Mirror mirror on the Wall

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.


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14 Responses to Mirror mirror on the Wall

  1. Chloe says:

    Hi Elvina! (: I definitely agree with you, the mass media is indeed very influential. Magazines, film, and television, whether intentionally or not, reinforce being thin as the ideal image of women in our mind. This thin ideal of female celebrities is further perpetuated by the photoshopping of their images in advertisements and their endorsements of certain types of workouts, diets, and slimming pills. Celebrities have personal trainers, dieticians, and the like to help them look perfect, yet many undiscerning women across the globe still fall prey to advertising and yearn for the unrealistic.

    • Hi Chloe! I think what many women around the world fail to remember is that whatever they see on television or in magazines are photoshopped!! Whenever we see them, unless perhaps in tabloid magazines, they are always dressed with perfection with hair and make up all professionally done. What we do not see, however is how they look like when they wake up in the morning with bed head and no make up. I saw a photo of Kim Kardashian once and she had no make up on. She looked SO different! Guess we have to remember that everyone is human after all and no one rolls out of bed looking like a barbie doll

  2. pammyng says:

    I agree with you completely as i myself have fallen prey to the influences of media. For instance, advertisements have greatly shaped our perception on cosmetic products. Everywhere i go, posters and billboards of beautiful women with flawless skin are plastered everywhere, somehow suggesting that people who use such products will be as beautiful as the women depicted. I believe these form of advertising is unrealistic and misleading. I believe as hard as it is not to be engulf by the plethora of media messages, good or bad, we need to be more discerning. Let’s take a step back and think twice before purchasing or consuming certain media products.

  3. Jia says:

    The mass media certainly plays a part in instilling the idea of “thin is beautiful” and is proved successful in the past decades. However, the fashion world has recognized the harmful impacts they might have caused. Good examples would include setting a minimum standard of BMI for models, reinforcing the importance of inner beauty and promoting curves as beauty. Moreover, women these days are mentally trained to differentiate the right and wrong. Yet these aspects do not hold women strong.

    Peer pressure plays a larger role than the media at times. Women are in fact susceptible to comments and views of others.

  4. Foo Ye Wei says:

    Do your arguments apply for men? How come you don’t see men dying to have Lautner-esque physiques, being quite happy the way they are? In fact, plenty of women have expressed displeasure over a body that is overly cut or lean.

    Does your argument — that the influence of the media has noxious, pervasive effects — stand in the face of this comparison between the genders? Would it be a long shot to say that it is an inherent characteristic of the female gender to be susceptible to such influence?

  5. Derek Tan says:

    The media really influences how we view ourselves. Sometimes, i wish that they glamourise fat people and all the super models are fat. I m sure everyone will try to gain weight rather than lose weight !!

    • Yes I do too! Then no one would experience guilt when indulging in a plate of chicken rice anymore! Maybe we should move to India, where plump people are icons instead of skinny ones! But then again, the reason we think this way is because we’re so heavily influenced by American culture. Wasn’t it a trend to be fat years ago? Perhaps when Monroe was still alive?

  6. Sher says:

    I definitely concur with your point about the pervasive influence of the mass media on women’s body image issues. Perhaps it also has to do with the concept of “the male gaze” wherein women see the need to constantly impress and attract members of the opposite gender, not only as a result of vanity and self-esteem issues. Although on hindsight I guess it can be said that the idea of women as sexual objects has also be propagated through the media so I guess it’s all a rather intrinsic process! Anyway, an interesting and relatable article that I’m sure will resonate with many females out there!

  7. Howie says:

    Why are people spending their money on diet pills? If you are fat no one is going to date you. if your face is slathered with acne, you are not going to make friends. There is an overwhelming fear in women (and men) to looked upon as ugly and undesirable and I think the media is responsible for that. The media should be commended for recognising fear as the market of the 21st century. The media feed that fear and the ‘beauty corporations’ take that fear away in exchange for money. Genius. How is it that no one thought of that???

  8. June Tan says:

    Yes, I agree with you! The media has become
    very influential.

  9. David Guetta says:

    Not entirely true, i know of men who love their women BIG. As we all know how the song goes, “you used to hold meat” (Y)

    • VERY TRUE! Guess one man’s meat is another man’s poison and beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder in many cases around the world. But I have heard my guy friends say that they would rather their girlfriends have a little more meat, so that they wouldn’t feel as if they are hugging a skeleton

  10. Bernard Hoe says:

    i agree that mass media is v influential. it may or may not be a good thing. it serves as a reminder for fat ppl that its time to do something with that horrendous body of theirs. even with this reminder, we still see fat ppl ard. without this reminder, the world will be filled with girls with 40inch waist and that will not be a good sight. of course if taken to extreme, it wouldnt be good. for example, taking of diet pills etc which may be detrimental to their health. but if everyone were to see an advert, sit back and think bout it rationally, they can prob figure out whats good for them and whats not. and now with the easy access of the internet, they can also get reviews from people with real life encounters. blame the people. not the media.

  11. iris says:

    the most harmful thing about such advertising is that many target girls from a young age. many young girls nowadays are falling prey to such advertising and are becoming more self conscious about their appearance. from beauty advertisements, they think that being skinny is beautiful, so many resort to losing weight in order to achieve their desired results. all these lead to a rise in the number of children who are becoming anorexic and having other related health issues.

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