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10/27/2008

Perfect People

Beavering away in his boffin's basement, (Dr?) Tommer Leyvand has come up with the neatest bit of software for making faces look more profitable. Or for tackling

the challenging problem of enhancing the aesthetic appeal (or the attractiveness) of human faces in frontal photographs (portraits), while maintaining close similarity with the original.
as he puts it. That would mean making manipulated of images even less detectable than they are now, and reality even more skewed towards a pinkyblue paradise, where everything is beautiful at the ballet... He will no doubt be expecting lots of interest from the advertising and plastic surgery fraternities.
Who knows whether this is any less villanous than old style Photoshop manipulation. The dolphin-smooth skin, the over-wide, invitation eyes, the fleshless faces.. A few years ago, one of the recent flush of new magazine targeted at the young asian market couldn't find enough asian glamour models - understandably enough - and so used white models and coloured them in later. The point is that this instant symmetry software not only makes images even less trustworthy, but also raises the standards of perfection to new levels of unattainability, while making them even easier to produce. Thereby making more people, women especially, more unhappy than ever.

The use of ideals of physical perfection as a means of intimidation is not new, of course. The Greeks allowed their gods to set their standards, which left men to gawp in shame at their own decrepitude and allowed them no choice but to believe in the pantheon, and obey those who claimed to be nearest to it - their kings. Likewise Hitler, Stalin, Saddam and every other dictatorship which despised humanity for what it is and sought to control it.

The ideals themselves tend to reflect the requirements of the time. The arses of Praxiteles are those of a leisured class which enherited its power by divine right, and took it for granted.
The ruthless giants of fascism were built for siezing power and history by more power.
The ideals of today's neckless gymnauts are of personal power-worship, but for no particular purpose other than persoanl intimidation and to conform with a certain model of Hollywood super-dope.
They all have the same effect of trapping most of humanity in a cage of unachievable standards, and dividing them between those willing and able to submit to these standards and those not. The rich and the losers, in other words. The Angels and the Slappers. The elite and the dross.
If it were not for these standards and the Peter Pan neurosis they represent, people might be a little less inclined to obey other roles defined for them by society. Women who choose not to have children might not feel so ashamed, for instance. They might not be seen as inferior specimens, as they often are still. And as a woman's humanity is still much more closely defined by her womanhood, a woman who is not a mother is also an inferior human being. Which is why women are judged more harshly for their errors. Why Kerry Katona is reviled for the same offence for which Oliver Reed was lionised.
Likewise, using sport to promote these classical, Superman ideals of perfection is also death to the idea of human effort for its own sake. Of fun. And turns sport into an act of worship to the thug who solves everything with a boot in the groin. And one using deadly combinations of robotising drugs to achieve its illusion.
After all, it seems that not even the universe is perfect.

Meanwhile.
Photoshop manipulation of history put to a positive use.
Extreme budget photography removed and memories restored.


http://leyvand.com/research/beautification/

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous12:49 am

    When human raters are presented with a collection of shapes and asked to rank them according to their aesthetic appeal, the results
    often indicate that there is a statistical consensus among the raters.


    Proof of all pervasive conditioning or is there some real biological influence? I suspect nature might be winning of nurture there.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Where's the distinction? Our natures are a direct consequence of our environment - or 'nurture', if you prefer.

    It's why a jellyfish doesn't need legs. And why Stalin was a megolomaniac.

    ReplyDelete

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