A woman’s body image is often defined by her surroundings. It isn’t difficult to make the transfer from a woman in the public eye to yourself in terms of what beauty should look like. Young girls aren’t the only impressionable ones. Even grown women tend to think that they can always improve upon what age and experience has done to them. In ancient times, women strove to look like the goddesses that embodied perfection. In the modern times, our gods and idols are those who entertain us, however odd that may sound. So, it stands to reason that we would model ourselves after them. In fact, a large portion or our economy is banking on the fact that women the world over will continue to do so year after year.
People Magazine for the week of April 28th (when this page was published) has three ads for cosmetics in the first twenty-five pages. All of them have actresses or singers as their spokespeople: Rihanna for Cover Girl, Carmen Electra for Max Factor, Reese Witherspoon for Avon…it goes on and on, and these are full page ads. If the average female reader of People magazine had any doubt as to who the beautiful people of the world are, she might make an educated guess that these women are among them.
The entertainment world is filled with iconic figures, however, it has lately begun to show a more well-rounded perception of what it’s like to be a female. Shows such as “The Biggest Loser” and “Dr. 90210″ show women the gamut of how to transform body image. It is no longer necessary to remain as you’ve been born. The two shows mentioned above are at opposite ends of the spectrum because one emphasizes getting in shape and healthy, while the other emphasizes surgical alteration as the way to change your body. Nevertheless, both shows target the same demographic, women between the ages of 28 and 45, who may have lost youthful health and gained middle years bulk. In fact, it is rare to find any form of mass entertainment, television, movies, magazines that doesn’t target women from this demographic. These women are the consumers and often key decision makers for households across America.
The entertainment industry often rewards exhibitionism, and many reality TV stars have gone on to become stars in their own right, famous for being nothing other than a sensationalized version of themselves. It is well known that whenever someone moves from real life into the realm of the entertainment world, they will somehow become larger than life with features in Us and People magazines as well as MySpace pages dedicated to them. The women of MTV’s “The Hills” are a prime example of this.
Often, these reality TV stars are the truest window into what modern women have become. Average women turned superstars have become one of the hallmarks of today’s entertainment industry. Ideally, the message is that every woman can be as beautiful as she wants to be.
Some Basic Facts About the Media’s Influence in Our Lives:
- According to a recent survey of adolescent girls, the media is their main source of information about women’s health issues (Commonwealth Fund, 1997).
- Researchers estimate that 60% of Caucasian middle school girls read at least one fashion magazine regularly (Levine, 1997).
- Another study of mass media magazines discovered that women’s magazines had 10.5 times more advertisements and articles promoting weight loss than men’s magazines did (as cited in Guillen & Barr, 1994).
- A study of one teen adolescent magazine over the course of 20 years found that in articles about fitness or exercise plans, 74% cited “to become more attractive” as a reason to start exercising and 51% noted the need to lose weight or burn calories (Guillen & Barr, 1994).
- The average young adolescent watches 3-4 hours of TV per day (Levine, 1997).
- A study of 4,294 network television commercials revealed that 1 out of every 3.8 commercials send some sort of “attractiveness message,” telling viewers what is or is not attractive (as cited in Myers et al., 1992). These researchers estimate that the average adolescent sees over 5,260 “attractiveness messages” per year.