Aibrushed in real life…but airbrushed in fiction?

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.

Right?

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)

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Exhibit A

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?

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Exhibit B

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.

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Nope, no scars.Man, I need to get a hair cut.

But…look here! You’re never gonna guess who I’m gonna praise now…

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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? 

8 comments

    • It’s hypocritical, isn’t it? It’s almost as if they’re saying it’s okay to be different physically, as long as you don’t actually show anyone…what kind of message is that?

      Liked by 2 people

  1. This is actually a significant problem in my opinion. What media in general has chosen to do with the body images they market is affecting our youth in a great way and still some of us older “adults”. It is ridiculous and it does nothing to encourage diversity or self acceptance. I find it very distasteful and do not enjoy a lot of covers for this very reason. Great post Jazz!

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s awful, isn’t it? The media’s idea of ‘beauty’ and ‘perfection’ is so warped. I truly believe that companies that sell things such as cosmetics set out to create generations of people who are unhappy with how they look. It’s like they’re saying “You’ll never look like THIS, but hey, buy our product and you might stand a chance!”. Playing on (or even just creating) insecurities about people’s bodies is a sick way of making a profit 😦

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh man, I couldn’t agree more. The cover needs to accurately represent the character. I did notice that Vlad had scars in the photos, even though they were small and not so obvious. For Connor, the model actually has scars on his arm, so I incorporated that into the story. Same thing with Liam. Though his book is in the works, I’ve already learned how to create scars in photoshop to represent his human life. I would never release a cover of Liam without those scars. It just wouldn’t be him.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s so awesome! I just had a closer look at the cover and I can see them! I think it’s great that you wrote them into the story. It’s great when a reader can look at a front cover and think “Ooo that character looks intriguing!” and want to open and read the book as a result 🙂 I think the importance of aesthetics pale in comparison to the importance of accurately representing a character. I’m glad you agree, I was worried it was maybe just me nit picking!

      Liked by 1 person

      • No, it just seems odd to have a character description that doesn’t match what’s portrayed on a cover. I tend to have a starting point of what I’m looking for, and then I find the person or couple that match. The rest of the details (like unassuming strength and the scars) add intrigue. 😊😊

        Liked by 1 person

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