Eating Disorders and the Media

Essay by kimmy420 January 2004

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Today's society is undeniably marked by cultural norms and ideals. The question is, however, does the mass media's depiction of this norm cause harmful behavior in its population? Researchers have shown that there is a bias in the way television targets children in advertising (Ogletree, S., Williams, S., Raffeld, P., Mason, B., Fricke, K., 1990) and that this media influence over people has always been observable (Miles, M., 1995). This targeting of audience members serves the purpose of singling out the most desirable consumer for the product to encourage their economic support. So if advertising is only concerned with selling product, why is it blamed for the low self-esteem and body image and thus the bulimia and anorexia seen in today's women?

The images projected by the media in commercials, products, wrote ads etc. give today's consumers an idea of what "normal" should look like (Sellers, M., Waligroski, K.,

1993). The people in the ads would all have the ideal body proportions, material possessions and social status in order to deserve the attention the ad places on them. Viewers see the ads and compare the body images they see to themselves, which is likely to reveal a discrepancy. Five years ago, the average female model weighed 23% less that the average woman of the time (Miles, M., 1995) and the difference is only growing.

Men to are affected by the media's portrayal of what ideal looks like. Jirousek explains the evolution of the ideal male figure from a slim and "romantic" shape to the "superhuman" image we see in television and the rest of media today (1996). With the beginning of televised football in the 1930's, the popularized image of males incorporated the larger than life appearance from shoulder pads and other "armor" to encompass movie heroes, comic...