If ever proof were needed that we love to hate our icons it comes in the form of the suggestion that Kate Winslet's fan base might be alienated by the fact that she is photographed, nearly naked and, more importantly, ultra-slender on the front cover of this month's 'Vanity Fair'. The star's image has not been "air-brushed" her people claim (true, obviously – it's all done digitally these days) although a certain amount of "colour correction" may have been involved.
Given that Winslet has, in the past, objected to her photograph being manipulated in glossy magazines – notably 'GQ' where her body was stretched almost beyond recognition – perhaps any adverse reaction isn't so surprising. It is, however, thoroughly naive to expect any actress – or indeed actor – not to want to appear as gorgeous if not better than nature intended in a styled, conceptually motivated shoot. Is it okay that Winslet is wearing make-up in these pictures? Or that her hair is bigger than Barbarella's? Both are entirely her prerogative, of course, and, in the circles she moves in, no more than a question of human rights, as much a part of every-day requirements as hiring a naturopath/personal trainer/dietician.
In fact, people's mistrust of so-called photographic manipulation is almost as misunderstood and more out of control than, well, the photo manipulation itself. The old adage that the camera never lies is outdated, after all. It is not only the set up of the picture – hair, make-up, lighting and so forth – that is orchestrated but also the choice of lens, level of exposure, position of the photographer that will influence the end result as much, and often far more, than any work done post production.
Winslet has lost some weight and if that makes her happy then good for her. These pictures are a performance – the reference is Catherine Deneuve in the film 'Belle de Jour' apparently. The photographer is Steven Meisel, far from famous for his naturalistic representation of women. Instead, Meisel has made a career out of transporting anyone interested enough to look at his work to a preternaturally beautiful place. Neither the man himself nor anyone he works with would argue with that.
In the end, any disapproval springs from a peculiarly British mindset that dictates that vanity must be punished at all costs. Sackcloth and ashes, anyone? Failing that, those offended by the sight of a talented and lovely looking woman at the height of her power might simply resist buying the magazine instead.