When the impossibly skinny get even skinnier, there’s really only one product to blame: Photoshop. But Photoshop doesn’t misguide people – people with Photoshop misguide people.

A new bill proposed in Arizona last week would require all airbrushed ads to come with disclaimers like “This photo has been altered by post-production techniques. Similar results may not be achieved.” The Arizona Republic reported that “the bill has little to no chance of success.”

Rep. Katie Hobbs (R-Phoenix) introduced House Bill 2793 in order to address advertising that depicts people looking more idealistic than the product would be able to provide for a customer. Arizona is the first state to consider such legislation.

“We need to bring attention to these body-image issues, especially with young girls,” Hobbs told The Republic. “Girls need to know that they don’t have to look perfect.”

Many readers of articles concerning this legislation give negative feedback. The overall feeling is that the bill is a waste of time, and that politicians have bigger issues to deliberate over.

Another large consensus I was able to draw from the audience was that the legislation was unnecessary as Photoshopped models in advertisements is now common knowledge. Advertisers would be able to save time and ink by instead labeling those ads that weren’t Photoshopped.

But the same could be said for cigarettes – the fact that they can lead to lung cancer is common knowledge now in the U.S., but the law still requires cigarette advertisements to contain a disclaimer. Why should ads promoting impossible physical standards be any different?

But the question lies on more than how this would change a reader’s perception of an ad, but also how this would impinge on advertisers. Would it be a positive change, encouraging advertisers and product developers to work harder on their products in order to show truthful results in their advertisements? Or would this encroach unfairly on the artistic creativity of advertisers?

This bill will likely not pass further than simple speculation, but it still opens up the debates on the concept of truth in advertising versus freedom of interpretation.

However, I believe advertisers have a responsibility to portray truth just as much as a journalist. At the end of the day, advertisers answer to a client, but that reality should not put the advertiser’s integrity in jeopardy.

One can argue that any form of Photoshopping in an ad is a means of artistic expression — like art, it represents a window into an idealized fiction. But art is meant to inspire emotional introspection. Art doesn’t pretend to be reality. Ads sporting a 6-foot-4 woman with a 13-inch waist, with a product name sprawled across the page, illustrate an unattainable perfection presented as an attainable one.

The simple fact is, regardless of how well-known the practice of Photoshopping models to sell products is, it is also a lie. Sure, most people know it’s a lie, but that doesn’t make it any less of one.

The products that these pictures of physically manipulated men and women are selling cannot do what the models promise. No amount of Dolce & Gabbana clothing can make Madonna look 25. No, Adele did not lose 15 pounds for that Vogue photo shoot. And I don’t care if she has an inch-thick layer of Lancome coverup on her face; Julia Roberts’ face is not actually plastic.

I, for one, would like to see some form of this law pass in the U.S. It would be nice to see how advertisers (at least, those uncreative and cliches ones) deal with having their crutch pulled out from under them. Maybe then we would see more real art in advertising.


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