I’ve been debating whether to turn this particular pet peeve of mine into a post or not for a couple of months now…and I’ve decided, yep, I’m gonna turn it into a post. Vent my feelings, clear up some space in this ol’ mind of mine.
Photoshop has been both a curse and a blessing upon modern day society. Did the photo you took of that pretty sunset yesterday come out a bit dark? No worries, give it a quick blitz in Photoshop and, bam! Your photo will be suddenly saturated in every shade of pink and orange conceivable. You’ve launched a new line of swimwear and want to feature it among the glossy pages of some high-end magazine? Okay, just grab an already beautiful woman and shrink her down to impossibly tiny proportions, airbrush her skin so you can’t see a single pore or freckle and, last but certainly not least, don’t forget to get erase those damned laughter lines! Happiness and laughter *shudders* Such ugly things!
Obviously I’m being facetious with the second example, but I’m simply highlighting one of the more negative impacts it can have upon people, men, woman and children alike. We can look at these airbrushed images, forgetting that’s exactly what they are, and ask ourselves questions such as “Why can’t I look like that?”.
Being surrounded by these images every day can be tough because they’re everywhere. In magazines, on TV, on billboards…if there’s an empty, publicly-viewed space, advertisers will use it.
But why can this trend be found within fiction, a realm we enter as a means of escaping the stresses and strains of everyday, real life?
Let me explain. I don’t know so much about other genres but within paranormal romance it’s all about the battle-scars. There isn’t once instance that springs to mind where a character is teased or belittled because of their scars. Sure, other characters might fear them because of said scars, seeing them as a testament to their sheer badassery but no one will mock them. In regards to romantic relationships, men and woman alike are attracted by a character with scars (Vlad from Jeaniene Frost’s Night Prince series and Anya from Gena Showalter’s Lords of the Underworld series are the first characters that spring to mind – both fiercely encourage their other halves to wear their scars with pride). Paranormal romance – and also genres such as fantasy – embrace uniqueness and diversity.
Hmm. Despite the body-positive messages these books project, their front covers say otherwise (although I totally get front covers are sometimes beyond an author’s control in cases where an international, foreign-language edition has been printed)
Meet Lucien, keeper of Death, a man who wears his past carved upon his skin…oh wait, is that Lucien? He looks suspiciously smooth-skinned and scar-free for a man who looks “like someone someone had taken a a blade and carved him up like a melon, then tried to put him back together with the pieces out of order”. I get that a muscle-bound man staring intently at a prospective reader might lure people in…but the above cover character doesn’t look anything like Lucien! Like, at all. Even Lucien, an immortal warrior who used to work for Zeus, has fallen victim to society’s obsession with perfection. If a fictional character isn’t allowed to have so-called imperfections, what chance do we, in the real world, stand?
Oh for goodness sake. Meet Conrad, a vampire who became a vampire because he was bleeding out after being gutted. He still bears the scar, proven by the fact that Neomi, aka Ghost Ballerina, sees it. Now I have just held this book mere inches from my face, scrutinizing Conrad’s torso and…no scar. Not one single scar. This scar is such a massive part of Conrad’s past. It’s the reason why he is what he is today. It’s an inherent part of his character and yet it’s nowhere to be seen.
But…look here! You’re never gonna guess who I’m gonna praise now…
Freaking Vlad. Enlarged the cover for you to feast your eyes upon. Sure, his scars have been downplayed (they look more like cat scratches) but they’re there and that’s the important thing. They serve as testament to the life he has lived and the trials and tribulations he’s endured and he’s all smoldering hot as he gazes into our souls with a look that reads “Yeah, they make me all that more deliciously divine.”
What do you think? Do you think characters should be airbrushed of things that make them them?