As the entire world is aware, Lena Dunham finally got the Vogue cover she’s wanted since she was 11 years old. It’s a beautiful cover. The spread is nice, too. It’s photoshopped, because a Vogue cover happening without photoshop is like me happening without coffee, or “fetch” happening at all. It’s just not going to happen.
We initially decided to skip the think pieces, because, as Refinery29 pointed out, Photoshop is not the real story here. But it is a story, and you know what’s even clickier than calling out Photoshop? Offering the internet $10,000 for the unretouched images — as Jezebel is now doing. Thanks, Internet!
The supposedly feminist website claims, “Dunham is a woman who trumpets body positivity, who’s unabashedly feminist, who has said that her naked body is “a realistic expression of what it’s like to be alive” and “if you are not into me, that’s your problem.” Her body is real. She is real. And for as lovely as the Vogue pictures are, they’re probably not terribly real.”
Wait, what? A magazine built on fantasy used Photoshop? The humanity! Granted, Dunham’s cover was nipped and tucked. Probably a little more than Anne Hathaway‘s or Rooney Mara‘s, who both possess concave stomachs and convex cheekbones. But it wasn’t any more photoshopped than, say, Kate Winslet‘s, which more closely resembled a Photoshop-constructed image based on what she would look like if she were still 19 and blood-related to Candice Swanepoel. This is Vogue, not Vice. If you want to see a dimply ass, you’re in the wrong place.
It’s not only fun to call out magazines when they’ve retouched so excessively as to amputate limbs and vital organs — it’s necessary. Without active critique, we’ll just see less and less realistic images of what women’s bodies look like. But handing over a $10,000 reward to whichever underpaid assistant in Vogue‘s photo department risks their job to cough up the photos just seems vindictive. Vogue serves up dreams — shoes and handbags that cost three times what Jezebel is offering — and covers stars that every woman knows have gone under the digital knife.
Lena Dunham’s body has been the cause of so much controversy that we can hardly even enjoy an episode of Girls without thinking about the political meaning of her nudity. What does it represent? How will people react? Was the nipple 100% necessary? The Vogue shoot gives us a chance to think about other things, like why there’s a freaking pigeon on her head. Oh yeah, wait, maybe it’s because magazine spreads are not supposed to be an accurate depiction of real life.
If you want to see what Lena Dunham’s real body looks like, just watch 10 minutes of her show. And if you’re looking to make a quick buck, go masturbate on camera or something. At least that’s not anti-feminist.
UPDATE: Jezebel has the unretouched photos. Apparently Vogue shaved off some of Dunham’s chin, and gave her a haircut for the cover. Other than that all they evidence is that Annie Leibovitz is still a big fan of composite images. A truly shocking and revelatory piece of journalism, and a commendable use of $10k.