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Body, Self, and Society: Victims of the Media

By DavidFord83 Jan 29, 2008 867 Words
The role and power of the mass media has often been a topic of debate among those whom have been blessed or cursed by its influence. Whether or not it can be supported that the media has positive or negative influence on society and culture, it can be clearly asserted that it does have a power to persuade the masses in one direction or the other. If not, there would be no place for advertising. Those who are too innocently naïve of this matter should speak to a few of the young women in Fiji that have been impacted by the western world culture they were exposed to through American television.

A study performed in Fiji after the introduction of television to a province of Fiji's main island, Viti Levu showed not only an increase in eating disorders but also in depression among the Fijian young women exposed to this media." ‘I'm very heavy,' one Fijian adolescent lamented during an interview with researchers led by Dr. Anne E. Becker, director of research at the Harvard Eating Disorders Center of Harvard Medical School, who investigated shifts in body image and eating practices in Fiji over a three-year period." (Goode 1) What makes matters worse is the change this has created to the way that a common Fijian young woman formerly felt about her body. Fiji generally follows suit with many other South Pacific Island countries. They consider a healthy robust body to be beautiful. It is customary to have guests for dinner and insist that they eat as much as they can. Fijians generally place priority on the community rather than on self. However that part of Fijian culture is now at risk because of the individualistic attitude created by the western media exposure. This is not the first case it has been asserted that the influence of the media has played a significant role in the development of eating disorders among teens and young adults. There have been many studies performed in which the results are conclusive that the media creates an image and a set of expectations that many women, and even men, feel they have to live up to. A study examined the relationship between eating disordered behaviors and exposure to ideal-type media. This study claimed "Women obtained scores that indicated they were more ‘at risk' for anorexia nervosa than men, especially women with higher levels of media exposure. Heavy use of the media led participants to attempt a number of strategies to change their appearance to resemble those in the media…" (Carney) Another evidence of the tantalizing influence of the media is advertising. Advertising is how the entertainment industries are funded. For example millions of dollars are spent by companies for those few moments of airtime during the Superbowl. These are the moments when consumers are nearly entranced by the images flashing before them. People are compelled to want things they otherwise would not have likely considered. The ones who would argue against this point are likely those who get up in the middle of a movie confused by their sudden urge to get a Coke and popcorn. However, the ones whom we generically label as "the media" cannot be completely to blame. The responsibility must be more evenly distributed. A drug dealer who approaches an innocent and naïve child enticing them to try what he sells would be put before the firing squad if the parent were in charge of judgment of such a crime. But what should be done to a parent who stands idly by and allows their child such harmful exposure from the same criminal. This is not so dissimilar from what many parents are doing today. Many children instead of having meaningful interaction with other children or adults are instead placed in front of a television set. The youth of America, and Fiji for that matter, are having their cultural foundations created by what a broadcasting company is teaching them. They are being taught what is beautiful; more significant is the harm done as they are taught what is ugly. Body image is just the beginning of the ideals that are affected when a child's media consumption goes unchecked. This does not mean that children should be locked in a closet to insure that no outside influences are exposed to them. Instead, parents and local leaders should do what they can to preserve the morals, values, and social structures they try so hard to pass down through the upcoming generations. It is important to recognize the media does not only have a negative influence. If it were not for the media the famous broadcast proclaiming "One small step for man… one giant leap for mankind!" or Martin Luther King's "I have a dream…" speech would not have been so easily observed. The moments that have inspired this country to greatness have been shared through the same broadcasting companies that have influenced the negative deconstructing of morals and values. What makes a difference is when parents insist of filtering what their children are being taught by the big grey machine. The positive influences would then be supported and the negative will be

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