Honors English 10-2
16 March 2012
An Evaluation of the Effects of Modeling and Advertising Standards upon the Average American
As the obesity percentage and the amount of overweight Americans has been skyrocketing among the United States population, models in the fashion and advertising world have been growing thinner and thinner in size (“Thin Fashion Models”). “People who are already large are getting larger and on the other side is the shrinking ideal” (“Models”). The beauty standard in modern American culture is an idea that the majority of adolescent Americans are buying into, and the image is that of severe thinness (Frissell 37-38). “Supporters also challenge the assertion, by opponents of weight regulations, that thin models are an inseparable part of fashion” (“Thin Fashion Models”). Thus the question arises: in what ways and to what extent do accepted contemporary modeling and advertising standards differ from the reality of the average American body type today and why? Adults of healthy weight have become a marginal part of the population; obesity among children and adolescents is at its peak, and approximately one third of adults are obese (Wexler 1). “Although awareness of the obesity problem is on the increase, the number of overweight and obese Americans continues to rise” (“Update: Obesity”). Thirty-four percent of adults were measured to be overweight in 2008, and thirty one percent are classified in the obese category (“Obesity”). “An analysis of data from the Behavioral Risk Factor surveillance system reveals that the obesity epidemic affects men and women of all ages, races, ethnic origins, smoking status, and educational attainment” (Wexler 1). Data shows that citizens of the United States have earned the title as the most overweight people in the world (Gay 7-8). A large fraction of researchers hold the two American exports of cheap fast food and high technology responsible for the obesity problem in America (Nakaya 24). “Experts say that the United States will likely battle the obesity problem for years to come” (“Update: Obesity”). Psychologist Wayne Anderson says it like this: “As a nation we have become almost schizophrenic in our treatment of food” (Landau 46-47). With an abundance of choices, cheap prices, and advertisements that praise food, Americans have a hard time saying no to overeating and excess food (47). “The tremendous pressure for women to remain slender in a culture where eating is practically a national pastime has often been cited as a factor in the rampant increase of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia” (47). The majority of Americans agree that a major part of advertising is played by the food industries and their persuasive messages (Moerdyk 54-55). The supreme body image for models grew remarkably reedy and lanky throughout the late twentieth century (“Thin Fashion Models”). Doctors and health specialists have taken note that within the past few years, Americans, as well as people living in other countries, have been growing more overweight overall (“Models”). “Over the last couple of decades, however, fashion models have been moving in the opposite direction” (“Models”). The standard of tall, lanky, and skinny female models walking the runways and posing for the camera has become very popular (“Models”).
Due to the strict physical characteristics that a model must possess, a very small fraction of people can get the job (Franks 9). “Models must be tall, have a thin body, and have an interesting face” (Franks 9). Five feet nine inches is the minimum height for female models (9). “Models must fit these requirements because the clothes used in fashion shows come in certain sizes, so only the people who will fit into the clothes can model them” (9). As Doctor Miriam Kaufman says it: “People want to be pencil thin. Models are supposed to be able to put their legs together and still have space between their knees”...