What Happens When Real Women Are Photoshopped Like Female Comic Book Characters

April 2nd 2016

Lucy Tiven

Summer comic book movie season is fast approaching, leading many fans to return to the print originals that inspired DC and Marvel blockbusters. But these fantasies can present troubling images of women's bodies. The Buzzfeed team posed in a recent photoshoot that recreated classic comic book covers, and Photoshopped their own bodies to emulate the figures of fantasy heroines, pointing out just how patently absurd the body standards they dictated truly were.

The poses were more than a little uncomfortable.

Contorting their bodies into the poses proved difficult. Buzzfeed Video's Kirsten King found Wonder Woman's stance both painful and impractical. "MAN, did my pose hurt. I used muscles in my body I never knew I had (or maybe don’t have and that’s the issue?). I was in major pain and at one point my leg cramped up," she wrote. "If someone was actually charging at me, I wouldn’t have time to pop my ass out beforehand."

Wonder woman

King added, "Heroines are supposed to fight crime and save the world, not twerk while they’re rescuing humankind."

Associate Editor Sheridan Watson tried out Red Sonja’s comic book cover.

Red Sonja

Watson hilariously recounted:

"I never went back after the free introductory yoga class, but for some reason, I thought posing as if I was taking a standing-up dump would be my second calling. It was not. I couldn’t understand how all of my body parts were supposed to come together and effortlessly pose like a sexy cartoon superhero. You see my hand? I’m trying to stop hell from coming for me."

Buzzfeed's Allison Bagg found Black Widow's stance equally vexing. "This shit is physically impossible if you have bones, muscles, and organs," she wrote.

Black Widow

"I expected it to be a damn mess, and it was. It really was. Pretty sure I need to see a chiropracter now," Bagg said.

See what happened when these images were Photoshopped.

Buzzfeed used Photoshop to enlarge and lift King's breasts, narrow her waist, slim and lengthen her things and lower leg, and enlarge her butt.

Wonder woman Photoshopped

"My stomach looks like it has room for exactly two peas in it," King said in response to the changes. It also influenced her perception of her body.

"The weird thing is, I didn’t THINK I looked large in the original until I saw it side by side with the other one," she explained.

For Watson's image, Buzzfeed "Enlarged and pushed up breasts, slimmed waist, enlarged butt, exaggerated hip, slimmed and lengthened thighs, slimmed and lengthened lower leg."

"I think I look like Kim Kardashian when she gets a little too trigger happy with the Photoshopping on her Instagram pics. It’s just so laughable to me," Watson said.

Red Sonja Photoshopped

Even though she was amused by the image, she also recognized that the comics' messages were dangerous.

"I know a lot of people will say “it’s just a cartoon” or “it’s not real” but what people don’t realize is how these images can actually affect women — and men alike," she explained. "We’re perpetuating an image that is physically impossible to attain. Is there something wrong with having women with rib cages fight crime? Or do they HAVE to have heart-shaped bums in order to succeed?"

Bagg's breasts were also enlarged and hiked up, while they "shortened and repositioned lower legs, lengthened torso, slimmed waist, added and enlarged right buttcheek" on Photoshop.

"This bums me out to see how ridiculous the poses are for every single female superhero," Bagg stated. "It would be really cool to see powerful, nonsexualized poses that don’t objectify women be the norm instead of this crap."

Allison Bagg

Companies and celebrities alike are asking the media to portray women's bodies more realistically.

Female stars, including Chrissy Teigen and Tess Holliday, and major companies are taking a stand against damaging and unrealistic body standards as part of the body positive movement. Even big fashion is starting to take notice.

When American Eagle's Aerie stopped Photoshopping their models in 2014, their sales rose drastically, shattering the notion that retouched models sell more clothing.

In a clever move in February, Snickers also pointed out the absurdity of Photoshopping models and celebrities with a parody ad on the back of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition. The ad depicted a woman with preposterous Photoshopping errors, including a seriously misplaced belly button and a creepy — yet mysterious — hand on her shoulder.

The Snickers ad, like Buzzfeed's photoshoot, illustrates that the images we see in pop culture don't always portray what's really there, so it's crucial to view them critically and recognize when they don't depict reasonable female role models for women — and when that's the case, it never hurts to laugh.

You can see Buzzfeed's full shoot with all of the images on their website, or check out behind-the-scenes video about the project on YouTube.

[H/T Buzzfeed]