For centuries men and women from all levels of society have been concerned with how they look and how they are seen by others. Throughout history, young people have gone to extreme measures to look their best, using makeup that is filled with poison, wearing clothes that restricts movement and breathing, and going on diets that could be hazardous to their health. Some were happy to take the risks, all in the name of fashion and to keep up with the ever moving times.
Not much has changed throughout history, we are still being told how to look and what to wear, what fashions and what fads e should follow and what risks we should take to look our best. More people have access to mass media than ever, people are watching television more and more, reading magazines regularly and using the internet daily, so no matter where you look now, you will be subjected to some kind of advertising. What a lot Of these ads have in common are actors and models that have “perfect ideal bodies” that are portraying perfect lives.
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This bombardment of mixed message has left many young people confused and anxious about how they look and how they feel and in some cases is leading people down a path f unhealthy obsession. In the media today, brands are using advertising differently for men and women, using models with hard to achieve ideal body standards, when advertising to men, brands will tend to use the model to prop up their product, with no fear of objectifying the person and when advertising to women they tend pray on women’s fears and insecurities (Henderson-King, 1997).
When reading a fashion or health magazine men and women will be viewing a large number of pictures containing models with the “perfect’ body type. This could to lead to low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, eating crosiers such as; anorexia, bulimia, over use of stimulants, over exercising and an unhealthy obsession with mirror watching and weight monitoring. In recent years there has been a huge growth in the health and fitness industry, now with easy access to 24 hour gyms and personal training.
There are a wide range of supplements to boost performance, as well as programs and companies offering healthy alternatives to living with a range of diet and exercise regimes. Everywhere you look, companies are advertising a healthier lifestyle. In our modern world, surrounded by sugar and saturated fat, fast DOD, snacks and easy to cook meals, it’s no wonder we are aiming for better health, however many of these companies who are in the field of better healthier lifestyles are appealing to our vulnerability.
It is this vulnerability that has led many young down the path of body dissatisfaction. According to Bell and Dimmitt (201 1) the beauty ideals contained within the mass media not only possess an unrealistic body, but due to airbrushing, lighting and make-up techniques they are all unrealistically beautiful. Young people are trying to achieve an unreal body standard of a thin, yet toned body for women and a lean, V-shaped body for en. (Brewer & Shirts, 2013) Many men and male adolescents feel pressure to conform to an ideal body image, particularly through exercise and fitness. Arbor & Gins, 2006) The portrayal of young fit models in advertising and on television has made its impact and left men and women aged between 15 and 25 with an unhealthy obsession with being fit and healthy. Many of these affected individuals can be suffering from a wide range of undiagnosed conditions. In the past it has been thought that women were predominantly affected by body image but in a recent study it shows that men are becoming ever more increasingly affected also. According to Burble and Shirts (2013) millions of men experience some sort of body dissatisfaction and approximately 10% 15% of eating disorders are assigned to men.
Studies that have exposed men to the muscular media ideal have shown profound negative influences on young men’s body images. In one of the only studies to examine the effects of television commercials endorsing the muscular media ideal on young men’s body image, men who watched a series of commercial advertisements featuring muscular models reported greater muscularity dissatisfaction and oppression immediately following the viewing. The modern ideal body image for men focuses on being muscular, toned, lean, physically fit, masculine, young, powerful, self-confident and sexually desirable. Arbor & Gins, 2006) A high number of young men and women are unhappy with their bodies, suffering from body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, depression and possible undiagnosed eating disorders. (Glarier, 2009) It’s possible that in order to achieve a healthy body some people may be over stimulating, with excessive exercise and frequent dieting. This can potentially lead to obsessive behavior. Increased muscle building has been associated amongst men to achieve the perfect body the standard being muscular, well-toned and masculine, while dieting and weight loss has been associated with women. Ouagadougou & Gradations 2014) Some of these obsessions with body image have resulted in steroid use and muscle dysphasia with men and possible eating disorders with women. Men and women alike are spending more time watching TV and reading magazines and this is having a negative effect on the way young people see themselves. It is becoming more apparent that advertising and casting agencies are using models that have perfect bodies, with flawless skin and picture perfect hair. Most of these models are seen in ideal situations living out fantasy lives.
Those are the ideals that many people today are striving for. However according to Glarier & Rhodes (2009), constantly viewing thin bodies may alter women’s perceptions of what normal ideal bodies look like. Individuals today have a warped perception of what the ideal person is supposed to look like, and possess the ability to have their views and opinions skewed by unrealistic beauty standards portrayed in the media. All this emphasis on beauty and perfection is making women feel worse about their appearance than even before.
One of the biggest growing industries in this country is gyms and fitness centers, offering cheap memberships, easy access and many are open 24 hours a day. According to the Ibis World Statistics (2014), there are over 3500 establishments in Australia today. These gyms are often filled with heavy weights and a range of classes. On the one hand they are offering a healthy alternative living, but on the other hand are often responsible for pushing people harder for longer, and work out more often causing many people to eave unrealistic standards and goals.
Excessive exercise can lead to a range of problems including injury and heart problems. But for the most part can lead to body image dissatisfaction. With unrealistic body ideals and ever encouraging trainers, some people might find themselves in a situation where they might never achieve their “perfect” body. It’s possible that some people who are excessively exercising may be addicted to the feeling of losing weight and putting on muscle, some individuals who may have already achieved their ideal body could be continually striving for more.
Apart from trying to sell the image of a perfect lifestyle with people with “perfect” bodies, advertising is also trying to sell all sorts of get fit quick regimes, ranging from pills and powders, fads and diets and do it yourself home fitness packages. It is one of the most ever occurring advertisements and is featured heavy in magazines, online and on television. We are being told that our bodies need supplements to perform better; we need them for a better immune system, for better health, and better living. We can buy any number of products that help with muscle enhancement and to control eight loss.
All these products are being endorsed by sports stars and supermodels who are preaching the message that healthier is better. These messages are extenuating the stereotype, and again are portraying people who are fit, healthy and beautiful. These messages of better live have left some of the young people today with poor health. Having unhealthy obsession with eating less, crash dieting, and excessive exercise, some of these people may even have low self-esteem, unreal body standards and in worst cases depression, anxiety and have devolved an eating disorder. Media ND Body Image, 2014) In conclusion, it is evident that mass media and advertising is praying on our vulnerability and our weaknesses. Most young people are aware Of their bodies and have an understanding of what a perfect body should look like, with a mixture of trying to fit in and trying to tackle their insecurities more often than not people are conforming to the ideology set forth by the media. But is the media depicting an unrealistic beauty standard with hard to achieve outcomes? Has it left us striving to have more muscle and to loss more weight no matter what the cost?
One thing is for certain and that is advertising and the media will continue to sell products aimed at getting us into gyms, buying more supplements and trying to put more people onto diets. For some people who have been susceptible to peer pressure and have conformed to the norm, they are most likely suffering from low self-esteem, and without seeking help and in some cases if their conditions are going undiagnosed they might be suffering from very damaging condition with irreversible consequences.