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The Globe and Mail

Sorry Julia, your airbrushed ad is just too perfect

Can we wipeout the airbrush?

An advertising photo featuring smiling Julia Roberts has been banned by the British Advertising Standards Agency for being too perfect, according to The Guardian.

The cosmetics company L'Oreal called the picture, with the actress' cheekbones looking a little higher and her skin as fresh as new fallen snow, "aspirational." It prompts the question: To what impossible heights does society expect women to aspire, anyway?

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British MP Jo Swinson pointed out that the new and improved Julia must have been very improved indeed, since, she says, L'Oreal declined to show ASA the original photograph. ( A similar ad featuring supermodel Christy Turlington has been banned as well.)

But does banning a few advertisements here and there make a difference among teenagers struggling with body images?

In North America, the campaign for more realistic advertising has focused on applying moral pressure on companies and magazines, who have responded with covers on "bad beach bodies" and "celebrities spotted with cellulite." Not helpful.

On one hand, parents are being warned constantly about the dangers of obscenity for their kids. On the other hand, their teenagers are bombarded with these so-called "aspirational" media images, or encouraged to make sport of famous people with dimpled thighs.

Kids who aren't fat think they are, and the kids struggling with weight issues get bullied, and then everyone goes home and watches reality television shows where strangers duke it for cosmetic surgery.

In all that mess, can it really be Britney Spears who has the right idea? Last year, she permitted her before-and-after photos from a photo shoot to be released, allowing perhaps a few parents to sit down and point out that it's a messed up world when we think we need an "after" to a "before," that's already way above average.

Cough it up, Julia.

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Banning one advertisement won't make a difference, but is there value in cracking down? Or do we just keep stressing to our kids – and ourselves – that those pretty faces are smoke and mirrors?

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