The media’s influence on body image


Year after the year the public are bombarded with images of ‘the perfect body’. Every day we see young slim female models with a flawless complexion and a bright white smile on our television screens, often accompanied by tall tanned sculpted men, with not a receding hairline or beer belly in sight. Expectedly, the constant bombardment of these images has led to a large portion of society, younger people in particular, to have a less than healthy body image.


We only have the media to blame; magazines have features such as ‘Torso Of The Week’ and articles exclusively dedicated to slating the celebrity who’s gained the most weight this month, along with crash-diet plans and advertisements with the sole aim of making their audience feel less than adequate without their product. Music videos rarely feature a woman weighing more than 100lbs, and there are now even websites dedicated to helping girls develop eating disorders.


So how is this affecting us? Firstly, it seems more people are feeling dissatisfied with how they look, and for this reason people are becoming addicted to the photo editing software ‘Photoshop’. Photoshop is a program used to edit pictures of models and celebrities before they are published in magazines or advertisements, for instance, to cover a spot or two, or to take a couple of inches from a waist line. This phenomenon, however, has spread to every day civilians, who of course want to look their best in their profile pictures and cover any physical insecurities they may have, and for this reason Photoshop is utilised nearly as often as the widespread website Facebook. As the media continues to promote the image of ‘the perfect body’ through Photoshop, people are becoming more and more reliant on such programs and are even becoming addicted. It’s now rare to stumble across a profile picture without it having been edited or at least free from an Instagram filter.


However, the media’s obsession with body image has far more serious consequences, including illnesses such as depression and eating disorders. The media’s insistence of the perfect body causes some people, particularly teenagers and young adults, to feel inadequate. Often, people with a poor perception of body image develop low self-esteem, which in extreme cases can lead to anxiety and depression. The stress caused by the feeling of inadequacy can also lead to eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia, both of which have had an increased number of cases in recent years. Body image related stress can also have the opposite effect, such as over eating; people eating large amounts of food on a fast and regular basis. Therefore this shows that how the media’s emphasis on the perfect body can have a negative effect on health as well as confidence.


As serious issues like these continue to grow, and after years of campaigns and criticism, the media has begun to make efforts to tackle this problem of body image. The mission to improve perception of the ideal body began with more realistic models; Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign uses models for their advertisements who aren’t overly skinny with flawless skin and teeth. The company aimed to show realistic images of women and inspire them to be comfortable and confident in themselves. This campaign has inspired other companies to embrace ‘real beauty’ over fakeness, and recently Debenhams have decided to use size 16 mannequins in their store to model clothes, opposed to the standard size 10 mannequins. Most surprisingly, even some plus size models have taken to the catwalk in many high-fashion shows.


Efforts are being made by society to tackle poor body image perception in a younger generation as well. A new type of Barbie has been released in time for Christmas that is more true to the female body shape; the ‘Average Barbie’ is modelled off the measurements of an average 19 year old girl, with a wider waist, thicker neck and shorter legs. It is argued that the original Barbie has an unrealistic body shape and presents young girls with an unattainable standard of beauty. The aim of the new doll is to create a healthier perception of the ideal body image in young girls. The maker of the Average Barbie is also considering releasing a make-up free Barbie to take his campaign further.

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