Life imitates The Onion?
July 6, 2009 7:25 AM   Subscribe

The Onion is funny because it imitates life. However, life is not as funny when it imitates The Onion.
posted by Premeditated Symmetry Breaking (68 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
See. Also.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:31 AM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Onion has better Photoshop skills that the Toronto Fun Guide, that's for sure.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:32 AM on July 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


The altered photo doesn't look altered at all. They did a fantastic job!
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 7:32 AM on July 6, 2009 [6 favorites]




Someone photoshopping OJ's face into the picture in 3...2...
posted by any major dude at 7:34 AM on July 6, 2009


Well, I for one can understand why they had to resort to Photoshopping the image. I mean, it's very, very difficult to find a non-white person in Toronto.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:34 AM on July 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


Woah, I have my dates wrong. Even though the brochure says 2001-2002, the real-life photoshopping came a few months before the Onion, according to Mother Jones.
posted by allen.spaulding at 7:35 AM on July 6, 2009


Seeing the FPP I thought this would be another thread about Palin.
posted by yoink at 7:35 AM on July 6, 2009


...a program called TinEye that detects visual enhancements to standard art.

This is a well-named program. Jeepers.
posted by DU at 7:35 AM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


See. Also.

And you know, it's not even the first time that Gillette fulfilled a satirist's prophecy. The very first parody ad that Saturday Night Live ran, back in October 1975, was for a "Triple-Track" razor. The tagline was "Because you'll buy anything."

How true.

(I also seem to recall some suburban community group awarding "Best Italian Restaurant" to the Olive Garden in their town, a few months after the Onion ran an article about just such an award. I realized then and there that anything really was possible in America.)
posted by Spatch at 7:39 AM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seen somewhere else, "This is finally the year that The Onion becomes indistinguishable from real news".
posted by 445supermag at 7:40 AM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


The funny thing is, this wasn't even the sort of gotcha the Onion article hinted at. The "We took a picture of our fans, and BOY HOWDY, were they all white!" bit is the subtly funny/embarrassing aspect of the Onion article. Toronto is a pretty diverse city from what I know of it. The problem was finding stock art of a smiling multiracial couple -- one that did represent Toronto's nature -- on short notice.
posted by verb at 7:41 AM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


2001-2002 is a school year for which the brochure contains advance information. Yes, in this case, The Onion (which has Madison roots) was parodying something after it happened, rather than being uncannily prescient.
posted by dhartung at 7:43 AM on July 6, 2009


This is my surprised face. Well, actually, this is my too tired to care, still drinking my first cup of coffee face, but I've digitally altered it to look surprised.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:49 AM on July 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


(Sort of) Previously
posted by Edwahd at 7:59 AM on July 6, 2009


I was hoping this would be Jean Teasdale related.
posted by hermitosis at 8:04 AM on July 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


Saw this on Photoshop Disasters a few days ago. I expect this to become a meme very soon, with people 'shopping in various comical images (I predict: the Burger King, Cthulhu, Barack Obama) in the same way as the black dude was added, if it hasn't become one already.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:06 AM on July 6, 2009


(I also seem to recall some suburban community group awarding "Best Italian Restaurant" to the Olive Garden in their town, a few months after the Onion ran an article about just such an award. I realized then and there that anything really was possible in America.)

I've eaten at locally-owned 'Italian' restaurants that were far worse than the Olive Garden. Any amount of mediocrity really is possible if you put your mind to it, here or anywhere else.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:07 AM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I also seem to recall some suburban community group awarding "Best Italian Restaurant" to the Olive Garden in their town

One of our local papers just did their annual "Best of [the area]" issue, based on mailed-in reader surveys. A selection: Best sandwich shop: Subway. Best coffee shop: Starbucks. Best donut shop: Dunkin' Donuts. Best bookstore: Barnes & Noble. Best electronics store: Best Buy.

This isn't even a particularly chainstore-centric area; we're not lacking for good local coffee or bookstores or other stuff, but quantity trumps quality in these things. (Ballot-stuffing helps too. The editor's a friend of mine; she told me that all the votes in one particular category had the same handwriting on the envelope.)
posted by ook at 8:12 AM on July 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oh! Or even better than any of those, Al Jolson in blackface. If someone does that it will make my week.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:14 AM on July 6, 2009


Ironically, the comments on the National Post piece are mostly outraged that the publication tried to reflect diversity by editing out the Latino man and not adding a white guy. Or an Asian one.

Apparently, including an African-Canadian guy smacks of racism. Unbelievable.
posted by zarq at 8:14 AM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]




spatch: (I also seem to recall some suburban community group awarding "Best Italian Restaurant" to the Olive Garden in their town, a few months after the Onion ran an article about just such an award. I realized then and there that anything really was possible in America.)

That reminds me of this non-satirical review of the (now closed) Sioux City Olive Garden which was highlighted by the CJR last year, and subsequently made the rounds on Gawker and other sites. The comments included this priceless gem: "Oh poor John Quinlan. This can't be why you went to journalism school. No wonder reporters drink at lunch.... "
posted by zarq at 8:21 AM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


One of our local papers just did their annual "Best of [the area]" issue, based on mailed-in reader surveys. A selection: Best sandwich shop: Subway. Best coffee shop: Starbucks. Best donut shop: Dunkin' Donuts. Best bookstore: Barnes & Noble. Best electronics store: Best Buy.

While I agree that Subway and Starbucks are embarrassing, but what's wrong with Barnes & Noble as the best bookstore or Best Buy as the best electronics store? I mean, I love local bookstores too (I was just visiting NYC and spent hours in The Strand and Three Lives), but there's a reason B & N and Borders are so popular. I'm not familiar with your town, but in many places (say, Madison, WI, where I'm from), one of those two stores would indeed be the best bookstore.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:23 AM on July 6, 2009


The problem was finding stock art of a smiling multiracial couple -- one that did represent Toronto's nature -- on short notice.

"Short notice"?? For the recreation guide that comes out the same 4 times a year like clockwork?They know right now when the 2014 "Toronto Fun Guide" is going to be published. It's hardly short notice.
posted by GuyZero at 8:24 AM on July 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


(I also seem to recall some suburban community group awarding "Best Italian Restaurant" to the Olive Garden in their town, a few months after the Onion ran an article about just such an award. I realized then and there that anything really was possible in America.)

I'm sure in some places in America The Olive Garden is the best restaurant in town. It's the "classy" restaurant. I once dated a girl who went to school in Roanoke (Hollins) and believe me, that's not too far-fetched when every building along the main drag is either a bank, a gas station or a fast-food restaurant.
posted by Zambrano at 8:24 AM on July 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


One of our local papers just did their annual "Best of [the area]" issue, based on mailed-in reader surveys. A selection: Best sandwich shop: Subway. Best coffee shop: Starbucks. Best donut shop: Dunkin' Donuts. Best bookstore: Barnes & Noble. Best electronics store: Best Buy.

You know that sooner or later one of these surveys is going to award Best Local Bookstore to Amazon and Best Local Music Store to iTunes. I'm not sure what will happen after that.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:25 AM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I see this kind of crap all the time. In fact, over the past two years, as my daughter neared HS graduation, we started receiving a metric butt-load of magazines, brochures, etc. from various universities. It was jaw-droppingly amazing the number of inept and embarrassing Photoshopped images I saw. Doubly-so when I saw them in materials from the higher-end schools which, one would have assumed, could afford competent retouching.

But, this is the way the whole industry is going. Cheaper/faster = better. At least in the eyes of the bean-counters.

It's amazing to me that an art-director would have looked at that image and not seen anything wrong with it. I mean, the whole ethics question aside, it's a very ham-handed 'shop. There's no way I would have approved something that amateurish.
Now that I think about it, that's probably one of the reasons why I can't get hired anywhere...
posted by Thorzdad at 8:26 AM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


(I also seem to recall some suburban community group awarding "Best Italian Restaurant" to the Olive Garden in their town, a few months after the Onion ran an article about just such an award. I realized then and there that anything really was possible in America.)


In 2005, in the South Bend, Indiana, local paper's annual "Best of South Bend" poll, the Olive Garden got the vote for "Best Ethnic Restaurant." The South Bend resident who told me this had just gotten done telling me how big his house was, and afterward I felt much better about my shoebox-sized New York apartment. I'll take decent Thai over square footage any day.

Is this what you were thinking of, or did this also happen somewhere else?
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 8:28 AM on July 6, 2009


life imitates the onion
and again
life imitates the onion
posted by Merik at 8:39 AM on July 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


what's wrong with Barnes & Noble as the best bookstore or Best Buy as the best electronics store?

I take your point, but the issue was supposed to be "Best of the Berkshires", not "Best of nationally-available chain stores;" it's just a bit depressing to see so many items in the list be the same homogenous stuff you can find anywhere in the US. I'm not sure why I was redacting the location before so I'll stop now.

We have dozens of wonderful locally-owned bookshops. I'll grant that the only decent electronics shop I can think of around here is The Internet but I refuse to accept that Best Buy deserves to win anything but Best Hard Sell On The Magazine Subscription With Every Overpriced Purchase.
posted by ook at 8:41 AM on July 6, 2009


Ironically, the comments on the National Post piece are mostly outraged that the publication tried to reflect diversity by editing out the Latino man and not adding a white guy. Or an Asian one.

Apparently, including an African-Canadian guy smacks of racism. Unbelievable.


Unbelievable? These are National Post readers we're talking about, after all. Yeah, yeah, The Globe & Mail reader comments are similarly horrifying, and only a half step up from YouTube comments in terms of intelligence and literacy. Oh, Canada.

My favourite The Onion comes-to-life moment was related to this article from the memorable 9/11 issue. Just a few months later I was grocery shopping and the No-Frills I was in was playing the "Delilah Show" over the PA system. A female caller proudly told Delilah she had made an American flag afghan. Delilah wouldn't know irony if it bit her in the ass, so she was impressed and enthusiastically interested and said things like, "Oh, I couldn't make any afghan in just a few months!" and "How did you do it?"

I laughed so hard I nearly fell into my grocery cart.
posted by orange swan at 8:41 AM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'll take decent Thai over square footage any day.

Actually, when you put it that way, you are making "the midwest" and "suburbia" (normally dirty words on MeFi) sound pretty wise and well-prioritized. You'd take a flashy, ephemeral meal over a sound, practical, long-term-thinking investment? I think I'd rather have space for projects and backyard baseball and parties and so forth.
posted by DU at 8:42 AM on July 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


That does it... I'm going into the smily-happy ethnic diversity photography business. I ought to make a killing from universities and large insurance companies.
posted by crapmatic at 8:54 AM on July 6, 2009


That is some awful photoshopping; the kid on top is totally fake looking.
posted by quin at 9:03 AM on July 6, 2009


Actually, when you put it that way, you are making "the midwest" and "suburbia" (normally dirty words on MeFi) sound pretty wise and well-prioritized. You'd take a flashy, ephemeral meal over a sound, practical, long-term-thinking investment?

I'll take New York Real Estate as an investment over South bend, any day of the week, square footage be damned.

Of course buying a place in NY would put Olive Garden and Thai food out of my budget, but there's this awesome place on 14th street. I don't know exactly what the nationality is, but you can buy a whole cooked chicken for 6 bucks. So there's that.
posted by billyfleetwood at 9:06 AM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


foxy: You know there is a happy medium between the wilds of South Bend and the wage slavery of living in manhattan. I just had a lovely Panang Curry here in Ann Arbor last night. I can also buy a 3 bedroom semi for 200,000.
posted by mrstrotsky at 9:23 AM on July 6, 2009


This is about Toronto people, not Ann Arbor people. Geez.

Can we debate living off the Danforth vs Bloor West or something? Or the Junction vs Roncesvalles? Maybe North York vs Summerhill.
posted by GuyZero at 9:26 AM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I dunno. Strikes me as cheesy (mostly for the super-crappy photoshopping), but not scandalous. Beats the days when it never crossed anybody's mind that an all-white cover photo might be a bit narrow in its reflection of the public.

Although yeah, it'd be nice if diverse groups of people were as readily observable in nature as they are in Advertisingland.
posted by Rykey at 9:27 AM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Junction vs Roncesvalles

Well, for starters, if you live in the Junction, you can walk to Roncesvalles. Best of both worlds!
posted by orange swan at 9:28 AM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think they tried to show that Toronto is diverse by showing that people with tiny heads also live there.
posted by digsrus at 9:33 AM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Too bad there's not some sort of service to help one find photos of multiracial families on short notice.
posted by rtha at 9:41 AM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Can we debate living off the Danforth vs Bloor West or something? Or the Junction vs Roncesvalles? Maybe North York vs Summerhill.
posted by GuyZero at 12:26 PM on July 6 [+] [!]


How about - where can you get a dirt cheap apartment with no bedbugs? Preferrably within a 1 hour walk of the University of Toronto.

----

Seriously, this is bad, as in super incompetant. At least the photoshopping someone into an all-white campus picture makes sense - it's done in the hopes of attracting more non-white students and thus making the campus more inclusive. But in this case, the incompetant photoshop work went along with stupid thinking: the original man looked multi-racial himself; there was no reason to do anything to be more multi-racial.
posted by jb at 9:50 AM on July 6, 2009


Scrubs did it too.

"Twice?!"
posted by educatedslacker at 9:58 AM on July 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


allen.spaulding - I'm a Badger. What the crap, WISCONSIN did that?!
posted by kldickson at 10:07 AM on July 6, 2009


When I graduated from high school I got a snazzy brochure from Unity College in Maine. A few pages in there was a shot of a bunch of kids on some sort of outing sitting in a circle at the edge of a field.
I looked closer.
One kid was covering her mouth, coughing. The kid on her left was passing something to the person on his left.
THEY WERE PASSING A JOINT AROUND.
Which, from what I hear, is actually quite representative of Unity College. You just can't Photoshop that kind of stuff.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:29 AM on July 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


This is about Toronto people, not Ann Arbor people. Geez.

Can we debate living off the Danforth vs Bloor West or something? Or the Junction vs Roncesvalles? Maybe North York vs Summerhill.


Okay, here's my take: after living just north of Forest Hill for the past four years, I will never say anything bad about The Beaches ever again. Seriously, you walk through Forest Hill Village and it's as if the walls of every building are whispering "GET OUT!" like in Amityville Horror. Having a beach nearby sure makes up for a lot of neighbourly socio-constipation.
posted by spoobnooble at 10:31 AM on July 6, 2009


you can buy a whole cooked chicken for 6 bucks
Maybe you should come to the Midwest after all; you can get one of those in most grocery stores here. And I can't speak for everyone, but in my neck of the woods we're swimming in nice Thai and Laotian restaurants.
posted by echo target at 10:36 AM on July 6, 2009


Too bad there's not some sort of service to help one find photos of multiracial families on short notice.

That struck me as strange, too. Many of the images linked / offered through Getty (and CP) are royalty-free. I've used them both often enough professionally that the "we couldn't find one on short notice" comment struck me as false, coming from a magazine. It should take far less time to find a good stock photo than to photoedit one.
posted by zarq at 10:39 AM on July 6, 2009


The Onion has better Photoshop skills that the Toronto Fun Guide, that's for sure.

I bet they don't get 18 sick days a year, though.
posted by oaf at 10:40 AM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


This screams for a Photoshop plug-in with some artsy, wildly-inapplicable name like "Fractal Diversity." Facial recognition software, combined with a set of racial templates, morphs your stock university photography of a bunch of boring white kids into whatever ethnic mix you need. "Sure," you say, "that's great, but what we really need to see here are some Samoans. We have a notable lack of Samoans." Download additional EthnoPakz at five bucks each!

There's a business to be made here. I am serious like cancer. People would buy this. I can prove it with a simple principle: what will any given organization do, fake progressiveness or actually implement it? On every level, they will fake it versus make it.

Goddamn, I need to get started making this right now.
posted by adipocere at 10:54 AM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is this a new trend? Bad, but typical, Photoshop examples make front page posts? Examples of marketing departments who manipulate images based on demographic concerns and the hilarious outrage that ensues?

Junction vs Roncesvalles

Well, for starters, if you live in the Junction, you can walk to Roncesvalles. Best of both worlds!


I live in the Junction and walk to downtown core all the time, to better worlds than the Junction or Roncesvalles.
posted by juiceCake at 11:25 AM on July 6, 2009


"When I get a college brochure, the first thing I look for is racial diversity. If I don't see a few minority faces in the pictures, I toss it aside, because who wants to go to some podunk college that can't even afford Photoshop?" – Bill Muse
posted by joelf at 11:47 AM on July 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


That struck me as strange, too. Many of the images linked / offered through Getty (and CP) are royalty-free. I've used them both often enough professionally that the "we couldn't find one on short notice" comment struck me as false, coming from a magazine. It should take far less time to find a good stock photo than to photoedit one.

Finding a picture of a black family or smiling asian children is real easy. But try to find a single picture of a young African kid with an Asian teenager and their elderly white double-amputee neighbour, and I guarantee you will be headdesking PDQ. I exaggerate only slightly.

So instead, you resort to multi-photo configurations, photoshopping, or you make everyone a silhouette. Because who doesn't relate to silhouettes. Toronto's Pride Week logo for this year is full of silhouetty fabulousness.
posted by emeiji at 11:48 AM on July 6, 2009




The Olive Garden has some kickass breadsticks, though!
posted by xingcat at 11:49 AM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


One of these surveys is going to award Best Local Bookstore to Amazon and Best Local Music Store to iTunes. I'm not sure what will happen after that.

Best Local Music Store: t0ddZ l33t warez.
posted by rokusan at 12:14 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hey now, Merik. There's a BIG difference between the trucker in the onion article you referenced and Joe the Plumber. For one thing, the truck driver in the onion article is actually a truck driver, while Joe the Plumber isn't a licensed plumber. And his name isn't really Joe.
posted by WhySharksMatter at 12:22 PM on July 6, 2009


The University of Pennsylvania seems to have a taste for Photoshop:

Journals Find Fakery in Many Images Submitted to Support Research
Rainbow tassel not shown on brochure
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:40 PM on July 6, 2009


Who's doing the Official MetaFilter 10th Anniversary Ethnically Diverse Group Portrait?
posted by lukemeister at 1:04 PM on July 6, 2009


Toronto: Having a beach nearby sure makes up for a lot of neighbourly socio-constipation.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 1:43 PM on July 6, 2009


Can someone explain why I'm supposed to be outraged by this and how photo shopping in diversity, at least when done competently, differs from sourcing a stock photo off the internet or hiring a few models and setting up the shoot? It's not like it's a news event. In no case is one likely to run into the family about town. Why should anyone be more outraged about the insertion/replacement of a person who wasn't there than about the change in sky colour? It's advertising and therefor should be assumed to have no basis in reality.
posted by Mitheral at 1:57 PM on July 6, 2009


That does it... I'm going into the smily-happy ethnic diversity photography business. I ought to make a killing from universities and large insurance companies.

None of the inexpensive stock services have good selections of multi-ethnic photos, that's a real problem in the business. I recently got a mailing from a new company that advertised stock photos that featured real diversity in their images.

Life imitates Metafilter.
posted by Mcable at 2:38 PM on July 6, 2009


The photoshopped guy looks like he's enjoying a look a the woman's boobs.

The Fun Guide indeed.
posted by mazola at 2:39 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I cant stop mousing over the picture.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:53 PM on July 6, 2009


I'm going into the smily-happy ethnic diversity photography business

Too cool.

So in your studio, instead of all those backgrounds of clouds and lasers, it could be all "Okay, we're all set. Now do you want my Black Friend Dave to pose in this photo with you, or my Friend Lee Who Is Vaguely Asian?"
posted by rokusan at 4:30 PM on July 6, 2009




I'll be honest, I did not expect to laugh out loud but I did. The Fun Guide is definitely fun. But now I can't tell if it's that the bad photoshop job is that jarring or if that guy is just that creepy looking.
posted by Lokisbane at 3:33 AM on July 7, 2009


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