Do media consumers really just expect that all photos are retouched?

Here’s a clip from a video on the retouching of photos in magazines


The above clip reminds me of this Dove commercial


Given the incredible amount of media that our students consume, is your school appropriately stressing media literacy with its students? What is your school system doing to educate parents about media literacy issues?

6 Responses to “Do media consumers really just expect that all photos are retouched?”

  1. Yes, it is expected.

    Fortunately? for marketers, the primal mind reacts to the message before the conscious mind can remind us of such things.

    Why the public continues to support companies who would market to them in this way is beyond me.

  2. It is expected, if you’re reasonably media savvy. Which, sadly, many people are not. Especially in areas where they no longer (or never did) teach critical thinking or media literacy.

  3. Just to add to that remark…

    It doesn’t really matter whether or not they’re aware of it. What they know cognitively doesn’t have a lot of bearing on what they perceive. The images, at least to some extent, enter the brain directly, without the mediation. We may ‘know’ that the photos are retouched and unreal, but at a deeper level we ‘feel’ as thought they are real – and are what we want to be.

    And once we feel that way, then the advertising can dig in and begin to do its work…

  4. @JeffS & @Stephen Downes: I think you both make excellent points when you emphasize that our ’emotional brain’ absorbs, reacts, and often trumps anything that our ‘cognitive brain’ does. This of course makes us – and our children – quite susceptible to a variety of potentially-harmful advertising (and political) messages since few of us are going to make the time and/or effort to actively and critically deconstruct most of this stuff. Ugh.

    Thanks for the comments.

  5. Had an interesting experience with this last year, Scott. We took our students to see the Disney Nature film Oceans on Earth Day. It’s full of amazing cinematography.

    About halfway through the movie, the boy next to me leaned over and asked me whether or not the animals he was seeing were real or computer generated.

    Two lessons from his comment:

    1. There is a growing skepticism among kids about the media they’re consuming. They at least know it’s possible for images to be generated by computers and passed off as real.

    2. We need to get outside more and see nature in action.

    As far as teaching media literacy goes, it’s not a regular part of my classroom or curriculum because it’s not on any of our end of grade tests.

    Sad, isn’t it?

    Another example of an important lesson pushed aside because it can’t be easily measured.

    Playing the Devil’s Advocate for a minute, I also wonder whether we need to be teaching students to create their own influential images and messages that aren’t always telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

    Sure, morally it feels totally wrong.

    But will our kids be able to compete in the marketplace if they don’t have the skills to stand on the same playing field as the people creating the kinds of messages you’ve spotlighted here?

    Wild stuff. Got my mind thinking this morning.


  6. As a consumer I am quite aware of all the retouching and photoshopping going on but it honestly does not bother me whatsoever; if I were to appear in a commercial or on the cover of a magazine I would insist on being retouched as well. My vanity would insist on it.

    I think kids today are savvier and more cynical than we were and most are aware of it probably. I remember taking a class back in high school that covered “advertising techniques” where they covered topics about how companies manipulate the public but I don’t recall what class it was. I think it was Psychology…?

    I don’t think the schools are responsible for teaching the kids this; it should be taught in a class where the material is APPLICABLE like Psychology or Media studies or Business or something similar but not just randomly out of nowhere.

Leave a Reply