Thursday, November 5, 2009
Image /The Australian Women's Weekly
The biggest news story flying around Australia over the last week has been the gargantuan controversy that is Sarah Murdoch choosing to grace the cover of pre-eminent high culture magazine The Australian Women's Weekly with no airbrushing. Her reason - "I think when I'm retouched in photographs it's worse, because when people see me in real life they go, 'Oh God, isn't she old?'" First of all, it must be noted that Sarah Murdoch is not old. She's 37. Second, she once teetered on the brink of supermodel-dom - in her career Murdoch starred in campaigns for L'Oréal, Revlon, Ralph Lauren, Yves Saint Laurent and Estée Lauder, and featured on the covers of Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire, Glamour, GQ and Harper's Bazaar (thanks Wikipedia). Did I mention she's married to Rupert Murdoch's son? The point I'm making is that when a (still reasonably young) former quasi-supermodel chooses to pose untouched on the cover of a magazine, they're probably not taking quite the same risk as another non-beauty queen type lady. Imagine if she'd gone with no retouching and no makeup. Now that would be taking a stand.
You want to see real ballsy no retouching? Check out the Mark Sainsbury's busbacks for Close Up - not a pore is left unseen.
I'm in two minds about retouching. First of all, magazines are supposed to be aspirational. I want to see beauty and perfection. I don't want to be looking at a close up of someone's face and see their pimples or the food in their teeth or a dark shadow above the upper lip of an otherwise pretty lady. Women's Weekly covers are obviously targetting an older female demographic who would most probably have wrinkles, but the same goes for teen magazines - all their cover stars are airbrushed to the point of flawless, poreless skin. Does it make people feel insecure and bad about themselves? Possibly, but those same people are still probably going to feel bad when movie stars and models are more attractive and slimmer than them without the retouching right? Some people are just born to be really, really, ridiculously good looking.
On the flipside, I'm not a fan of overcooking the image. You can go too far. Sometimes you'll look at a picture of someone's face that's been so photoshopped it doesn't even look like skin anymore.
I contacted Delaney Tabron from NO Magazine for her two cents on retouching cover stars. She said,
"I think it is incredibly irresponsible of magazines to retouch people beyond recognition. I do very minimal retouching on No to remove pimples and temporary blemishes but that’s all. I think 'imperfections' make people unique and beautiful. I was once publically criticised for not removing hair on Katy Perry’s fingers on the cover of Issue 4 – God forbid a woman should have hairy knuckles. It’s sad that the media often perpetuates an unrealistic standard of beauty. There is nothing interesting about a world full of people who look like they have skin made of molded plastic."
Should more models grace the covers of magazines untouched? Sure, maybe they should, it would probably make a nice change to see some flaws once in a while, but then again, most models I know have stupidly good skin anyway.
I'm interested to know if anyone's challenged the untouched claim of the Sarah Murdoch cover? If you ask me, the skin is a little too perfect and the teeth are a little too white. What 37 year old doesn't have a single line on their forehead? I'm 25 and I already have heaps.
Either way, respect must be given to Sarah Murdoch and The Australian Women's Weekly for bravely voyaging into such unchartered waters.
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