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The Media's Helping Hand In What It Takes To Be Beautiful
By Danielle Johnson, Grade 12, Seycove Secondary, North Vancouver, BC

The modern-day power of the media has created newfound controversies over the elongated subject of body image. The subject of body image has become the root of constant discussion and has been dissected and picked apart time and time again. Society's obsession with appearance has created everything from industry, such as the growing popularity of plastic surgery and diet pills, to sicknesses, such as insecurity-based depression, anorexia, bulimia, and conversely, narcissism. With all the negativity around body image issues, people are looking for someone to blame, naturally, society seeks out an easy target, the most successful, powerful organization of our time, the media. The media has been said to have "written the definition of beauty," and has been deemed, if not the most, one of the top most influential aspects of present life. The media's reputation of corruption and immorality has taken an increase ever since the popularity of necessity to be ‘slender' and ‘flawless' has become integrated within our society, thus causing constant uproar and discussion on the unattainable body images oneself is expected to achieve in today's society.

"Cosmopolitan", "Elle", "Vogue" are all media-produced, fashion-oriented magazines promoting high-end trends. Though such fashion articles these magazines provide are created in order to attract readers (mainly young women ages 16-25), within the past few years they have only brought the magazines negative publicity with the growing popularity of utilizing models with unrealistic body types to display featured fashions. Magazines such as these are constantly receiving letters from disgruntled readers, speaking out against the minority body types portrayed in the articles, and the negative impacts on self-esteem that it has on not just the one specific reader, but millions of other young men and women that are subjected to these media images everyday of their lives. The insecurities produced by today's "definition of beauty" have become the theme of mass discontent for the media, and the expectations it creates placed upon young men and women to look like the flawless models displayed on the grocery store's magazine racks.

Body image has become universally controversial and is recently being widely discussed from everyone like ironic media millionaires objectors, such as "Oprah" and "Dr. Phil", to the general public who are subjected to the media's interpretation of beauty daily, such as the distort readers that write into the Cosmo-like magazines. However, with all the discussion of the pressures that society has placed on its younger generations appearance-wise, it has yet to change the definition of beauty that our society is so rapidly leaning towards, so the question arises: Is all the discussion about today's body perception and the false image we are expected to achieve really effective? Are the concepts of perfection something we should all come to accept? And is the media the true source of beauty's evil persona? Has beauty created a conformed society in which false appearances have become integrated? If so, why is this so damaging? Why is discussion focused so excessively around it?

The answers to these questions are ones that I have debated repeatedly with my peers, and in my own mind. I have come to the conclusion that any opinion on the subject: society's unrealistic view of beauty and the media's influence on body perception, is plausible, since everyone feels the pressures of society differently, nonetheless, I feel there is a reality we are not acknowledging. The individuals debating the pressures of the flawless appearance, the ones promoting the importance of "inner self" and "self-acceptance" have created awareness of the controversy, yes, but have failed to change society's perception of beauty. The models used in fashion magazines still depict unrealistic body types, and women are still pressured to look thin, big-breasted and tanned, men are still expected to look like a muscular pin-up, these stereotypical body types are never going to diminish. Society's opinion of beauty is only going to become more and more defined as the popularity of plastic surgery, diet pills, tanning beds, fake eye-colour contacts, fake hair and fake nails increases. The continual blaming of the media, the complaining about the body images that are being pushed upon us, will not result in the suppression of these appearances in society - perfection will always be a universal goal. This equivalent complaining has even reached the pop-star world, as now mainstream songs debating the issue have been written by stars that pay thousands of dollars to look like the "universal definition of beauty!"

Oh the irony of it all, making Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" and TLC's "Unpretty" completely ineffective and contradictory.

So when will the storm around today's body image settle? Probably not until people realize the reality of it all- flawlessness is here to stay. One last question: wouldn't you invest in a few superficial modifications here and there to avoid being labeled unpretty?


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