Representations: Body Image In The Media

Britney SpearsRepresentations are often described as being imitations or having a resemblance to a certain idea or image, however in relation to representation within the media “It emphasises that, however realistic or compelling some media images seem, they never simply present the world direct” (Branston & Stafford, 2010) This shows that a media representation is often ‘re-constructed’ when being presented rather than being an exact mirroring from the original source, e.g. a photograph isn’t directly presenting the original image in which the photographer will see, in the case of a magazine photo-shoot the image will have been edited till it is deemed as perfect, be this by changing the appearance of the model with touch-ups or by simply changing the background so the viewer won’t be given an exact image of what the original source looked like, depending on the subject in the photograph it could also be interpreted differently by the audience. If magazine images are so heavily touched up then how can it be possible to actually gain that perfect body image, not many viewers will take into account this and will still strive to gain the false body image.

Another example of re-constructed media is newspapers editors, they will be publishing information that they have received so they will be re-presenting the information in articles from the original source in order for the audience to receive the intended articles. These shape our cultural values as often enough impressionable readers that see models photographed will want to imitate their image and maybe even follow their diet routines as they believe they will gain that perfect body, but due to the false representations of photo editing then our culture is shaped by chasing the impossible ‘perfect’ image dream.Katie PriceThe use of representation determines what the audience finds to be ‘normal’ so this can be linked to ideology “a systematic framework of social understanding motivated by a will to power or a desire to be accepted as the ‘right’ way of thinking” (Lacey, 2009) In terms of media it is now common for our culture to be highly influenced by vanity and the idea of having the ‘perfect’ body, this is because there is high pressure within the media to look a certain way, whether it is supermodel skinny or the stereotypical image of a male fantasy woman inspired by ‘Lads magazines’, these woman are usually blonde, large breasted with small waists. It very common amongst young adults and teenagers to want to change the way that they look to fit this norm as they are highly influenced by the media in which they consume, magazines, advertisements and social media, an example of this outcome is ‘I want to change my body’ which was a documentary aired on BBC Three in November 2012, which showed exactly that, many of the young adults on the show felt that they had to change their image in order to be ‘normal’ and socially acceptable, one girl in particular wished to have a boob job just because she felt inadequate due to the impressionable media of ‘bigger is better.’ This is often down to influences by models such as Katie Price who is regularly in the media for changing her body, as her presence dominants the media through modelling, journalism and television programmes, she has gained quite a large female fan base so often fans will want to be like her. Although she is perceived as being quite dominant and headstrong she is clearly insecure with her appearance as she is always changing it.

An article on The Daily Beast shows that according to a study on plastic surgery it was found that “79 percent of the 42 patients examined said that television/media influenced their decision to pursue a cosmetic-surgery procedure.“ Again this high percentage supports how impressionable media consumers are, as they cannot avoid daily media it is affecting the way that they perceive their selves, If it wasn’t for vanity being deemed important within the media then plastic surgery wouldn’t be quite as common or as popular as it is today, however it has helped to shape cultural values by making individuals feel the need to fit in.

Stereotyping is another form of representation which can shape our cultural values, “stereotypes work by taking some easily grasped features presumed to belong to a group” (Branston & Stafford, 2010) An example of this is by the use of stereotyping all youths as ‘hoodies’ which is often linked to crime related activities which is represented in the news, not all teenagers and young adults will even consider crime but because of this stereotype if they are seen wearing a hoody whilst shopping then they will automatically look suspicious. Stereotyping can be broken down into different groups, age, gender, race and religion. As stated above the ‘hoody’ stereotype is aimed at younger adults and teenagers and shapes our culture by discriminating against this target group by giving the assumption that this generation is full of criminals. Gender stereotypes primarily state that the male is more dominate to the female and that her place is in the home rather than being independent and hardworking, this representation is shown in the media through the use of advertisements such as Fairy Liquid where it is always a female shown doing the washing up rather than a male, it is also shown in other cleaning adverts, although culture has changed and women are now independent and work rather than staying in the home this stereotype will most likely remain meaning that women will remain discriminated against for being the less dominant gender. Another gender stereotype includes ‘dumb blondes’ often within television programmes a blonde character will keep the ‘dumb blonde’ stereotype because it is so well perceived, although intelligence isn’t based on your hair colour this stereotype is still used quite frequently. As media consumers are often consumed by what they see in the media then the stereotypes could turn into discrimination in everyday life which could lead to problems created in the society such as bullying, cyber-bullying, discrimination, racism, sexism etc.

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