I hesitate to ascribe sinister motives to the news media, because, in my experience, most companies aren’t organized well enough to pull off a successful plot. A more benign explanation might be that Time’s editors left their PhotoShop software in their other pants on the days they ran the Ugly Betty shots reproduced below.
Wondering how frequently that sort of thing happens, I spent a few hours searching Time’s site for equally unflattering pictures of George Bush and John McCain. But there were none to be found.
Quite to the contrary, great care seems to have gone into selecting dignified and appealing photos of the GOP leaders. In the case of the senator, for example, every soft-focus shot was taken from a perspective that de-emphasized his creeping comb-over.
It wouldn’t be so bad if some of John McCain’s wrinkles appeared on Time’s cover. For one thing, they signal gravitas, which is considered a good thing in a President, notwithstanding the incumbent’s lack thereof. For another, a case can be made that a rugged, craggy look is sexy in a middle-aged man. That’s the story, anyway, that I’m trying to sell my wife.
Although we have come a long way, baby, in adding more women to the top rungs of government and commerce, there unfortunately remains a double standard when it comes to physical appearance. Crinkling crow’s feet may have added avuncular warmth to Ronald Reagan’s aw-shucks grin, but they can play hell with a woman’s Q Scores or political prospects.
Even though she is running for President of the United States and not America’s Next Top Model, Hillary Clinton must pay an inordinate amount of attention to issues of hair, makeup, wardrobe and such. Male statespersons, on the other hand, can get away with choosing between a charcoal suit or a blue one.
Time Magazine knows the significance of a woman’s looks only too well. On the occasions Sen. Clinton has been on the cover of the magazine, her photo has been carefully posed, carefully lit, carefully selected and, evidently, carefully touched up. Why does she merit Top Model treatment on the cover but not elsewhere? Because covers are supposed to sell magazines, not frighten little children.
Given the rising number of women newsmakers who have attained a certain age, journalists now must consider a new dimension when choosing and processing pictures.
Just as responsible editors routinely avoid the malicious selection of embarrassing or unflattering pictures, they have an obligation to be sensitive, sensible and, yes, generous in picking shots of our senior woman leaders.
Remember, kids: You’ll get wrinkles some day, too.