Demi Moore’s hip gets litigious

A Photoshop disaster or a legal one?

Topics: Demi Moore, Broadsheet,

Demi Moore’s hip will sue your ass.

The indisputably stunning 47-year-old garnered attention this year for very much disputable cover image on the December issue of W magazine, wherein her hip magically appeared to be narrower than her thigh. When our friends at Jezebel pointed out the anatomical inconsistency, Moore posted her own copy of the pic and howled into the Twittersphere that “My hips were not touched.” But the scrutiny continued when an eerily similar runway photo of 26-year-old model Anja Rubik turned up.

We all had quite the amusing time speculating on how all that could have happened. Fiddle dee dee, could there possibly be retouching in the world of fashion magazines?

One person who wasn’t amused, however, was Ms. Moore herself. Apparently taking a page from the Ralph Lauren book of litigious, self-defeating overreaction, Moore sicced her lawyers on Boing Boing over the holidays for its ongoing and very public questioning of the integrity of the actress’s cover image.

“We are litigation counsel to Demi Moore,” their letter begins. “We are writing regarding the false and defamatory statements and implications about Ms. Moore…” Finally, the lawyers’ missive insists that “the magazine’s cover is a genuine representation of her body and hip” and ends with a demand for “an appropriate retraction and apology” to avoid being “exposed to substantial liability” and a reminder that “this letter is a confidential legal communication and not for publication.” There are also supporting documents from the photographers of the shoot and creative director of W testifying that there was “no retouching of the image.” A letter from lensmen Mert Atlas and Marcus Piggot further asserts “she was super fit to start with!”

Demi, if I may: This never goes well.

Boing Boing’s attorney’s promptly lobbed back his own response, which is a thing of beauty from soup to nuts, but my personal favorite part is where he says, “Boing Boing shall create a new posting advising its readers of your communication, and quoting the statements made by Mr Freedman and Art Partner…” and “shall provide a link to the full text of the materials sent yesterday.” Which, as you can tell, Boing Boing then did.

Boing Boing has also posted a delightful animated image comparison between the American cover of W and the Korean version in which that hotly contested portion of Moore’s anatomy appears to grow a good half-inch or so. That’s probably just a side effect of its transpacific journey.

Oh, and also, just because neither a photographer nor a magazine personally does the voodoo on a picture — or even just a portion of it — doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Pascal Dangin, perhaps the most famous retoucher in the business, has his own firm, The Box, which spruces up the images of the likes of Annie Leibovitz and Steven Meisel. And he’s not the only guy in the business. Just saying.

As we microanalyze the pictures in question, why, you may ask, have Ms. Moore’s shapely form and its contentious fractions of flesh become a matter of such great import? It’s just a picture, fer chrissakes!

Yes and no. Because we, the magazine-reading, Web-browsing, trend-spotting public are maybe not content to swallow whole whatever image a glossy magazine presents to us. We are skeptical of its provenance. We question its veracity. We look for inconsistencies and compare them. We are furthermore perhaps uncomfortable with the notion that a beautiful, successful lily needs a credibility-stretching measure of gilding, as such images tend to present an unrealistic ideal and piss us off. And finally, while we’d totally have Moore’s back if the tabloids were spreading rumors about her personal habits and relationships, the mere fact that she’d demand an apology from a Web site for even raising questions is just pathetic and mockworthy. That’s why it matters. Whether her hips lie, unlike Shakira’s, is a matter of dispute. But nobody’s going to stop us from asking.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

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