The Influence of Media on Body Image, Thematic Analysis

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Social Psychology:
The influence of media on body image, thematic analysis

Word count: 2,100

The influence of Media on body image
A Thematical analysis


Media is a powerful communicative tool, which can be said, is very easy to influence in many different ways. Although some aspects of media are important to bring to our attention, some other aspects, however, create an incredible amount of negative impact one of these which is body image. In order to identify this issue a qualitative research by using five different magazine articles, which included the Heat, Now, Star & Reveal; major and minor themes relating to the media and body image were identified. Thematic analysis was used to analyses the data.


Interpretation of the media has been generally portrayed as a ‘medium of cultivation, conveyance, or expression; and is most readily linked to in associations of ‘mass communication’. Mass communication influences us constantly whether on a subconscious level or not. Some of the widely recognisable forms are through television, magazines, newspapers, books, radio, video games, CDs and tapes, as well as internet, billboards, posters, movies and videos (Grant 2000). The criterion for this particular study will primarily focus on aspects of ‘body image’ related through the power of the media.

There is a lot of opinion regarding body image in terms of its portrayal through the media. Much discussion has been spent on how body dissatisfaction has been a cause of media as well as other influencing social factors such as ethnicity, social class and family environment associated with its psychological effects. The role of the media has been commonly held by belief that body dissatisfaction is a response to representations of thin women included in magazines, newspapers, television, film as well as novels using images of thin women.

According to Sloan, (1995) “Body image can be defined as how we perceive our physical appearance, as well as how we think others perceive us” (Sloan, 1995, p2). Furthermore, Sloan (1995) maintains that, “people with a positive body image often feel comfortable and confident in their own bodies, people with negative body image usually feel uncomfortable and lack confidence about their body” (Sloan, 1995, p2).

Advertisements, which are body sized related have been portrayed through mediums in promoting food, clothes, neutral items, vacuum cleaners and wallpapers as well as various other types of industries, have always predominantly been ‘thin women’. Normally within the media context, no matter who they are, whether passers by or characters in story, even if there was a representation of ‘the real world’, they were always ‘thin’. It is led to believe because of the media that ‘being thin’ is the actual ‘norm’ as well as the ‘desired norm’. When ‘fat’ women appear, she’s usually a funny character or comedian, making jokes about eating chocolates, cake etc. and making ‘fat’ statements, either evil or unhappy, but hardly ever simply as normal women. The effect of representations through the media on society is indicative for some of the possible causes of image dissatisfaction.

Ogden and Mundray (1996) have implied that this is the actual case and supports the argument. They asked men and women to rate body dissatisfaction before and after studying pictures of either ‘fat’ or ‘thin’ men or women (pictures depending on gender were matched with participants). The results of the study showed that all participants regardless of sex felt more body satisfaction after studying ‘fatter’ bodies and more dissatisfaction after studying thin pictures.The response was greater in women than men, with similar results found with those suffering with anorexia, bulimics, and pregnant women (Waller et al 1992; Hamilton and Waller 1993; summer et al. 1993). If such body changes can occur in this type of measures and conditions, it is possible to predict that long-term...
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