Body image in the media

By on September 26, 2002

Every American college student idolizes one characteristic of a popular celebrity that he or she does not have.
Whether it be the body of Pamela Anderson or the muscles of Vin Diesel, many students try to change the way they look in order to appear more attractive.
Quinnipiac sophomore and communications major, Melissa Coons, could not agree more.
“It makes me feel bad because everyone in the media looks so perfect,” she said. “They [mass media] need to start portraying how people really look.”
The changes Americans wish to make about their physical appearance is not based solely on personal insecurity.
Mass media experts explain that societal “imperfections,” such as curvaceous hips and big ears, are traits people have learned since childhood because they are a generation raised by mass media.
“Our mothers did not bounce us on their knees when we were babies, telling us that thin was good and fat was bad,” said Stanley J. Baran in his book titled Introduction to Mass Communication: Media Literacy and Culture.
“From Disney’s depictions of Snow White, Cinderella, Tinker Bell, and Pocahontas to the impossible dimensions of Barbie, the message is embedded in the conscious (and unconscious) mind of every girl and boy. Thin is in,” said Baran, author of several other mass media text books.
In a study conducted by Dr. Melissa Aitken, a psychologist at the University of London, young women with and without clinical eating disorders were interviewed after observing media images of thin female models.
The results showed media images of women generated a significant amount of negative feelings from the eating disordered women, and those without disorders. The study concluded that young women should be educated about the dangerous impact the media has to idealize portrayals of women.
Nancy Worthington, assistant professor of Journalism, Production and E-Media at Quinnipiac agreed with the potential danger among women.
“To cut certain people up above the rest is de-humanizing,” said Worthington. “When women are made to seem more as objects, rather than people, they are easier to manipulate, and even become physically abused.”
Worthington said men and women depicted in the media are not representative of our society.
“A huge proportion of our country is obese. The people being portrayed in the media appear so thin that many of them have been graphically or surgically altered in some way,” she said.
Many young adults will sacrifice to look like something that cannot be naturally achieved. Plastic surgery patients undergo weeks and months of pain and recovery to get a perfect nose or to eliminate pockets of cellulite.
Young adults do not see the difference between reality and the media. The celebrities glorified in Hollywood are the exception, and the women that weigh 110 pounds and reach a height of 5 feet, 8 inches or more is considered an oddity.


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