Body Image In TV

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 Is it true that TV shows only hire skinny and attractive actors? Is being plus size looked down upon in the television world? Is television doing a good job of promoting love for your body? From an early start, television has always had some type of influence on people’s body image and to this day it is questionable whether that influence is positive or negative. Some media portray the fact that being skinny and attractive links to being happy, loved, and successful but what results in this is people suffering physically and mentally from trying to impress others and themselves with their body image. Body image in TV allows many people to assume that the solution to being ‘pretty’ or ‘look good’ is to just eat better and exercise. What television shows don’t know is that everyone is different and that they have different lifestyles that cannot morph into a beauty guru or celebrities’ lifestyle. Most research on body image in TV has focused on ways to eat healthier and exercise more to be ‘pretty’, but my project will show the positive mental and emotional health that can come from being comfortable and confident in your skin

The sculpture to the left portrays how early sizes and shapes of body types mattered to the public eye. During different time periods, there were several idealized female body shapes like this one pictured above which is ‘the ‘Venus of Willendorf’ figurine dates to about 25,000 BC and is considered a masterpiece of the Paleolithic era’ (Howard CNN). Since prehistory and till the 1900s, there were already representations of body shapes being portrayed to the public. Since television was not invented until 1927, ‘the earliest known representations of a woman’s body are the Venus figurines, small statues from 23,000 to 25,000 years ago in Europe’ (Howard). These figurines show curvy, pear-shaped bodies, and many with large breasts. The picture to the left named ‘The Crush’ portrays the ideal female body in 1900 which includes a small waist and large bottom. This is what symbolized attractiveness through to the 17th and 18th centuries. It was later questioned how to achieve this in reality, which was answered with the corset, a popular undergarment among women from the late renaissance into the 20th century. This helped woman accentuate their curves by squeezing their waists and supporting their chest making an hourglass figure. This was illustrated by a creation named The Gibson Girl which ‘was depicted as slender and tall, albeit with a voluptuous bust and wide hips’ (Rehabs). During the time, many fell to the feet of this torture device to achieve the ideal woman’s body. However, not everyone thinks that the corset was such a great idea since a woman would wear one for almost her whole life including during pregnancy. Researcher Rebecca Gibson studied skeletal changes from corseting by looking at remains dating to 1700-1900 AD and found ‘deformed ribs pushed into an S shape and vertebral spines misaligned’ (Killgrove). The lengths these women went to achieve these ‘ideal bodies’ were not healthy nor natural and when the TV is invented in 1927, it puts this practice on blast. The role of being aware is key to our understanding of women trying to reach unattainable goals.

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Coming from a history that has already placed great amounts of pressure on body images, now there are TV’s to play shows and movies that can influence body images even more. The one thing that has changed is that a lot of people’s lives are spent on television where there are actors specially picked out for a particular role. One huge and current controversy includes Victoria’s Secret and their fashion show put on every year to show off their new signature pieces of lingerie. The argument started when marketing chief Ed Rezak spoke in an interview and mentioned that ‘he did not think that transgender models had a place in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, and claimed that there was no interest in plus-size runway shows’ (Low). This puts such a huge argument in the air concerning body image and women’s’ self-esteem regarding how they look and what others would think of them.

This is as if they were looking down on anyone that did not look like the models to the right, it affected the audience in a couple of different ways. One way was indirectly promoting unhealthy eating disorders like starving themselves to look like one of the models which could have resulted from YouTube videos like ‘what a Victoria secret model eats in a day’, and the other is snapping back and creating chaos in the fashion and beauty world. This particular show draws in a huge audience and ‘seeing these idealized bodies can directly affect viewers’ self-esteem, especially when they are being unendingly thrown in our faces’ (Lubitz). The tweet depicted is from an article proving how these models influence our self-esteem and make plenty of women feel as if they are not enough which can be quite damaging. This certain topic and company is a wonderful way to depict how body image is seen in TV currently because by leaving out the variety of body types and showing off ‘more attractive and fit’ women may lower the self-confidence that every woman should have. A famous influencer and beautiful model Ashley Graham is considered ‘plus-size’ or not fitting into the ideal physic of a model but she took her body and she made a statement. She has gained millions of fans by standing up to companies like Victoria’s Secret and invested in herself and using her confidence to be a body-positive influencer. She is in many commercials that promote body positivity and a confident body image for everyone. Another celebrity that also is considered ‘plus-size’ but is beautiful inside and out is singer Lizzo. She is praised for her plus size body positivity and self-confidence where she gives partial credit to the internet and television for changing the narrative around the size and shining light to larger women like she is. With all the negative and ugly hate surrounding body image in TV, people like Ashley and Lizzo are some of the amazing people that love any body size and do not discriminate on what size pants someone wears.

My artefact is a collage of various beautiful women in this world today. No, it does not look like a Victoria’s Secret model campaign photo, but it does not matter because these women are confident, successful, and happy. My personal opinion on this topic is that there is so much hate and pressure put on women today that it drives them to do crazy things like depriving themselves of food, over-exercising, and the worst scenario is harming themselves. No girl nor woman should have to feel so bad for themselves to where they reach these lengths in efforts of reaching whatever goal. I do not think there is enough help nor body positivity out there in the world except for some of these women pictured that are helping the cause. Learning to overcome an eating disorder is a huge thing and I would know because I have overcome one myself and it is the hardest thing I have ever done. Being constantly surrounded by television and film really makes it hard for me to be confident and love myself but I have learned, and I want everyone else to as well. TV shows and movies make it so hard for people to love themselves and be confident in their skin because TV makes it out to where the ‘prettier and popular’ girl is favoured. It gets to people’s heads a lot and there is not much in TV to help people from thinking that.

This research and argument raises many questions for people and is relevant in today’s popular culture because everyone needs to be confident in their skin which can result in positive mental and physical health. Body image in today’s society is something that puts so much pressure on women that try to fit into the ‘ideal body type’ by reaching lengths that are unhealthy and unrealistic. If things change for the better, there will be less body shaming and an idea of a ‘perfect body’ and more of body positivity for everyone and inner confidence radiating through. If body image in TV stays the same where it is at right now, people are at risk of harming themselves and doing irreversible damage to their beautiful healthy bodies. There should be more done in efforts to try and promote body positivity so that everyone can be comfortable and confident in their skin. Hopefully, this will result in people becoming less critical of themselves and cutting themselves some slack so they can think and feel better about themselves. No longer beating themselves up for trying to reach an unrealistic look based on television. Body image in TV needs to stop being normalized to where there is no ‘ideal body’ type because everyone is not the same. 


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