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Cartoon creations are all around us

Drink is a terrible thing. After one too many whiskeys my male friends took a straw poll. It turns out every one of them would bed Neytiri from Avatar. Not the actress, Zoe Saldana, mind, but the aqua blue, yellow-eyed, pinch-eared alien.

A chat with the animation supervisor on the film confirmed that they are not alone. It seems the senses of the entire male cinema-going populace was stirred by Neytiri's 10 feet of blue curves. I shudder to think of the far-fetched set-ups of their sexual fantasies.

Avatar has broken boundaries by marrying animation and film; reality and unreality. It's greatest triumph, though, is creating a cartoon character with mass sex appeal. Then again, the magazine industry has been doing it for years.

Airbrushing has become so exaggerated that we may as well be looking at members of the Na'vi. Take Penelope Cruz's L'Oreal advert for Telescopic mascara. Her eyelashes are so long that they're almost hitting her eyebrows. It doesn't look alluring; it looks alien. The cosmetics giant later conceded that Cruz is in fact wearing "lash inserts", which means that a woman believing that mascara can give her lashes this long is akin to a man hoping that Neytiri will walk into his local boozer.

The makers of Avatar doctored the physiques of the lead actors in much the same way as the creative directors did in the Jessica Alba Campari campaign. The leaked before pictures show that Alba's waist has been almost halved and her breasts lifted into what looks like a gravity-defying shelf.

Keira Knightley has constantly criticised movie bosses and magazine editors for inflating her front. "I did one magazine and found out you're not actually allowed to be on a cover in the US without at least a C cup because it turns people off," she fumed.

Kate Winslet was equally furious when male magazine GQ stretched her legs to impossible lengths on its cover. The editor, Dylan Jones, admitted that the photos had been doctored "no more than any other cover star". "Almost no picture that appears in GQ . . . has not been digitally altered," he continued, as though that somehow made the practice justifiable.

Jones found an ally in Redbook editor-in-chief, Stacy Morrison, who was responsible for one of the most shocking 'before airbrushing' photographs to surface. Cover girl Faith Hill's crow's feet were banished, her smiles lines were softened and her womanly arms made to look like liquorice sticks.

"In the end, they're not really photographs. They're images," said Morrison. Ah, we see -- please excuse our ignorance. I laughed at my male friends for ogling an unattainable cartoon creation until I realised that we've been doing it for years.