August 23, 2007
Well folks, school is back in session. You know what this means–besides the fact that you can finally resume daytime adult activity, school pictures are coming up. In fact, most parents with young children in the public school system have already put their orders in.
I know this because my stepdaughter just started kindergarten. About a week ago my husband and I got the courtesy call from "New Dad," saying that it was time to cough up some dough for a ridiculous number of school pictures.
Forty-eight wallets? Am I supposed to hand these things out on the street corner like flyers?
Anyway, Hubby and I had a good chuckle when we heard that for an extra fee we could have his child's picture retouched. And by retouched I mean smoothed out for a better skin-tone.
I couldn't quite believe it so I called the studio to verify. They're serious. Now for the record, on the phone at least, the picture people were totally sane.
"Elementary students don't really need to be retouched," the woman said.
My thoughts exactly. But I asked if there were people who actually chose this option for their grade-schoolers.
"Well, uh, yeah," she said.
I wanted to scream. Or laugh. Maybe both.
Now there may be a really good reason behind this totally dumb idea… Nope, can't think of one. Kids are cute just the way they are… even if they're relatively ugly. So your kid looks blotchy or has some haole-rot going on. Who gives a flying monkey bum-bum?
The bottom line is that by retouching photos–even a little bit, you're telling your young child that the way they look is not quite good enough for other people's eyes. And by saying that, you're subtly messing around with their delicate self-esteem and sense of self-worth.
It gets worse—actually, way worse. A web search on the subject brought up Pageantphotos.com and its freaky, Bride of Chucky-like pictures of little girls who were given complete digital makeovers and transformed into mini Tammy Faye Bakers. I printed some samples from its website (www.naturalbeautiescontest.homestead.com/retouchc.html) and flashed the before and after shots of a toddler in front of a colleague.
"Christ!" he gasped. "There are Playboy centerfolds who look more real than that."
He's not exaggerating. These pictures are down right frightening. My favorite one to hate is this picture of a girl of about seven. In the first shot (in which she is clearly wearing makeup) you can see she's trying to hold back the tears. Tears, I assume, of humiliation and horror–or maybe the possibility that her mascara is burning her eyes.
Anyway, in the second picture she has gone from "sad to serious." The website calls it an "expression change." Her brows were tilted and shaped, frown lines removed, redness in the eyes was cleared, corners of her mouth were turned up and her lipstick line was corrected.
All trace of her original expression, which reflected her emotions, was obliterated. Gone. It's like Sci-Fi meets amnesia. Twenty years from now, is this child going to remember her tears? Will she be told that she enjoyed being photographed when she actually hated it?
And what about your kid? Is she going to say, "Wow, my complexion was dope back in kindergarten," or is she going to wonder why you felt the need to "help her out" in the looks department?
Starr Begley–despite what she just said–kinda wishes someone had retouched her high school junior year picture. MTW
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