, J-Lo, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj and Kim K for giving us something bigger to asspire to.
Perhaps not one of the more alluring parts of the body, but one that still receives a lot of attention when it comes to photoshopping. Why? The neck makes the body look more lean, which of course, is one of the top priorities in magazines and television. Photoshop can elongate the neck, make it narrower and remove any sign of a double chin. Necks are also smoothed over to remove any of those unsightly lines or creases. Jennifer Lawrence, who is probably one of the most photoshopped celebrities as of late, had her neck extended on the cover of Flare Magazine, upsetting a lot of fans in the process.
The arms are as likely to be photoshopped on women as they are on men. A little extra muscle here, a little more bicep a la Justin Bieber for his Calvin Klein shoot there (where the nether region was also “enhanced” for those of us who enjoy such things). Photoshop fails are the best, right? Of course, women don’t want to add mass, instead, their arms are slimmed down. There is an infamous example of this with, once again, Britney Spears, who just can’t seem to win at life. She is definitely up there on The Most Photoshopped Women list of the 21st century. Shouldn’t someone get on making that list already?
Here is an interesting one. Although it has been scientifically proven that men find curvy women more sexually attractive (looking at curvy women lights up the same part of the brain as cocaine and heroin), women are more likely to be photoshopped to have their hip size reduced. Can we blame men for wanting a little curve? It turns out we can’t. They were born that way and it all comes down to a biological need to create smart children. Since hourglass figures (those with larger hips) are likely to have more omega-3 fatty acids stored in their body fat, it provides more nourishment for the developing brain, which supposedly produces a smarter child. Perhaps Kayne West is smarter than we think for marrying a woman known for her curves? Even more interestingly, studies have shown that those with more hip fat are likely to have a higher social intelligence as well!
Any obsession with breasts would have been considered a form of paraphilia as recently as the 19th century. Even though they are a cultural obsession today (a “boob job” is the most common surgical procedure in the United States), science is still unable to provide a satisfactory answer as to why these mammary glands ta-tas are so alluring. Some cultures, such as some in Africa, don’t even consider breasts to be sexual. Not so in the West, as we all know. Go big or home, isn’t that what they say? We want big, round and symmetrical. Thankfully, Photoshop can do that for us, as it has done for Katy Perry. Not hot enough for John Mayer or Rolling Stone, this lady looked a lot smaller in the bosom area before the cover hit the stands.
Ahh, what is sexier than a nice pair of gams? Of course, for many, that involves shrinking unsightly thighs and removing any sign of cellulite or stretchmarks. The sudden popularity of “thigh gaps” in 2012 (that is, a space between one’s thighs) has been a more modern indicator of physical attractiveness. Even queen Beyonce dreams of a thigh gap, accused of altering her Instagram photos on more than one occasion so that we can see that tiny space between her legs, which, if you care to explore, is filled with magical fairies and everything nice. Who wouldn’t want enough space for a few mythical creatures down there? Ladies, take note: if you have a thigh gap, you have made it in life.
3 Eyes and Nose
Nearly every Hollywood photo will have any set of eyes widened and brightened. What is it about looking like a praying mantis that is so attractive? Shouldn’t that be a deterrent? Read into praying mantis sex if you don’t already know. Apparently, larger eyes are linked with higher levels of estrogen, which signals that women will have a better chance of conceiving a child. It isn’t unheard of to change the shape of one’s eyes, either. We prefer lighter colors as well. Find tiny, ten-month old Prince George on the cover of US Weekly for evidence that lighter hair is better. Poor child. As for the nose, well, studies have shown us that there are standards for the perfect nose, with many of us falling a little flat (groan). The nose should be slightly upturned (up to 106 degrees) and those of us other than Scarlett Johansson or the Duchess are going to have to consult Photoshop. Taylor Swift looked unrecognizable on the cover of Oops Magazine after they changed the shape of her eyes, nose and basically everything about her.
2 Stomach and Waist
This is where men are particularly prone to being photoshopped. We need to see the abs and the chest hair removed, if possible. Matthew McConaughey was recently photoshopped by Dolce and Gabbana to look as thin as the bottle of perfume he was advertising. Obviously, the fantasy of the flat, toned stomach does not exclude women who, for example, not only have their stomachs to attend to, but their waists as well, which should be as narrow as possible (60 or 70 percent of their hip size, to be precise). A tiny waist is not a recent trend, however. It’s attractive because biologically it is associated with a lower risk of disease. Miss Lindsay Lohan is no stranger to photoshopping her waist (and other parts of her body) before posting a picture on Instagram, accused of the offence not once, not twice, but multiple times. Ouch.
1 The Face
Even the fairest celebrity of them all cannot escape basic airbrushing or retouching, which became standard practice in magazines in the late 90s and early 2000s. Blemishes, freckles, eye bags, veins, scars and moles must be removed at all costs. Pores, expression lines and wrinkles must all but entirely vanish. Skin tone should be even and cheekbones sculpted. Teeth must be whitened and straightened. It’s time to hide your freckles, hide your moles (and hide your husband, too – just kidding about that last one). Because, how dare you look like a real human. Remember when the duck face was an embarrassing trend and you used to mock those people behind their backs because you knew what their face really looked like? Yeah, this is just a digital version of that and it’s just as foolish.
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