This is Jack.
Lawmakers in the United Kingdom and France want to make sure that you understand that is not Jack's real head you see in that picture there. Depending on the picture you view, Jack's gigantic head is part of a costume, airbrushed, or digitally enhanced.
Lawmakers in the United Kingdom and France believe that you cannot be trusted to understand that advertisements contain trickery, airbrushing, props, costumes, and digital enhancements all designed to make people and things look more enticing or interesting so that you will buy the products they are selling. (If you are in the United Kingdom or France, and have voted for these lawmakers, they might be right about that.) Moreover, lawmakers in the United Kingdom and France believe it is the place of the government to regulate the populace's potential misconceptions about head size.
Lawmakers might not actually have Jack in mind. They are thinking mostly of attractive women. Lawmakers in England and France want to pass laws limiting advertisers' ability to airbrush their models. French legislators want warning labels and fines:
French MPs are demanding airbrushed photos come with a government 'health warning' to protect women from false images of female beauty.
British legislators, by contrast, want outright bans:
The Liberal Democrats today backed a ban on the airbrushing of photos which create "overly perfected and unrealistic images" of women in adverts targeted at children.
The party also formed policy calling for cigarette-style health warnings by advertisers for the adult market which "tell the truth" about the use of digital retouching technology.
It will be interesting to see the Liberal Democrats draft legislation defining exactly what images of women are unrealistic and "overly perfected." Will they use Margaret Thatcher as a benchmark?
Anyway, all of this is premised on the notion that airbrushed models are harmful to the self-esteem and body images of women:
Mrs Boyer, who has also written a government report on anorexia and obesity, added: 'We want to combat the stereotypical image that all women are young and slim.
'These photos can lead people to believe in a reality that does not actually exist, and have a detrimental effect on adolescents.
'Many young people, particularly girls, do not know the difference between the virtual and reality, and can develop complexes from a very young age.
Apparently these legislators believe that women, and girls, are stupid creatures who credit advertising messages uncritically. They also believe that parents are incompetent to teach their children otherwise. This was something of a surprise to me. The most incisive critics of advertising messages I know are women. And I'm already having fun teaching my kids how to spot subtext and message in advertisements. They are doing well at it already, and learning to see it as the game it can be. Perhaps England and the Continent has people who are . . . well, let's let kindness draw the curtain on that.
For as long as there has been advertising, it has been based on presenting fantasy, not reality. Beer will not make you attractive to women, unless it is the women drinking large quantities of it. Your teeth won't look that white. Your hair won't bounce like that. Your hamburger isn't going to look that good. And if you say, "No, dear — to ourhealth," your spouse isn't going to laugh delightedly. He or she is going to get a conservatorship and put you in a home, you nattering old fool.
Do advertisements send messages about body image? Of course they do. They send the message "extremely beautiful people buy our products, and if you buy our products, you will be extremely beautiful too." A warning label that says "This model in the advertisement might not actually look this way if you caught him or her before three coffees, or after a bad day or a pub crawl" does send a counter-message. But that counter-message is not "hey, you are beautiful and acceptable, too." The counter-message is a deeply condescending and humiliating one: "Hey, you are a fucking moron, fatty, and your government cant trust you to sort out reality from advertising unless we spell it out for you."
Critics say that it is terrible that advertisers are creating norms for what is beautiful and what appropriate body-image is. To that I respond: is it better to have the government responsible for regulating what is beautiful and what appropriate body-image is?
Give the lawmakers this, though: they are at least adding value through a combination of self-deprecating ironic humor and brutal honesty:
"Liberals don't like bans," she said. "But we do recognise we all need it to protect children from harm, whether it's smoking, watching violence or sex."
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