Plastic surgery, with pixels

An interactive tutorial produced by the Swedish government exposes rampant retouching in media representations of beauty.

Published December 22, 2005 4:37PM (EST)

For the past few days, as I've sat for hours in front of a flickering computer screen in my New York apartment, growing ever more pasty and pudgy, I've taken real delight in this awesome online tutorial produced by the Swedish Ministry of Health and Social Affairs. By exposing some of the technological tricks the media uses to retouch photos, the MHSA says it hopes to point out the prevalence of the practice and to raise awareness of "how easy it is to alter someone's appearance" to fit idealized beauty standards.

Got a nasty zit? I highly recommend you jump on the MHSA site and watch their model's flawless skin turn spotty. Feeling a little thick around the middle? Move that cursor and add a few inches to her willowy waist.

It's perversely pleasurable -- and cheaper than therapy.

By Sarah Karnasiewicz

Sarah Karnasiewicz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Brooklyn, N.Y. Until recently, she was senior editor at Saveur magazine; prior to that she was deputy Life editor at Salon. She has contributed to the New York Times, the New York Observer and Rolling Stone, among other publications. For more of her work, visit and Signs and Wonders.

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