Look at all the pictures, the spray tanned bodies that glow in the middle of winter, the women whose faces never age after twenty years, and the celebrities that can eat whatever they want, yet stay thin forever (Segrist). Any of this sound familiar? Pictures and articles of these models are seen every day and fill a great percentage of the magazines we read and the images seen on television. It is so easy to get caught up in the media because of the ‘perfection’ we see in it, but the question is does the beauty and body image in the media equal self-improvement or self- destruction?
We are so cleverly manipulated and influenced by the media and establishments on both the right and left, that the truth has become hopelessly lost in semantics. The media is not a solely to blame. Images of perfection are pushed upon people in early childhood with toys like Barbie and G. I. Joe. “Barbie began her career as a stiff plastic dress-up figure… [w]ith her breasts and slender waist, Barbie came literally to embody the little girl’s image of what it meant to be grown up” (Cross). Same goes for G. I. Joe but instead of big boobs and thin wastes, it is massive toned muscles.
Kids learn that grown-ups look like toys they love oh so much, but once they are grown up and look nothing like that toy, the children end up ‘hating’ how they look. When looking at the media, we recognize that women are the ones that are criticized and men are less of a concern when it comes to beauty and their body. We do however, picture that men should have a six packs and work out all the time if they want to live their life the best way possible (Segrist). When new movies come out that is the first thing you will hear, how an actor like Taylor Laughtner gained 20 pounds of muscle and is now looking better than ever.
Women are criticized much more. It is not as simple as working out and eating healthy. There is always the promise of a new diet that you just ‘have’ to use to lose the last few pounds, because if you do your life will overall be perfect. The real image of women is lost in the media because the industry favors the skinny models and perfect tanned girls in magazines we constantly read (Segrist). Standards of women are put to the test every day. Most women are not naturally what is seen in the magazines.
Being thin and losing the right amount of weight has become an over obsession with many young women. The media has set standards that are unrealistic for what the ‘normal’ body weight and appearance should be. Their portrayal of ‘normal’ keeps getting thinner and thinner for women and more body muscle and for men. The body image in the media keeps changing and people do their best to keep up with it. Twenty-five years ago the average female model only weighed 8% less than the average American woman, whereas today the average female model weighs 23% below her average weight (Image).
With the confusion of the ‘perfect’ image always changing, the goal to reach that stage of the beauty and body image has become an obsession for many people (Image). Most women do not have the genetic make up to be the ultra- tall and thin model body type. Of course, not all of us look up to models, but perhaps our favorite celebrities. Maybe our views of celebrities are not realistic. When we see celebrities, do we think ‘wow I want to be able to reach my goal to be an actress too’ or ‘I wish I could be as pretty as them’? Most likely you are thinking ‘I wish I could be as pretty as them’ or something regarding their looks.
Sometimes we are so caught up in the reality the media shows us and then we do things that are not so smart. This is what has caused many young women to develop eating disorders. It has been researched that one out of every four college-aged women use unhealthy eating habits to manage their weight. The unhealthy habits include self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise, skipping meals, and fasting (Image). A question, some might ask is why the media focus on a ‘perfect’ person. A few researches lead us to think it may have to do with economics. It is a chain reaction for the business industry.
First, someone will buy the magazine after seeing the cover that insists on ‘top 5 ways to lose twenty pounds before spring break’ or ‘the perfect makeup to make you look ten years younger. ’ Then, the person who reads the magazine will most likely go out and buy the products advertized or promised to improve you (Image). With an ideal body and image presented by the media that is hard to reach, the cosmetic and diet product industries are reassured of increasing profits and growth. Magazines are made to sell something or to inform the reader about a certain topic.
When a business is trying to sell a car or a certain food, most of the time, they try to find a slender man or women to help sell their business. A shocking statistic showed that after seeing photos of female fashion models, seven out of ten women felt more angry and depressed than prior to viewing those pictures. Television is another thing that downplays the average people’s appearance. On television shows the in crowd or the “it” girl is a slender and fashionable teen generally. The “nerd or weird” kid is usually a unique individual, but they have one or two flaws so they are picked on.
Because of small things like this, the unique and different people start to feel bad about themselves. One out of five men and two out of five women would trade three to five years of their life to achieve their weight goals. Life is a wonderful thing and if a human being would trade that away just to lose a couple pounds then something must me wrong. “I Want a Famous Face,” the “The Swan” and “Extreme Makeover” — all shows created as makeover shows, in which the ‘contestants’ are made over with plastic surgery to become what they consider beautiful.
On MTV’s show, I Want a Famous Face, “a baby-faced blonde named Sha… wants to look like Pamela Anderson and become a Playboy centerfold… she’s [only] 19” (Creamer). While “ethics aren’t MTV’s deal” (Creamer), ethics should be a concern of mainstream channels such as ABC, “Extreme Makeover” and Fox, “The Swan. ” However they too have shows based on someone feeling so insecure with themselves that they are willing to get on national TV and have every inch of their body changed to the point their before and after pictures show little to no resemblance.
While many claim, the media does not negatively influence the self-image of ‘any-body’ and that the people behind the scenes of the media are actually women peddling all these unattainable images, beauty products, and ‘quick-fix’ diets and workouts. Moreover, Scott declares, “that self-decoration—makeup, clothing, cosmetic surgery—is a fundamental form of human expression with different meanings to the individual. Therefore, feminists’ promotion of a ‘natural’ female appearance is their impulse to control women” (Scott).
The continuing messages we see on a daily basis from dieting to aging tells the “average” woman that a part of them still needs work or adjustments. Of course, most of us fall into this dark hole of what we see as non-perfection. Reality looses to the media most of the time. Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign was a prime example of what happens when a company tries to advertise using women of “average” proportions to promote their product. The backlash that ensued after the billboards displaying a, “bevy of full-figured babes in bras and boyshorts” (Pozner).
Quickly after the billboards were revealed, three well known men, Richard Roeper — a Chicago Sun Times columnist, Bill Zwecker — a CBS news anchor, and Lucio Guerrero –another Chicago Sun Times columnist; all wrote articles in response to the billboards. The authors of the articles went on tangents of how these women are too obese to be in an ad campaign, and that the women are “disturbing” and “frightening” (Pozner). These men continued to say, “[w]hen we’re women in their underwear on billboards outside my living room windows, give me the fantasy babes, please” (qt. in Pozner).
What we can do as a community is to support one another and to look at someone’s inner beauty rather than their outer beauty. We should have workshops in schools and different clubs that regularly discuss their opinions about body image and the media. Parents should be talking to their kids about how they feel and how much they love their child just the way they are. Schools should also not be providing candy in vending machines. Only healthy choices should be permitted. If we work together, and make an effective system that will reach out to our generation then we will be able to build a better community, then world.