The Media's Influence on Adolescents' Body Image

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Adolescence is a time for learning and growth. This time can be easier to handle by some than others. For some it can be a revelation of new experiences and ideas, while adolescence can also be a difficult, stressful time for those trying to discover themselves. This can affect themselves as well as those around them. During this time, adolescents are likely to identify with those around them, their peers. Identifying with peers can help adolescents along by giving them the opportunity to see how others deal with problems similar to their own and by offering their own advice to those who need it. Along with this, adolescents are liable to worry about their body image, and may want to conform to those who have achieved the "desired" image. This image may be thin, muscular, or just average. Nevertheless, some adolescents will go too far to achieve this image, usually this is done by adolescent females who wish to become thin. This can be attributed to media's portrayal of women. The majority of women in ads, television and movies are thin and are seen as attractive because of this. Adolescent girls will see these women and may want their image as their own, and some will go to any lengths to acquire this. This in turn could lead to the idea that during this process of change and growing up, adolescents are often concerned about their physical image, which is influenced by the media.

Adolescents may want to change their body image for a number of reasons. During adolescence, they may feel unsatisfied with their bodies and want to change how they look just to fit in. "Fitting in" with their peers is an important part of adolescence. It gives young people a sense that they belong; the need for peer influence is a necessary part of growing up as peers can offer advice and insight to anything that may be troubling adolescents, including how they feel about their image. Also, adolescents look up to a number of people, namely celebrities, and try to adopt their style as their own in hopes of being able to fit in. Many celebrities are thin. There are those who need to have that small body frame, such as some athletes. Gymnasts would be an example of this because they need to keep their body this way in order to perform their gymnastic feats; a gymnast will never again be seen as just "average" since the 1972 Olympics, when crowds were awed by the daring moves performed by the tiny Olga Korbut. Since then, one requirement judges were looking for was the tiny build commonly found in adolescent girls (Cahn 341). Therefore, when the petite gymnasts are shown on television during gymnastics competitions, young people who wish to become gymnasts see the need to have a petite but muscular frame. The media widely popularizes the female figure as very thin. The majority of actresses throughout the history of media have been thin, as shown in a study by Silverstein, Perdue, Peterson, and Kelly of photographs and movies from the early twentieth century to the present (Botta) and sometimes an aspiring actress would not even have the chance at becoming famous if she did not have a lean build, since that "look" was desired. Many of today's personalities are thin, and with the newer shows and movies coming out, it is often rare to find an actress with an "average" built body. Because of this fact, many people will be influenced by shows whose characters are stereotypical of women; all are thin and viewed as beautiful. In the popular show Friends, the 3 female leads, Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, and Lisa Kudrow, all have thin builds. Also, the more popular movie actresses, such as Catherine Zeta Jones, Cameron Diaz, and Gwyneth Paltrow, are very thin. One might conclude that only those who are thin will become famous. This may appeal to adolescent girls because they may want to be thin if they see that this seems to be the norm in society. Adolescent girls need someone to look up to, and if they look up to...
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