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Steve Kravit Jacqueline Hill Comm 491 April 30, 2007-Final Project Shaping Society with a Lack of Shape

: Media Representation and Body Image We are each exposed to over 2000 ads a day, constituting perhaps one of the most indirectly powerful educational forces in society relating to our self body image. It can be seen that advertisements ultimately sell a great deal more than products; they sell values, images, and concepts of success and worth, love and sexuality, popularity and normalcy. They in a sense tell us who we are and who we should strive to be. Men and women, teens, boys and girls—all segments of society tie identity to the way people look, to body size and shape, to clothes and even one’s hairstyle. Therefore, the way we view our body and image can have a tremendous impact on the way we feel about ourselves. For most people, especially adolescents, body image is strongly influenced by mass media and advertising. When looking into advertising within media representation and self body image one can see how powerful of a tool advertising can be in our current societal demands of life. Advertisers often emphasize body image and the importance of physical attractiveness in an attempt to sell products. They hope to persuade society that something needs to be “added” or “fixed,” because what we have is not enough to meet our demands and satisfy us. Advertising firms also are constantly trying to convey to their consumers that by buying and using their product, one will be more attractive, have better social skills, have more friends, and even be happier (Jhally 79). Many advertisements use images and representations of men and women as central components

of their strategy to get attention and persuade their audience to buy their product. Commercial messages rely heavily on gender display and not the way men and women actually behave but instead the ways in which we think men and women behave (Jhally 80). Adolescents are particularly vulnerable because they are new and inexperienced consumers and are the prime targets of many advertisements. They are in the process of learning their values and roles and developing their self-concepts. Most teenagers are sensitive to peer pressure and find it difficult to resist or even question the dominant cultural messages reinforced by the media. This constant exposure to these problematic advertisements may influence individuals to become self-conscious about their bodies and to obsess over their physical appearance as a measure of their worth. Specific Examples-The media continues to set unrealistic standards for what body size and appearance is considered “normal.” Collarbones, hipbones, cheekbones and rib cages are the hottest silhouettes in Hollywood. Celebrities such as Paris Hilton, MaryKate Olsen, Nicole Riche and Lindsey Lohan can be seen in designer outfits, with designer handbags and gorgeous men on their arms. These girls are making millions of dollars and are the model of success to girls everywhere: young, gorgeous, rich and famous. Most young women look up to and admire these celebrities. Girls are taught at a young age that Barbie is how a woman is supposed to look – tall, blonde, big breasts, extremely thin – when in reality Barbie is so exceptionally thin that her weight and body proportions are not only unattainable, but also unhealthy.

An image that helps to portray this problematic issue of media representation within society is a print advertisement for Chanel from the March 2007 “Elle” magazine. This particular advertisement portrays most of the features that are associated with an ideal model in society and how woman strive to be. The woman is extremely thin- toned stomach, long legs, fashionably dressed, and appears to have a seductive look on her face. This model has a very balanced, symmetric face, with big brown eyes, high cheek bones, a small nose, a small chin, small hips, soft, glowing skin, long straight hair, no wrinkles, and no acne. She is dressed in a black and white rich looking, sophisticated jacket with it unbuttoned and her flat stomach exposed, with her long legs being accentuated by her shorts. She is wearing tall platformed shoes and carrying a stylish black purse. The sexual look on her face makes her seem very intimidating and standoffish to viewers of this ad. This Chanel advertisement is a true indication of a problematic example of what society views as the “ideal body.” Beautiful features, a symmetrical face, and a proportional skinny body makes this model become an icon of what our culture truly values and how it can be detrimental to the role of body image. While many people know that this type of body is mostly unachievable, people will still compare themselves to these models, still develop eating disorders, emotional trauma, low self-worth and strong dissatisfaction with their body. Mainstream media representations also play a role in reinforcing ideas about what it means to be a "real" man in our society. In most media portrayals, male characters are rewarded for self-control and the control of others, aggression and violence, financial independence, and physical desirability. Another example of an advertisement that can

be portrayed as problematic to society is one from the GQ issue March 2007, advertising the men’s clothing wear line, Hugo Boss. A male is positioned in a slant, gazing at something or someone with his legs spread and arms leaned up against a bed. He is nicely dressed with his shirt unbuttoned almost all the way down, showing off his muscular physique, his fully shaven chest, tan skin, finely gelled hair, and groomed nails. Advertising images have been recently accused of setting unrealistic ideals for males, and men and boys are beginning to risk their health to achieve the well-built media standard. Although distorted body image has widely been known to affect women and girls, there is growing awareness regarding the pressure men and boys are under to appear muscular. Many males are becoming insecure about their physical appearance as advertising and other media images raise the standard and idealize well-built men. In addition to the problematic advertisements seen in magazines, there are also billboards with just as many self image representations. The popular television show, Friends, once ran a short-lived ad campaign, which showed the three female stars on a billboard cuddling and smiling next to the slogan, “Cute Anorexic Chicks.” This advertisement raised many eyebrows in the community and nationally when the EDAP (Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention) became involved. The message glamorized anorexia and insulted thousands of women everywhere. The caption was originally derived as a joke regarding the accusations towards the three women of having eating disorders and unhealthy exercise habits, which all of them denied. Although the billboard was removed quickly, it illustrated one extreme of a spectrum of ads promoting harmful body ideals.

Dove ad- Along with the problematic issues that advertising has concerning body image, certain implementations have began to jumpstart this progression of positive media representation. A very controversial campaign, ”Campaign For Real Beauty” released by the Dove brand in 2004 attempted to convey a new message type of media representation and body image campaign. The advertisement is composed of six women all with perfect skin, hair, and teeth; the only thing not perfect is their weight. It is assumed that these models within the ad are not “real” models. The women within the Dove ad are made out to be real women instead of pencil-thin models in an effort to widen the stereotype of beauty and boost sales in the process. Some critics question how the ads might affect women who still do not fit in with the portrayal of beauty in the Dove ads. Although un-airbrushed, the range of models in the series are still smaller than the average American woman at size 14. These people can be paid far less, but they can also break the “sameness” of advertising. Other advertisers have also been departing from the idealistic body type. In the latest version of its "Just Do It" campaign, for instance, Nike, the Beaverton, Ore., maker of sporting goods and apparel, features muscular, disembodied thighs and butts, labeled "Thunder Thighs" and "Big Butt." These controversial advertisements are very prevalent to understanding media representation and body image and the direction that society, specifically adolescents will be heading. It should be a big priority for us as American’s and

individuals to take action with the media and society, such as the Dove campaign, to try and change the trend and get women to love being who they are, no matter what their size, and love the uniqueness of their own body.

Solution- And while I do blame society for accepting this from the media, I think the media is to blame media for a rather large chunk of this problem obviously. I believe that it is going to take the media to do something different as a constructive turnabout of marketing choices and ideas on body image and self esteem. Everyday, we are
bombarded with images of perfect women and men. They are in our favorite television shows, movies, magazines and music. The women are tall, thin and beautiful. The men are muscular, tanned and seductive. Where does that leave everyone else? People who do not fall within this media produced norm are left without models to look up to. Instead, they try in vain to alter their bodies to what they have been told is beautiful. Adolescent girls and boys are constantly striving to acquire an unattainable physique. Across the nation, millions of teens struggle with eating disorders and borderline conditions; 4 out of 5 American women are dissatisfied with their appearance and almost half of American elementary school students between the first and third grades want to be thinner (EDAP). These individuals are plagued with a depression that stems from the media's concept of a ‘perfect body.'