Faking It: The New Responsibility?

September 25th, 2009 by Kathy McManus

Are airbrushing, lip synching, and digitally enhancing a new form of acting responsibly?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Is faking perfection—by airbrushing, lip synching, and digitally enhancing—some kind of inverse new form of acting responsibly?

When a noticeably thinner, seemingly photoshopped version of pop singer Kelly Clarkson recently appeared on the cover of “Self” magazine, many fans wondered if the popular American Idol was friend or faux.

Admitting that the photo had been retouched, Self’s editor explained that the digital diet was to help Clarkson “look her personal best.” She continued, “A snapshot is different than a cover. A cover’s a poster. And the thing about a poster is you want it to capture the essence of you at your best."

The perfection-as-responsibility equation hasn’t been limited to this year’s cover girls. After Dream Girl Jennifer Hudson delivered a flawless Super Bowl performance of the national anthem—her first major singing appearance since the deaths of her mother and brother—her producer let slip that her crooning was perfect because her performance was canned. “That’s the right way to do it,” the producer insisted about the use of pre-recorded Hudson vocals. “There’s too many variables to go live. I would never recommend any artist to go live because the slightest glitch would devastate the performance.”

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Itzhak Perlman faked their performance at President Obama’s inauguration, pretending to play in a quartet, while the audience—and the world—was treated to a recording instead. Mr. Ma soaped his bow so it would slide soundlessly across the strings. “It would have been a disaster if we had done it any other way,” said Mr. Perlman, explaining the virtue of the virtual performance. “This occasion’s got to be perfect. You can’t have any slip-ups.”

Perhaps it’s no surprise then that the President’s nominee for Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, has caused a flap over her undisclosed but noticeably non air-brushed Rubenesque weight. In an image battle of BMI vs. IQ, a newspaper editorial pondered airbrushed perfection as it might apply to the White House, noting that “a thin, male smoker” is considered “a physical role model as president.”

Tell us what you think: Can we achieve our personal best only when we’re faked? Do we have a responsibility to appear to be perfect?