Effects of Media on Adolescent Females

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Savannah Glasgow
Mrs. Watts, per. 3
AP Lang and Comp
24 Jan 2013
The Effects of Media on Adolescent Females
She stands in front of her full length mirror sucking in her stomach and looking at her body from every angle. Taped to her mirror are cut outs from her favorite fashion magazines of impossibly thin models wearing clothes she can’t afford. She compares every part of her body to the women in the pictures, whom she idolizes, that exemplify a corrupt cultural definition of beauty. Her mother calls her in to the kitchen to eat dinner, and she ponders how she plans on finding another excuse to skip another meal and spend as little time with her family as possible. This girl is an example of one of the many girls feeling unnecessary pressure in their lives as an effect of the media. Adolescent women are more susceptible to being affected emotionally and physically by the media in direct and indirect ways that harm their self-worth and health.

To understand the effects of the media, it is necessary to understand the image of beauty that the media broadcasts. Simply stated, thin is in. Stick figure like women are displayed on the covers of magazines, in advertisements, and even fictional characters portrayed in movies are embodying the thin ideal. In the Dreamwork’s movie Shrek, the princess is portrayed as thin, with long hair, and fair skinned. She is ashamed of her natural self which is green, overweight, and more masculine. This sort of embarrassment directly teaches the youth, young girls especially, that they should be ashamed of their bodies if they do not fit in to this mold. As the years pass, the models are shrinking in size and elongating in height. The models of today have reached an incredible new level of thin because they fit the criteria for the eating disorder anorexia nervosa (Grabe, Hyde, and Ward 463). A study was conducted on the Playboy models of the past twenty years and it was found that their bust, waist, and hip measurements have decreased but their heights increased. The Playboy centerfolds are 13%-19% below the average body weight for women their age (Cusumano and Thompson 714). The definitions of “underweight” and “unhealthy” have morphed into our culture’s definitions of “sexy” and “beautiful,” and this sort of corruption is disastrous for those who believe in the validity of everything the media presents to its consumers.

As children grow up, their role models expand as they begin to become consumers of the media. They used to want to grow up to be like their parental figure, but the media deifies celebrities, athletes, and models, causing the children to idolize these adults instead of their parents. In a survey conducted in 1988, the results found that 66% of adolescents, aged 12-15, said that their role model was a glamorous adult and can be compared to the 8% of children this age who chose their parents. Television and magazines are an early glimpse of what really goes on the world, and due to the naiveté of children, they begin to believe that the distorted deities created by the media are an accurate representation of reality (Anderson et al. 109).

Due to their exposure to the media and their early idolization of women who embody the “ideal body type for women,” it is not surprising that teenage girls experience self-dissatisfaction. For the majority of women, it is nearly impossible to attain the body type portrayed by models. In one study, 5% of women with a normal weight distribution are even close to the media ideal. This leaves 95% of women who are at risk of harm to their self-worth because they are not like the pretty people (Anderson et al. 110). A later study was conducted and it was found that about 61% of all of teenage girls studied were unhappy with their height and 75% were unhappy with their weight after being exposed to an entertainment magazine for several minutes a day over a course of ten months (113). These statistics all demonstrate directly how the...
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