Extreme Photo Edits and the Fight to Keep Marilyn Real

Social media can be a wonderful source of information about Marilyn, but there is also a great deal of misinformation around, from fake quotes to hybrid photos. Recently some fans have been using image restoration apps to produce almost unrecognizable alterations. Scott Fortner has spoken out about this misguided practice – which drains all the character from Marilyn’s face, and disrespects the photographer’s art – on his MM Collection pages. And as Amanda Krauze writes for Insider, these extreme edits perpetuate false ideals of bodily perfection in a culture already saturated with unrealistic standards.

“Across Instagram, you can find numerous accounts dedicated to altering photos of actors, models, and musicians. Many of the original images are taken at movie premieres, award shows, and other red-carpet events where celebrities already look their best. They’re later edited by fans with contemporary, and oftentimes unattainable, beauty standards in mind, like pore-less skin and large lips.

Last week, Iva Dixit of the New York Times magazine pointed out the accounts on Twitter. ‘There’s this trend among ~aesthetic~ IG accounts of taking old pictures of female movie stars and running them through the face alteration apps to give the (already very strikingly beautiful women) generic Instagram Faces (thick lips, ski slope nose, teeth white as toilet bowls),’ she wrote. She also described the photos as being ‘depressing in an uncanny valley way,’ referencing the disturbing and unreal look that plague many humanoid robots and computer-generated figures. While many of the anonymous editors don’t explain the purpose of their accounts, some occasionally remind viewers that anyone who doesn’t like their altered images of celebrities can leave their pages.

Back in 2017, a postdoctoral researcher named Jasmine Fardouly explained to Insider how social media can negatively affect women. She had previously conducted a study ‘with female undergraduates to determine how often, if at all, they compare themselves to others while on social media,’ Emily DiNuzzo reported. ‘In our study, comparisons to attractive others on social media were particularly harmful because they put women in a more negative mood, and made them feel worse about their appearance … Women can not only objectify other women, but can also internalize an observer’s perspective of themselves — for example, self-objectification. If women self-objectify, it can be associated with negative outcomes, such as body shame and anxiety.’

Renowned photographer Rankin also studied photo-editing habits amongst young women in 2019. He found that all 15 girls included in his research altered their selfies, often mimicking” the features of their idols. ‘I found it disturbing how big even the small changes are,’ Rankin told Insider. ‘It’s so simple, almost like creating a cartoon character of yourself.’ He added, ‘It’s time to acknowledge the damaging effects that social media has on people’s self-image.'”