South Park Takes a Stab at the Photoshop Retouching Issue

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We often see videos and read articles that talk about the perils of the wanton use of Photoshop to create the ideal woman – flawless, skinny, and with tanned legs up to your neck. Earlier this week, actress Ashley Benson had spoken out against it, after seeing an overly-retouched promo photo of her and her Pretty Little Liars co-stars. Earlier this year, skin care company Dove released a Photoshop skin retouching action, seemingly in an effort to discourage its use as part of their Real Beauty campaign.

Image manipulation and retouching has come under fire again – this time, in the form of a South Park episode. In their most recent episode, “The Hobbit”, the writers of the famously brutally honest show tackles how the exploitative use of Photoshop is changing the world’s perception of how women should look like, which creates a lot of pressure on young girls to attain what is, in reality, unattainable.

In the episode, Butters turns down cheerleader Lisa Burger because she was “too fat” for him to date. When an outraged Wendy calls him out on it, he defends himself by saying that “Kim Kardashian is skinny and she just had a baby… I want a woman… who knows how to look good,” and showing her a photo of Kim that was looked like it torn from a fashion magazine. Wendy angrily fires back at his obvious ignorance, “Kim Kardashian is a short, overweight woman who manipulates her image!”

In a later scene, some cheerleaders join a Total Self Image “gym” where they are learn how to expertly manipulate their photos to make themselves look more like the celebrities they see in the media.

While the episode is poking fun at the issue, it has raised some very real points. People, especially young women, today are in a certain mindset that if a woman just a little overweight or has visible flaws on her body, she is not beautiful. And the fashion and movie industries have definitely played a major role in it, turning an ordinary (but powerful) graphics editing program into a notorious tool that could be used to prey on women’s self-image as they scrutinize and erase every little insignificant “flaw” they see on a model or a celebrity’s body so that even somebody as gorgeous as Jennifer Lawrence has to be “edited”.

The episode shows how effect of this trend on young girls can be overwhelmingly appalling. As Wendy pointed out, the images they send out unto the world “make girls feel horrible about themselves…”

See the full episode here.