Pic­ture this: Why we need to keep it ‘real’

Views on air­brush­ing — as with the ubiq­ui­tous self-edit­ing apps used widely on so­cial me­dia — il­lus­trate how rife ageist at­ti­tudes are, says Mar­garet Jen­nings

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Ageing With Attitude -

THERE’S a funny scene with a bit­ing edge in the third sea­son of Frankie

and Grace, the Net­flix drama fea­tur­ing two 70-some­thing women, which high­lights the re­al­i­ties of grow­ing older.

The two would-be en­trepreneurs Frankie (Lily Tom­lin) and Grace (Jane Fonda) ask a PR firm to help them pro­mote their vi­bra­tors for se­niors. All is good un­til the PR peo­ple present them with a very large poster of them­selves as the “faces” be­hind the prod­uct — very young faces.

It’s a laugh-out-loud mo­ment for view­ers, as the im­pact of the al­most un­recog­nis­able ver­sion of the two women star­ing back at us hits — and we watch them both storm out in to­tal out­rage.

But views on air­brush­ing — as with the ubiq­ui­tous self-edit­ing apps now used widely on so­cial me­dia — are com­plex, skirt­ing the is­sue of how “real” we are be­ing.

As with other plot lines in the Net­flix se­ries, the writ­ers use it to take a sharp stab at the not-so-sub­tle ageist at­ti­tudes wide­spread in the me­dia and so­ci­ety against older women.

And although Grace is indig­nant at her pic­ture be­ing tam­pered with, if we take a step back from the fic­tion, there is an irony in the fact that ac­tress Fonda, who will be 80 in De­cem­ber, looks amaz­ing as a re­sult of her openly ad­mit­ted plas­tic surgery over the decades.

Pho­to­shop­ping is not con­fined to older peo­ple of course — it is reg­u­larly used to por­tray im­ages of un­re­al­is­tic flaw­less­ness in pro­mo­tional ma­te­rial.

A-list ac­tress He­len Mir­ren, now 72, found her­self at the cen­tre of an air­brush­ing con­tro­versy two years ago, af­ter a com­plaint was lodged with the Ad­ver­tis­ing Stan­dards Author­ity (ASA) in Bri­tain claim­ing she looked great in her im­ages for a L’Oreal cam­paign, not be­cause of the Age Per­fect mois­turiser she was pro­mot­ing, but be­cause she was Pho­to­shopped.

L’Oréal won its case af­ter pro­vid­ing red car­pet im­ages that proved Mir­ren looked the same as the com­mer­cial in ques­tion, fine lines and all. At the time, Mir­ren told Wo­man And

Home magazine: “Con­trary to what ev­ery­one says, I don’t not al­low re­touch­ing. I’m very lais­sez-faire about it all. But when I was of­fered the gig to be an am­bas­sador for L’Oreal, which was very ex­cit­ing, I said ‘please don’t re­touch me’.

“In the US, they re­touch for film posters. That’s their busi­ness, of course — they’re ad­ver­tis­ing the movie. But I look at it and think. ‘I don’t look like that in real life — and cer­tainly not in the movie.’ So I didn’t want some­thing to say ‘This is me, He­len Mir­ren’ — and for L’Oreal to per­pet­u­ate some­thing that isn’t true.

“But it wasn’t even an is­sue, as L’Oreal UK don’t re­touch im­ages of me un­less maybe there’s a hair out of place or a bra strap show­ing, which was mu­sic to my ears.”

Although she has strong views on fight­ing the anti-age­ing mes­sage, and writes about it in her blog grey is 0K, 54-year-old Ir­ish model, Denise O’Neill tells Feel­good: “I un­der­stand that a cer­tain amount of Pho­to­graphic edit­ing is re­quired to get the best and most flat­ter­ing im­age. Af­ter all, we, as con­sumers, want to view beau­ti­ful im­ages. It makes us feel good and trans­ports us into a world of glam­our out­side of our day-to-day or­di­nary lives.”

The Lis­burn-based mother of two would ab­hor the dras­tic mea­sures taken with Frankie and Grace, how­ever — knock­ing half a decade off their faces: “I be­lieve there is a wor­ry­ing sub­lim­i­nal anti-age­ing mes­sage be­ing con­veyed through the use of the ‘per­fect, flaw­less, non-wrin­kled’ face and this type of in­flu­ence on con­sumers con­trib­utes to the mind-set that age­ing is to be com­bat­ted,” she says.

And she asks: “Why are we be­ing brain- washed into think­ing that age­ing is a neg­a­tive thing? It is a nor­mal part of life to grow older and evolve. It hap­pens to all liv­ing things. Age­ing should be re­spected and cel­e­brated. I’d like to see the term ‘an­ti­age­ing’ banned from our vo­cab­u­lary.”

It’s not an equal plat­form ei­ther, she points out. “I have no­ticed that in the main, im­ages of older men are not be­ing air­brushed to make them look younger. It ap­pears to me that their wrin­kles are very much dis­played as dis­tin­guished, hand­some, char­ac­ter-adding, wise and ma­ture.”

In her own pho­to­graphic work O’Neill says there is al­ways only min­i­mal edit­ing, al­low­ing her age and per­son­al­ity to shine through. “I much pre­fer to let nicely ap­plied nat­u­ral makeup and flat­ter­ing light­ing bring out the best in my pic­tures. I think they are more nat­u­ral and real.”

Ac­cept­ing how we look, frown lines, laugh­ter lines, “warts and all” starts within our­selves, or course, but it could be less pres­suris­ing if the grow­ing num­ber of older women be­ing used for pro­mo­tional pur­poses were kept “real”.

“A per­son who never made a mis­take never tried any­thing new —Al­bert Einstein

Pic­ture: Ash Khosla

QUES­TION OF IM­AGE: Denise O’Neill be­lieves there is a wor­ry­ing sub­lim­i­nal anti-age­ing mes­sage be­ing con­veyed through Pho­to­shopped im­ages.

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