In 2009, several countries, such as France and Britain toyed with the idea of requiring a “warning” label on advertisements which have been retouched. There were actual laws proposed (but not yet passed) in both of these countries, where not only would photos be labeled as “Photoshopped,” but photos of young people 16 and under could not be retouched at all. This sparked a large amount of discussion and debate all over the entire world. In November of 2010, there was still no decision as to whether the law would be passed, and there are no new updates at the moment. Things still seem to be in the stage of discussion.
There are many advocates with strong opinions on both sides of the fence; pro Photoshop warnings and anti Photoshop warnings. Many in favor of the law support it because they think the photo retouchers deserve to receive credit as photographers and models do now. The main reason for the push for government regulation is the large amount of eating disorders, which many believe could be the result of people seeing so many advertisements and photos of “perfect” and extremely thin or muscular men and women. There is really no way to prove that the images young men and women see in magazines are the cause of eating disorders, and it is obvious that many factors are involved. There is evidence, however, that young women’s body images are negatively affected by photographs in the media. In a study on young women (mean age 19.9) in France and Italy, the results showed that “girls with initial body dissatisfaction reported higher body dissatisfaction after being exposed to images of ideally thin models than images of average-size models.” (Rodgers 267) So although this doesn’t prove that all young women are negatively affected by photos of thin models, it does show that women’s already negative body images can worsen from looking at these photos.
There is also recently been huge controversy over the weight, or lack of it, of fashion models. Since malnutrition seems to have become fashionable, it only adds to the issue of the editing of magazines. These people who devote their lives to looking beautiful as models can’t even achieve the looks that they get from Photoshop. In Killing Me Softly 4 by Jean Kilbourne, Cindy Crawford is quoted saying “I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford.” The unachievable beauty is made to look real in photos, and the skinny models get even skinnier before the photos are published.
The “Photoshop Law” seems closest to becoming a reality in Israel where a bill is supported by The Ministerial Committee for Legislation. If the bill is passed it would require advertising agencies to put a notice on photos that have been Photoshopped and would also prevent models that do not meet the new 18.5 Body Mass Index rule from being shown in advertisements in Israel’s media. (Lis) Should the retouching of photos in the media be regulated? Well, that’s up to the French, Israeli and British governments to decide. Advocates would also like to see this discussion of new laws begin a trend and someday move to the United States.
Here is a link to a New York Times opinion editorial video on the subject: