Why Are We So Protective Of Anne’s Flaws, But So Unforgiving Of Our Own?

Canadians were outraged when their perfectly imperfect icon was photoshopped last month. So why don't we care about authenticity when it's our own face?

 

Anne Shirley, of Green Gables fame, was many things, but polished was not one of them. With her messy braids of shocking red hair, face full of freckles (and often dirt), and overall plain looks, Anne did not have the look all the girls of the day were going for. But what she did have was character. Lots of it. Imagine a world in which Anne Shirley was stunning, proper, and popular.

Now, thanks to American posters promoting the latest series on Netflix, we no longer need to imagine. The American versions of the posters released last month painted quite a different portrait of Anne than the Canadian one, and we were having none of it. Anne had gotten the standard magazine treatment, with teeth fixed, skin smoothed, hair perfected, and filters added. She looked perfect, and we didn’t like it one bit.

Canadians took to Twitter to express their disdain at the photoshopping of our perfectly imperfect Canadian icon. To “improve” Anne as such was to erase who she was, and her spunky character. We didn’t want mainstream beauty, we wanted our Anne!

This does beg a question, though: Why are we so protective of Anne’s flaws, and so unforgiving of ours?

We've all been there, happily scrolling through Facebook, checking out things our friends posted four years ago when we should be doing just about anything else when we notice the notification: “Jane has tagged you in a photo.” There is first a moment of panic. What photo did you post Jane? Is this of our kids from our playdate yesterday, or from girls night last night? I better see people under five when I click on this, Jane! Then there's the analysis of the photo. What Jane has uploaded is what she perceives as a fun photo of you enjoying yourself the night before. What you see is the worst photo ever taken of you, and you briefly consider cutting all ties with Jane. Instead of ending the friendship, you untag yourself and hope you caught it before anyone noticed.

(Image via ET Canada) The before and after of CBC's 'Anne' poster which was heavily photoshopped for the US Netflix version

But what was so offensive about that photo? You post photos of yourself on Facebook from time to time. Why is it so bad when Jane does it? Jane’s cardinal mistake was posting you as you really look. She didn’t think it was a bad photo, she sees you for you, and she loved how much fun you were having in the photo. She doesn’t see messy hair, or less than perfect skin, she sees you. But you see it.

When we post photos of ourselves, we tend to first choose a photo in which we don’t closely resemble Moe from the Simpsons. Then we edit it strategically. If we are in our house, we crop the Tim’s cup still out from yesterday, and the mess the kids made in the corner. We crop out the bit of muffin top or make it an “artistic’ extreme close-up because we notice a bit of a double chin. Then we filter it. Sometimes we make it black and white, sometimes make it look vintage, sometimes we blur it so much we look like porcelain dolls. “What did people do before filters?” we wonder to ourselves. Glamour Shots. They went to portrait studios for a special photo shoot. And they weren’t fooling anyone then either.

I didn’t think much about this practice, until my four-year-old son stole my phone, as he does nearly every morning, and took 35 selfies, which was also nothing new. What was new was that he accidentally turned on the “beauty filter”. Let me tell you, the beauty filter on a four-year-old is weird and creepy. His face was super smooth, his lips were accented pink, and he looked really bizarre. So why, when I turned on my phone and found the dreaded unexpected reverse camera mode, did I think, “Huh, I look better than I usually do” before realizing the filter was on? Why does it make him look supernatural, but I think it makes me look better?

I suspect the answer is that it doesn’t. It just smooths out the stuff we are hyper focused on when we see photos of ourselves. I also suspect our friends would rather see photos of us like the one's Jane posts, happy and authentic rather than carefully calculated, modified versions of ourselves.

Anne never really cared that she wasn’t perfect. She cared more about being genuine. We should use our outrage at the “beautification” of Anne as a lesson for ourselves. Let’s be brave enough to show who we really are.

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