Keira Knightley: The Battleground
BRITISH actress Keira Knightley, who will be seen this November in the highly anticipated The Imitation Game, has come to the attention of the public in the past few months for waging a war of her own. The enemy she has chosen to go up against? The use of Photoshop and body manipulation in our modern media.
During the summer, the star of high-profile films such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Atonement and Anna Karenina agreed to a do a topless photo shoot for Interview magazine, but only under the condition that the photographs in question were not to undergo any editing or re-touching afterwards. In an interview with The Times some months later, the actress revealed that she did this as a way to protest against the falseness of the female form as it is presented in the media. “I’ve had my body manipulated so many different times for so many different reasons,” she claimed, “whether it’s paparazzi photographers or for film posters”.
She then explained her views on how photography has created a certain image of the female figure that simply isn’t realistic and how photographers have chosen not to show diversity and variety in this area.“I think women’s bodies are a battleground and photography is partly to blame. It’s much easier to take a picture of somebody without a shape; it simply is. Whereas actually you need tremendous skill to be able to get a woman’s shape and make it look like it does in life, which is always beautiful. But our society is so photographic now, it becomes more difficult to see all of those different varieties of shape.”
Her points are valid and the comments on image altering and unrealistic physical perceptions are certainly nothing that hasn’t been the subject of controversy and debate time and time again. For years, women have spoken out about the negative impact the media has had on their self-esteem, with younger generations being particularly vulnerable to the pressures placed on them to appear as ‘perfect’ as the girls on the glossy magazine covers. Considering this, it isn’t surprising that many have greeted Knightley’s move with praise and gratitude. Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook are brimming with positive comments about the shoot, with words such as ‘brave’, ‘respect’ and ‘real’ being repeated and shared across the web. It is clear from this reaction that this is a topic of great importance and frustration to a lot of people.
Not all feedback has been so positive though and there are many that have questioned whether a ‘topless photo spread’ is really the best way to speak out against issues of female objectification and self-esteem or if the physically attractive and slim Knightley is the most appropriate model for highlighting a realistic female figure – small chest or not.
There are certainly two sides to the debate and valid points to be made for both but overall one might argue that Knightley’s move is at least step in the right direction for challenging the norms of what she accurately describes as an increasingly ‘photographic’ society. By releasing these untouched photos to the public, she has shown that even she, one of the most famous actresses in the world, fails to meet the standards placed on women by Hollywood and the wider media. Breasts are such a huge point of focus when it comes to body image and what is considered ideal, that it is indeed brave for the actress to expose what would be considered her ‘failings’ in this area.
When looking at the photographs, it is clear that though the images and the girl in them are still beautiful, they are not perfect and the actress’s small chest and bony frame are shown in uncomfortably realistic detail, so different to what we’re used to looking at in magazine spreads. In fact, these images work particularly well at shedding light on the fact that even a very skinny frame does not look as smooth and blemish-free as they do in those airbrushed beauty campaigns where Photoshop and image editing software is often used to hide the less attractive results of extreme weight loss on the models that feature in them. Perhaps more coverage like this can put an end to the impossible expectation that if one loses just that last bit of fat or misses just one more serving of dessert, they’ll achieve a body that is fully without flaw or fault.
So again, what Knightley has done here is obviously not a solution but perhaps a step in the right direction? After all, it’s probably not realistic or truthful to think that beauty and slimness are qualities that women, or men, will ever strop striving for. Even without the media or Hollywood to influence our opinion, we grow up with ideals and standards set by those around us and by our own minds. We want to be as pretty as our friends, as thin as our siblings and attractive enough for the other sex to notice us; it’s just the way we are.
But perhaps if there could be more campaigns like the one Keira Knightley took part in where flaws are showcased along with beauty and features have not been surgically or digitally enhanced, the pressure to reach unrealistic levels of perfection would ease off a little and we could become more comfortable and more accepting of ourselves and all our blemishes, large and small.
Photos c/o thedailybeast.com, celebzz.com