Troian Bellisario, the former Pretty Little Liars star who played Spencer Hastings on the hit show, has some words for advertisers and the damage their Photoshopped images do to women. Bellisario has publicly spoken out about her own struggles with eating disorders and body image in the past. Now she says she believes that heavily Photoshopped images by advertisers contribute to the problem.
On Instagram, Bellisario shared a video about a law in France that requires Photoshopped images to be labeled as altered. The new law was created to help fight against body dysmorphia and negative body image in the country. The video also touches on how that same law requires models to receive a doctor's confirmation that they are at a healthy weight before they're allowed to walk a runway. On a caption for the post, Bellisario talked about the issue of body shaming and unrealistic body standards.
"I do not agree with all of this," Bellisario begins in her caption. "I do not want to BODY SHAME Naturally thin women nor do I want to dictate whether or not they should work based on weight or whether or not they have a mental illness."
But Bellisario goes on to say she does fully back legislation that draws a consumer's attention toward altered advertisements.
While many people might be aware that ads are Photoshopped, it's still hard to overcome that knee-jerk reaction to compare yourself to a "perfect" image. These warning labels on altered ads hope to help consumers zero in on the unrealistic expectation being depicted, while also encouraging advertisers to put out more realistic ads that don't need to be labeled.
"I, for one, would want to know. I would want my friends to know and strangers and especially young men and women to know if they were looking at something real or something fake," Bellisario writes. "Because then we can see clearly that we are being sold products on the basis of first making ourselves feel less than (not pretty enough, not skinny enough, not healthy enough, whatever) so we 'need' to buy this product to be like the person in the ad. And feel better about ourselves.'"
There is no shortage of research that shows people are negatively impacted by the media’s portrayal of “ideal” body types, and often express dissatisfaction with their own bodies when viewing ads of models who are thinner than them. However, this advertising problem has also spilled over into the images we see on social media, like Instagram. Social media users often selectively post their most attractive images and enhance them much in the same way advertisers do with Photoshop. And this pursuit of perfection has consequences.
In a 2014 study from School of Psychology at UNSW Australia, researchers found that women reported being in a worse mood after making social media comparisons, relative to other comparisons such as billboards or magazine ads. They also reported being unhappier with their appearance and more motivated to begin unhealthy weight-loss activities once viewing "aspirational" images.
With the help of warning labels, Bellisario hopes that we'll all be motivated to stop reaching for these unrealistic expectations, whether those skewed views of reality come from advertisements or our own social media accounts. Then we might just be able to see the beauty in the mirror.
"The person in the ad doesn’t even look like that. What an amazing world it would be if we could just acknowledge that," Bellisario writes. "And then celebrate that we all look different, have different bodies, different backgrounds, and histories — and then find all of those differences beautiful."