In this particular case I'm addressing overly retouched photography.
The first of the two top images portrays an idealistic version of an especially curvy lady. At the risk of sounding blunt! This shape seems rather artificial altogether and has most definitely been altered. This is a very good example of the "purification" of the human body that has become quite common in western society.
The second image shows Crystal Renn (With the help of some direct overhead-lighting) using her curves and texture to create an exaggeration of the reality. Obviously these two photos are two extremes and complete opposites, and highlight the difference between art and commercial photography.
Retouch in it self is a way of improving artwork and edit details. But adjusting color and upping the contrast, maybe remove a misplaced pimple, an unfortunate shadow, or clutter in the background is one thing. Removing pores, scars, cellulite, dark circles, or change perception of limbs and shape, is changing the appearance to such a degree that it becomes a "cartoonish" version of it's original form.
That said, I believe that it's not the retouching that is the "enemy", it's giving people a wrong sense of normality and reality. It affects how we perceive ourselves and judge others.
The consequence of getting accustomed to the fake may be the expectation of perfection, and that anything less would be recognized as faulty (That seems a little silly, doesn't it?).
In reality about 98-99% of women (and some men) have cellulite, and 100% of humanity have pores.
For the sake of a healthy body image in a time where fashion and makeup is used as a "body armor" rather then the creative toy it is, and so many get but-jobs and Botox. We should perhaps strive towards accepting appearance for what it is, as just appearance.
As far as commercials go, most of us can tell that skin without texture isn't just makeup, and it would be a far more believable mascara commercial without fake lashes. It's a little bit insulting "they" think we're that easily fooled.
Also, it would be nice if our models could be left looking human and not like dolls, unless explicitly intended to. Wouldn't it be preferable to keep the features expressing personality intact? Especially when paying extra for a famous face... (Just saying!).
These photos of Halle Berry in FHM Magazine was what inspired me to write this post.
I have no idea why they felt the need to slim her figure, smooth the skin and whiten her eyes. These pictures were already perfect.
The shoot was for a Man's Magazine, and men normally like the "raw" look. It is usually women who prefer the flawless "clean" look. But I guess retouching has become so common, even the perfect needs some correction.
Here are some more examples of what retouching looks like before and after.
Result: Personality is photoshopped away.
Penelope Cruz, looks far better in the un-retouched image. Her expression is sweeter and her hair doesn't look like she used three cans of hairspray on it.
I found that when overly retouched, Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez and Eva Longoria look almost identical in some photos. Three different women with three different body shapes, but the retouchers manage to reshape their figure to the same medium-sized hourglass.
All the photos of the (too beautiful to actually need to be retouched) people in this post are random pictures from Tumbler or borrowed from Google. Mostly unknown source, except for Aishwarya Rai for L'oreal, Crystal Renn in Harper’s Bazaar Australia May 2009, Halle Berry in FHM November 2003, Filippa Hamilton for Ralph Lauren, Adam Noah Levine and random models in Vogue and Eva Mendez on the cover of Cosmopolitan.)