Photoshop and Other Immoral Software

So, I ‘ve seen this video popping up in a number of places lately. If you haven’t watched it yet, you should.

I don’t understand the language, and I’m not familiar with the artist, but I think the video speaks for itself. At least that’s what Facebook nation believes. Through her video, Boggie (the singer) seems to be pointing out that things are not always what they seem. Everything can be altered; everything should be questioned.

I would suspect that I agree with the intent of every citizen of the internet who has shared this video. However, I think that we have inadvertently missed the point. The message we hear is that image editing software is bad. Busts are enhanced, legs lengthened, skin smoothed, and blemishes removed because that’s what software does.  Evidence: “Photoshop” is now a household verb, and almost always used derisively. But just like blaming Smith & Wesson for school shootings, it’s not the program that is to blame. In this case, I don’t think it’s even the person wielding the weapon.

You see, this video is a trick. It tricked you into believing that Photoshop can do such things. The fact is – it can’t. In fact, no software I’m aware of can do what is shown in this video. Photoshop is a program for editing photos – not videos. There are programs that edit video, but they don’t do what you see here. (I wish the things shown in this video were possible – it would make my day job a lot easier!)

Here’s the thing though: this musical artist used a lie to vilify digital graphics artists who lie. Now, don’t take me too seriously. I don’t have a beef here. I’m not criticizing Boggie. I don’t think what she did is immoral, and I appreciate what she is pointing out. I’m just pointing out something different: Everybody lies.

No one in law enforcement can’t enhance surveillance camera footage to read a license plate reflected in someone’s eye. Your buddy who works at Best Buy can’t “hack in” to the government’s mainframe to steal national secrets. Jack Bauer could not get floor plans on his flip phone. And Boggie’s Photoshop wizard did not change how she looked in that video. You were tricked.

I comment on this because it seemed a bit ironic to use digital trickery to criticize digital trickery. What this video should illustrate is that we can all use technology to tell lies that suit our own agendas. The issue is not the technology. Software is a tool. The issue is that we are human beings. I think this video points out two aspects of our humanity. One aspect is that there is something fundamentally broken in all of us that makes us prefer the woman that suits our desires. Like it or not, we all idealize things that do not exist. We have willfully and happily accepted a lie as substitute for the truth that we knowingly conceal. We have fallen for a conspiracy of our own making. No person is perfectly symmetrical or endowed with ideal ratios. But pursuit of the ideal is not technology’s fault; it is our fault. This is little more than supply and demand operating at a very base level, and the dissatisfaction it breeds will devastate our society.

The other side of this issue intrigues me as well. While no perfect person exists, the concept of perfection does appeal to us. And not just in appearance, but everywhere. Wherever we look, we see that things should be better. No matter how much or how little we have, we all experience it. And though the inordinate desire of what is not ours is problematic, does that mean that perfection is bad or is nonexistent? What about the notion we have that no human being measures up? I think that is true. I think we all know that there truly is something bigger, better, untainted, and ideal. We know there is no perfect supermodel or automobile, yet we have a shared sense that “perfect” is a thing.

Rather than ripping on computers and programs, what if we used these examples as opportunities to reflect on how broken we are and wonder about what it is that makes us yearn for something beyond us that seems elusive. I have an idea what that might be, and I don’t think we’ll find it in an advertisement. What do you think?