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The media and the body image it portrays

Along with the media and the body image it portrays unhealthy obsession with food, diet, and appearance, there also seems to be an underlying belief in an "ideal" body weight and shape.

For those young people who believe that they fall short of this ideal as the vast majority dothe outcome is low self-esteembiased perceptions about how much food they should eat, and a tendency towards poor eating habits that can aggravate health problems. Adolescents diagnosed with serious eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia often report that their symptoms can be linked to the bullying they often receive from their age peers as well as the unrealistic media images presented as an ideal for them to follow.

When overweight people are shown at all, they are presented as comic relief and often ridiculed. The romantic heroes and heroines on the other hand, typically have bodies that are smaller and thinner than average.

This is especially true for female characters while males are allowed the option of "bulking up" with greater muscle development. Content analysis of female characters show a bias towards body weights well below the recommended size and weight for people in their age group.

As a result, adolescent females who are unable to conform to the ideal being put forward by movie and television find themselves taking extreme measures to be more like their role models. With thinness presented as the ideal body shape and a necessary prerequisite for health and happinessanyone falling short of this ideal is vulnerable to depressionpoor self-esteem, and general body dissatisfaction. The media and the body image it portrays effect of media content on ideas of physical beauty appears remarkably robust with women reporting greater feelings of inadequacy regardless of their real body weight.

Though the problem is most commonly seen in females, it is hardly limited to them. Though the impact of media exposure and body dissatisfaction appears strong in adult males and females, adolescent males and females appear just as vulnerable.

A recent study published in the Journal of Media Psychology examined the effect of media exposure on body image in early adolescents. Conducted by two Israeli researchers, the study focused on adolescents since they are especially vulnerable to media influence due to f the biological changes their bodies are undergoing during puberty.

As well, media influences play an important role in personality development, peer pressure, and the development of a sense of identity as adolescents make the transition to young adulthood. Brain development during puberty also means greater cognitive complexity and a need for developing individuality. The study also represented a test of the social comparison theory first proposed by Leon Festinger during the 1950s.

Media and Body Image

According to Festinger's theory, people rely on external models on which to form their self-perceptions. These models can come from people they know in real-life or through the popular media.

This can lead to downward or upward comparisons depending on whether the the model makes them feel superior or inferior by comparison. While men are hardly immune to the social modeling effect, it is probably not a coincidence that women are often held to a higher standard and face greater criticism for falling short. This can be even more apparent with adolescent females and the pressure they receive from their age peers. According to the tripartite model of social comparison theorythere are three basic motivations for self-comparison with others: When comparing themselves to a favourite movie, television, or video game character, adolescents tend to rely on all three motivations to meet the ideal being set for them.

  • How our ideas of celebrity have an impact on body image There is a huge emphasis on the culture of celebrity in the media;
  • Advertisers do care what their intended audience thinks of their ads;
  • While it may be effective, we cannot expect an immediate change;
  • Celebrity culture relies to a great extent on body image.

In the study, 391 middle-school students 182 males and 209 females with an average age of 13 years completed anonymous questionnaires in a group setting. Along with being asked the number of hours they spent watching television, surfing the Internet, and playing video games, they were also asked to choose a favourite same- sex character. According to the study results, 191 media characters were identified in the study, most being from teen-oriented shows with some adult characters thrown in eg.

In terms of character body shape, the bias was definitely towards thin characters. When rated for physical attractiveness, there was a strong negative correlation between perceived attractiveness and body shape with bigger characters considered less attractive.

As expected, females showed greater dissatisfaction with actual body weight and body image appears related to likelihood of dieting behaviour in the previous year. By combining the different variables in the study, the researchers developed a prediction model that demonstrated the link between social comparison and body image. While the study results were consistent with previous research showing the impact of media exposure on body dissatisfaction, the study focused on favourite television characters and how they can affect the way adolescents view their bodies.

Along with conveying the message the media and the body image it portrays being thin was important, the characters reinforced that message by being likeable and easy to identify with by their adolescent fans.

According to the study authors, the appeal of these characters can work in one of two ways: Media research has shown that adolescents often depend on television characters to "find their way" in the world and to set a standard for them to follow. The stronger the perceived relationshp with the favourite character, the greater the motivation to be as much like them as possible, including in terms of body shape.

Although the authors noted that basing their research on self-report limits their findings, the results indicate that the standard of beauty widely presented on television, movies, and video games is having a powerful effect on adolescents.

  • Contacting advertisers about the media and body image issues remains a long-term strategy, though;
  • The Body Image Advertising Portrays Although advertising aims to convince us to buy things, ads seldom portray people that look like us.

This effect reinforces the low self-esteem that can lead to risky behaviour such as excessive dieting. By focusing on early adolescents, who are often vulnerable because their personalities and self-image are still forming, the research helps demonstrate the power of media on how young people view themselves.

Recognizing the risk associated with presenting adolescents with an unrealistic standard for beauty can help combat the currrent obsession with physical thinness. Popular media figures appear to play a strong role in promoting unhealthy eating habits that can endanger the health of young people. Though there are no simple solutions, parents and educators need to be aware of the social comparion process and encourage more appropriate lifestyle choices to prevent health problems.

  • Young girls, teenagers, and even young adults should educate themselves about having a healthy body, and learn how to accept themselves for the beautiful person they are inside;
  • The pressure is on to achieve the impossible, i;
  • Teen People Magazine conducted a recent survey;
  • Recognizing the risk associated with presenting adolescents with an unrealistic standard for beauty can help combat the currrent obsession with physical thinness.