If you walk into any psychiatrist’s or psychologist’s office today, you would find many teenagers waiting to see one. The teenagers are there for many reasons: to cope with the death of someone, bullying, abuse, an eating disorder, etc. However, the most common reason, as of late, is to get help dealing with an eating disorder or substance abuse as a minor. When asked how they even got started with these things in the first place, the teenager will often place the blame on something else, such as something in the media. The most frequent answer they will give is because they saw their favorite character on a TV show doing it, and they want to be just like them. But can you really blame a TV show for “giving you an eating disorder,” or “making you drink when you’re not of the age?” Eating Disorders on Television Shows
Modern society tells us that “beautiful” is thin. In order to be popular and have many friends, you must be skinny with an almost skeletal body. The females and males on modern TV shows, with their perfect skin and “perfect” bodies, only reinforce this stereotype, and many teenagers will do anything to achieve the body of their favorite television character. They will go to any lengths, whether it involves starving themselves, binging and purging, or even taking laxatives. Unfortunately, many TV shows have characters that do these things on the show and thus jumpstart the teenagers into doing the same things in order to be thin. Blair Waldorf on Gossip Girl
Blair is a prime example of the thin, beautiful, popular girl. She is the leader of an elite clique on Gossip Girl, but she has a hidden secret—she binges and then purges to stay thin. With the exception of her mother and her on/off best friend Serena, (who is also extremely tall and thin but does not have an eating disorder) no one knows. Blair’s mother thinks that her daughter has overcome her issue, but in a Thanksgiving episode it is clear that she has not. However, this is the last episode in which they actually show what Blair does in order to stay thin. It is not a continuous thing in the plotline, but they have shown enough of it to give girls an idea of what to do in order to look like the beautiful, popular Blair Waldorf. Emma Nelson on Degrassi: The Next Generation
Emma is also an example of beautiful and thin, yet
troubled, teen on a popular show. After her friend asks Emma to help her lose weight, she puts them both on a strict diet, but after they pig out, Emma convinces her friend that they need to get rid of the food by vomiting. They continue to do this until her friend has reached her desired weight, but Emma keeps doing it, which eventually prompts her friends to confront her about her problem. She ends up having a starvation-induced panic attack and wakes up in the hospital. She gets help for her problems, which shows the people who watch the show that what she did was not healthy for her but that you CAN get help and that people care.
Miranda on Lizzie McGuire
Though Lizzie McGuire is no longer on the air, re-runs are still shown of old episodes. One episode, titled “Inner Beauty,” is about a character, Miranda, who stops eating after one of her friends comments on how much she is eating when they are having a snack one day. She decides she is “fat,” and stops eating, which results in her almost passing out in front of a friend’s mother. Her friends are worried about her, and when they confront her she tells them that she has been under a lot of stress and that she feels the only thing she can control is what she eats. Realizing that she went overboard, Miranda stops and begins to eat right again. Even though this show is older, it shows that eating disorders have been around and prevalent for many years. Underage Drinking in Television Shows
It is so common nowadays to see a teenager in the paper for underage drinking that most people...