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Body image and the media

Poster children for fashion or poster children for eating disorders? You decide...

Submitted 8/4/2006 By JessA Views 29899 Comments 9 Updated 8/17/2006

Photographer : Rafael

Society is body and celebrity-obsessed. Weekly magazines like NW, Famous and Who claim to chastise people for being too skinny. However, inside the magazine they write about how Courtney Love, or someone else, has gained ten kilos and is in a traumatic ‘fat hell’. It’s quite ironic that often this ‘fat hell and torment’ brings their weight into a healthy range! Ten kilos (plus?) would do Nicole Richie and Mary-Kate Olsen some good!

I believe that looking at and knowing about celebrities has become an accepted part of our lives. The idea of celebrity is something that the ‘normal’, everyday Australian can invest in. Society puts celebrities on a pedestal and waits for the moment that these people slip from the character they want to project to the public into their real selves. This slip of character, or revelation of the true personality, is the moment viewers wait for—to see the supposed ‘real’ person’s true self shine through. People are only interested in scandal and get pleasure out of celebrity fat hells. This makes them like us—human beings.

I question why people like Nicole Richie and all the ‘style stars’, who are less than a US size 0, are seen as poster children for fashion when it would be more appropriate for them to be poster children for anorexia or bulimia. Why is it that once someone is seen on television, in a magazine or newspaper, they are suddenly seen as someone we should invest in? And if the person is desirable, we should want to become like them?

To many people, celebrities embody the material aspects of life. We ‘should’ covet fame, wealth, good looks but the media sets unrealistic measures and they are unhealthy ones. According to a 2002 article in Health magazine, 32% of female TV network characters are underweight, while only 5% of females in the US audience are underweight. This contrasts to the fact that only 3% of female TV network characters are obese, while 25% of US female viewers are overweight. I know this is an American stat, but hey let’s face it, the celebrities that make the front cover of weekly mags and visit us every night in our homes are American! I’m not saying that society should tip the other way and promote obesity because that isn’t healthy either. But we need greater promotion of healthy weight and lifestyle.

Right now, society sees skinniness as equal to happiness, which is not only deluded but unhealthy. According to reports, Nicole Richie has “gone from a chubby little cutie, to an impoverished looking pipe head… at 24 years old, she's reported shopping in the children's department just to find clothing to fit her. A size 0 is said to hang off of her” (Exposay:2006). It doesn’t take a genius to see that this is not the path to take, as eating disorders can result in death.

Body image is affecting society. The portrayed desired figure has changed from hourglass to non-existent. What will it be like in ten years time? Hopefully if we act now ‘healthy’ will translate into ‘hot’.

How do I know this?

Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders Inc (ANRED), What causes eating disorders,

Exposay 2006,Nicole wasting away, 2 February,

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Discuss Now

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Jinnan 20-Aug-2006

Thanks for writing the article Jess. The "media" isn't really to blame since it is just a channel of communication, but I believe it is the companies that sell lifestyle and image products who are responsible and should be held accountable for proliferating these harmful body image values.

I have studied creative advertising and the sad truth is that advertisers deliberately create these role models for consumers to feel inadequate about themselves, furthermore, they purposely create these unrealistic body images to be unachievable, so that consumers will always be driven to consume more and more.

Take it back one step further and it is the manufacturers of lifestyle products who are responsible for approving and funding these campaigns. Why are trashy magazines and mainstream TV programs also proliferating this negative image? Because they are funded by the same advertisers. To identify these companies and brands you only need to flick through a magazine and look at the ads.

Hannah is right that we shouldn't blame the media. It's easy to identify the real culprits and also easy for us to take action by boycotting these magazines, shows and products!



Gracey 17-Aug-2006

jess your work! such an awesome piece of work
xx u really know how to get the reader to keep reading on! keep up the good work



@nna 14-Aug-2006

Jess, awesome article! I agree with you on so many points!
You should check out our FREE online magazine for young women that is put together by volunteers - FRANK magazine. FRANK is ad-free, diet-free, celebrity-free, stupid-free! The only women we put up on pedestals are everyday amazing chicks doing great things for themselves and their communities. Plus FRANK is an intelligent, fun, healthy magazine to read with heaps of interesting reads about travel, books, profiles, opportunities, real issues and much more... check it out at



pointe 13-Aug-2006

Wow! What an awesome read! Thank you :D Fit rather than thin...that's the way it SHOULD be.



Rach 07-Aug-2006

That was an awesome article - so spot on. Good work you did a great job!