Inevitable 'vaguely Sex and the City 2-related column' alert. Please turn away now if you do not want to see the results. Now, I'm sure you're all quite familiar with the molecular make up of Sarah Jessica Parker's hands considering Heat seems to dedicate four-page spreads to them every couple of weeks. But Marie Claire magazine doesn't care about that. It simply got to work on photoshopping her real hands into something looking like an Arnotts mannequin's digits as opposed to her traditional 'if Madonna was a dinosaur' claws, when she adorned their cover this week.
You've probably also stumbled across the new posters for Sex and the City 2, which show the four lead characters so worked on in post-production that one wonders whether Pixar put their latest project on hold to help out.
The poster, which sees Sex and the City set in some kind of Jetson-fuelled interpretation of a post-recession, JJ Abrams-inspired dystopia (aka, New York, plus holiday to somewhere in the Middle East) is, just like the TV franchise, beyond ridiculous. How on earth the producers think they're hoodwinking even the dimmest fan into thinking this is what Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda actually look like, is beyond even the imagination of the person who worked on the creation. But here's the trick – that's the point. If anything is as fabricated and fantasised and artificial as the world of Sex and the City, then, as they say in 30 Rock, I want to go to there.
Photoshopping is not about making the 'real' or prettying up the imperfect, it's about creating the 'unreal', the visualisation of a bored graphic artist's daydream about never-ending legs, impossibly turquoise eyes, and deliciously feigned skin tones. Of course, the dissemination of these images might have repercussions for how women see themselves, or want to see themselves, or what they aspire to – which is slightly ridiculous when you think about it, for who wants to be a robot on a billboard?
What is remarkable about this relentless era of photoshopping is how badly it is often executed. You'd imagine with people paying such large amounts of money for the publicity images of Gigantor- budget films and advertising campaigns for luxury products, you'd get something perfectly believable. Yet we still get pictures of celebrities with impossibly long elbows, or with upper arms skinnier than their lower arms, or an extra leg sticking out somewhere, and maybe a change of eye colour, and, em, a tail or something for good measure.
Why do we do it? Because real life is boring, darling, and airbrushing is so much better. What you have to bear in mind is that when you look at an album cover, or pictures in a magazine, or a billboard or a television ad or a film, you are seeing a construct and a creation, something that has taken several hours or days and several people to make look as unreal as possible. This is evidenced on a weekly basis, and the past few days throw up several examples, like the photoshoot with Madonna in Interview which could only have existed without photoshop if there was a time machine in the studio at the time.
Photoshop and cosmetic surgery continue to blur the lines of reality thanks to how they converse with each other using the language of fraud. Cosmetic surgery is photoshop in real life, and vice versa, and this botoxed reality creates even super-er superhumans out of celebrities. Everyone is guilty of it. You can photoshop your holiday snaps on your computer yourself and even the selection of photographs we upload to social networks are carefully chosen to show us at our best and most fun and most unreal.
Perhaps what is more interesting about consuming a photoshopped media is living in a photoshopped world. We are so keen to make the urban spaces we inhabit as fantastical as a Sex and the City poster that we've forgotten about what it is to feel comfortable as we walk around towns and cities. Sometimes I feel as though I'm walking through the architect's computer-generated sketches of a place that appeared in a newspaper a few years ago, instead of the real life place. There are endless rows of shiny cookie-cutter apartment blocks, manicured references to greenery that are plopped alongside steel and concrete. The photoshopped blue sky competes with the jaunty computer people, and the latest addition is the alien spaceship factor of giant conference centres or hotels or rugby stadiums that look just as photoshopped into the real landscape as they did in the artist's impressions.
And why did we do that to the places where we live? The same reason Marie Claire got rid of SJP's veiny hands. They thought it would look better (even though it ended up looking ridiculous). And most of all, because they could.