If you ask any female “are you contented with what you see in the mirror?”, the answer is most likely to be that of a negative one. As females, I think it is relatively safe to say that we are always unhappy with how we look one way or another. With complaints that our hips are too wide, thighs being too thick, arms being too flabby and our stomaches hanging out of our shorts, why is it that so many of us are never contented and comfortable in our own skin?
I personally believe that we feel inadequate because of what beauty is being portrayed by the media using mass communication. Mass communication is defined as a form of communication through which institutional sources address relatively large, heterogenous and anonymous audiences physically separated from one another. Although media messages are large, heterogenous and anonymous, in other words, media messages cannot be individualized, women still tend to fall prey to wanting to conform to the media’s norms of looking thin. The problem is, almost every form of mass media communication portrays beauty as being thin. Moreover, media messages are non-exclusive and temporal. Meaning that the messages that are being transmitted are public and that they are often timed to reach most audience members simultaneously. For example, the local news airs on channel 5 and channel 8 at 9pm and 10pm respectively. This is due to the fact that majority of their viewers would be either done with dinner and kicking back on their couches to enjoy some television or would be off work by that time. Therefore, being timed in such a manner allows maximum viewership.
Based on the powerful effects theory, all of us are aware that the mass media is influential. With the audiences being passive, it is easier for women to be “brainwashed” to want to become skinny, just like what they watch on television or movies or what they see in magazines. In accordance to the agenda setting function, it has been established that the media able to influence you to believe what they would like you to believe, even if it may not be true in reality. Several women fall victim to consuming diet pills which are currently flouring in their sales, seeing how many different brands there are available in the market just so that they can drop a few dress sizes to look like Jessica Alba or Heidi Klum. It is evident that these consumers know that diet pills alone are not going to transform them into Hollywood superstars, yet, they still purchase them in hope of looking the slightest bit like their idols. This therefore shows how successfully mass media has influenced the mindsets of their viewers. Thus making the media extremely influential.
With that said, it is also stated in cultivation theory that the media does not influence its audience’s attitudes directly but instead, cultivate indirectly with it’s influence being gradual and cumulative. As we expose ourselves more to the media, we risk being enslaved into whatever messages are being portrayed and in this case, being thin.
Although we are able to resist media messages if we wanted to, I think it is safe to say that many of us have fallen prey to being influenced heavily by media messages and I for one, am not exception.