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The Distorted Media Mirror

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The Distorted Media Mirror

Look through any magazine in the front of a store, any billboard on the street or any commercial on TV and the image remains the same. It's the unrealistic, un-average people making the ideals of perfection unreachable for 95% of society (Berg 32). Throughout time, women have physically tried to alter their bodies looking for perfection. The saying "it hurts to beautiful" is the reality media encourages in our culture.

Body image has been an issue throughout history. Since the foot bindings of the 10th century China, the tight corsets of the 19th century, the cinched waists of the 20's to the broad shoulders and slender bodies of the 60's. Women have been forced to become unnatural beauties. Each era has its own price for beauty. Are woman of the 21st century ready to give up their lives, happiness, health and success for beauty? Or, has our culture become so absorbed in media ideals, that if we aren't top model, our lives aren't even worth living?

Body image is the concept that includes the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes related to one's own body. Body image and eating disturbances occur when those perceptions and attitudes become distorted or agitated and include eating-disordered behaviors.

For example, disturbed body image feelings include being dissatisfied with one's body, disturbed body image perceptions include overestimating one's body size, disturbed body image thoughts include chronic thoughts about weight loss and weight gain, and disturbed body image and eating actions include exercising excessively, binging and purging, and fasting to lose weight (Botta).

This negative body perception begins at a young age. Through the media, we are fed facts about how we need to live by the standards in our society or we will face a life of depression, failure and overall an unhealthy life.

Starting at childhood, the media's message makes its way into our impressionable minds. In the United States, every child between the ages of 2-10 has read or heard on average 5-6 fairy tales (Grauerholz). Fairy tales actually leave a damaging message. "Fairy tales, which are still read by millions of American children, say "it pays to be pretty" (Grauerholz). Stories like Cinderella punish the ugly. The Ugly stepsister's are constantly being shown in a negative light, and Cinderella, is rewarded because her beauty makes her special. This is a common theme in children's stories. Ugly is often sided with evil and bad. With this kind of message it's no wonder why girls grow up feeling the pressure to be beautiful. There are however a few movies that distort the traditional message. For Example, in the movie Shrek Princess Fiona is ashamed of being an ogre, but in the end she finds happiness when she is "ugly" instead of pretty. Girls, however, are more likely to choose a beautiful vain princess to be their role model than a happy less attractive one (Grauerholz). It all comes back to how children are raised. We learn to be afraid of an ugly man or woman because they are bad people. Mothers tell their children to stay away from that person because they could kidnap or take your money. According to the lessons from fairy tales, we are to be afraid of imperfection.

This fear of imperfection can affect our success as well. According to a study conducted by the Social Issues Research Centre, it was found that attractive children are more popular, both with classmates and teachers. Teachers give higher evaluations to the work of attractive children and have higher expectations of them, which has been shown to improve performance. With the higher expectations it forces the child to work harder, and by working harder, they are better set for school and college options. By going to better schools and colleges it gives the attractive people a step up in society. The same study also found that attractive applicants have a better chance of getting jobs, and of receiving higher salaries. People tend to be more comfortable with attractive people which allows them to have a larger error margin than the so called "ugly people." This is not how society should work. No one can evaluate what goes on in your mind by looking at the outside. Unfortunately, this is a habit of our culture that needs to change. Thanks to TV, billboards and magazines we see beautiful people more often then the average American sees their own family (Fox). This causes people to find comfort in the face of beauty.

Since the media is seen so often, it takes into question how much is focused on the ideals of perfection. On average, one in three articles in teen girl magazines include a focus on appearance, and more than 50 percent of the advertisements use an appeal to beauty to sell their products (McWhorter). Magazines are full of "helpful" hints on changing who you are to become a "new and better you." For the majority of women this ideal is impossible to attain and may lead to feelings of inadequacy (Malkin). Feelings of inadequacy are fed by cosmetic manufacturers and weight management programs. Their ad campaigns focus on convincing women that they can improve their physical flaws and imperfections by purchasing their products or taking part in their programs. This can cause women to spend excessive amounts of money to cover up their true beauty. This is ridiculous! Companies are exploiting girls for profit. It is not just magazines taking advantage of insecure girls, television is doing the same thing. According to the Media Awareness Network, adolescents spend almost 25% of their day watching television. The average woman sees 400 to 600 advertisements per day, and by the time she is 17 years old, she has received over 250,000 commercial messages through the media. About 60% of these ads have some sort of message about beauty. These messages are subliminal. Even ads for drinks will show beautiful people having a good time. They don't show alcoholics throwing up, people passing out or any of the



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