Magazines and Photoshop: When looking your best isn't good enough

We magazine readers can be a little schizophrenic when it comes to photo retouching. On the one hand, we insist on being able to gaze at celebrities looking flawless: no zits, no wrinkles, no muffin tops, no cellulite -- not even a stray hair. But when we find out that this inhuman state of perfection is achieved with the help of digital technology, we get all bent out of shape, as some recently did upon learning that Self magazine Photoshopped Kelly Clarkson on its cover.

This was a bit of a special case. Self is a magazine about healthy living, not fashion, so its subscribers expect it to resist the kind of pernicious body-image pressure that other publications are always stoking. And Clarkson is a full-bodied singer whose fans love her in part because she's living proof that a heavier woman can succeed in the entertainment industry. On both counts, therefore, this was seen as a special betrayal.