November 20, 2006

Self-Portrait Challenge- The Danger of Glamour and the Michael Jackson Syndrome

This week’s SPC has been a bit of an adventure. I had one idea to begin with and ended up embarking on a totally different tangent- first because my Photoshop skills are still at an amateur level, and secondly because the piece took on a life of its own. Let me walk you through the process of what I call, “The dangers of glamour and the Michael Jackson Syndrome.”

When I started this week, I was inspired by this Dove commercial, brought to my attention by Superkimbo

which I am sure many of you have already seen. I was going to write about how beauty and glamour have become synonymous and how both have become commodified in our capitalistic culture, to the point where advertising agencies and the companies they work for often dictate glamour and in-turn beauty to us.

I wanted to take a very plain picture of myself and go through the process of enhancing it so it would fit the cultural definition of glamorous and perfect. I know what you are thinking: the Imperfection prompt is long gone, but somehow trying to be glamorous comes with a sense of perfection.

I took two pictures, one just plain ole me zit and all-totally un-enhanced; then I took another shot where I tidied up a bit and opened the picture with Photoshop. I started simply by removing blemishes, smoothing out the skin, reducing some hair on my eyebrows, but then suddenly I started to shrink my ears and nose; I started to make my shoulders bigger, when suddenly I realized I had created a monster. There is a fine line between the commodifed glamour they use to sell us products and what I call Michael Jackson Syndrome.

In the digital age reality can become so tweaked as to blur the lines of what is real and manufactured. Glamour is artificial. It is designed to enchant and awe; it should be bizarre and out of the ordinary. It is dressing up and recreating who we are. The issue that worries me, and I hope this picture illustrates, is that we must separate the notion of glamour and beauty, because beauty is honest; it is pure, un-enhanced and real where as glamour is the opposite. Glamour can be fun, but we cannot continue to let the corporations dictate what beautiful is and what it is not. If we do, we may end up in a world where we all look like this:

When we really should look like this:

Note: I am a big fan of Michael Jackson’s music and not the type of person who enjoys simply making fun of the man because of his spiral into the bizarre. However, I hope it is obvious that my need to tamper with my features for this piece can fittingly be called The MJ Syndrome. Next time you make fun of the King of Pop for no other reason than it is easy, please listen to Bilie Jean, Human Nature, or anything of his Dangerous album, and give this talented artist a break.


  1. An incredibly well illustrated point.
    So glad you posted the real you too, BZ... the tampered image is simply disturbing!

  2. I was really impressed with the Dove commercial. I showed it to my homeroom and they, the boys especially, were really shocked at how much models have to go through to be beautiful. Unfortunately, I still think the girls were looking at the final picture thinking - "I want to look like her" even though we discussed why it's physically impossible.

    At this point the media definition of beauty (and therefore the one shoved down our throats) is so out of this world, that I don't know what else we can do to help the next generation.

    Have you been reading this news about the Brazillian model that recently died due to anorexia. She was 5'7" and 88 pounds.

  3. That's what I keep saying about beauty and glamor - they aren't the same thing at all and I find it disturbing that so many people treat the terms as synonyms. Glamor can be fun. I'm having a blast with this month's theme! But it's fantasy. It's the grown-up version of playing make-believe and has nothing at all to do with genuine beauty.

    Your photos illustrate that perfectly. (And I agree with Vanessa...that first one is eerie - way too Sims-like!)

  4. another great post, and a great idea behind it. deb r -- your comment is spot on.

  5. Your post made me feel so much better! Our touch rugby team just underwent a photo shoot for promotional purposes and fund raising - the original photo they picked of me was just plain depressing. The photographer turned to me and said "Don't worry - they will PhotoShop it." Bizarrely, this did make me feel better! However, that said, I do agree with all the comments on this post. I have to keep thinking that my beauty or lack of it is of no consequence. Real beauty should never be defined by the media.......or by PhotoShop!

    P.S. The original photo is way better BZ

  6. Another thinker...I like the post. I've seen this commercial before and quite honestly was shocked. I thought she looked beautiful to begin with!


  7. hello my friend!

    this was wonderful. the dove commercial you mentioned here really moved me as well. do they really do that much transformation on our models in mags? unbelievable.

    you have proved your point and it is a good one!

    i like you much better elle~naturelle.

  8. well said. i agree with you on all counts. nicely done.