Should fashion magazines come with a warning label?

Posted at 3:04 PM Sep 24, 2009

By Andrea Grimes

"Give me a carton of those low birth weights." It's one of my favorite Bill Hicks quotes from his vast arsenal of smoking material. Roundabouts 4:30 here:

So perhaps I don't have to spell out for you exactly how skeptical I am of the effectiveness of warning labels in dictating behavior--and therefore of the French proposal to place them on digitally manipulated photos of people, fashion models particularly. Via
In France, a group of 50 politicians have proposed a new law that would require digitally enhanced photos of people carry a warning label. Though this issue has been approached in the past as a consumer protection issue in the UK, the French law would be the first to classify the digital enhancements as a health risk. According to MP Valerie Boyer, the label should read, "Retouched photograph aimed at changing a person's physical appearance."

"We want to combat the stereotypical image that all women are young and slim," says Boyer. "These photos can lead people to believe in a reality that does not actually exist... In some cases this leads to anorexia or bulimia and very serious health problems."
Outing ridiculous Photoshop jobs and encouraging healthy body images and body portrayals is a fine idea. A necessary one, even. But I'm not sure a blurb on a photo will do anything more than make the digitally manipulated body that much more attractive in its un-attainability. Isn't it already common knowledge that digital manipulation happens? And so therefore if you do stop just short of killing yourself to have the Photoshop body in real life, you've achieved superhuman status. You're better than a celebrity or a model--you're a god. Maybe I'm being hyperbolic, but it doesn't seem like a massive logical leap to me.

Whether there's a little warning at the bottom of the page or not, we're still flipping through digitally manipulated photos of impossible bodies. It won't be until many different sizes, shapes and colors are valued and portrayed as the norm (the norm that they, ahemm, actually are) that we truly overcome the negative effects created by media and advertising. If France really wanted to combat anorexia, bulimia, etc., through legal and political means, why not give magazines, designers, etc., financial incentives to diversify the people they use in their ads? I'm not sure that would be effective or practical, either--but a warning label seems like a lame move to me.


frances said:

I go out of my way to buy things that have warning labels. I like to live dangerously.

Pete said:

Bill Hicks was a funny dude. I wish he was still around.

irianne fashion said:

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