Social Psychology: The influence of media on body image, thematic analysis Word count: 2,100 The influence of Media on body image A Thematical analysis Abstract: Media is a powerful communicative tool, which can be said, is very easy to influence in many different ways. Although some aspects of media are important to bring to our attention, some other aspects, however, create an incredible amount of negative impact one of these which is body image.
In order to identify this issue a qualitative research by using five different magazine articles, which included the Heat, Now, Star & Reveal; major and minor themes relating to the media and body image were identified. Thematic analysis was used to analyses the data. Introduction: Interpretation of the media has been generally portrayed as a ‘medium of cultivation, conveyance, or expression; and is most readily linked to in associations of ‘mass communication’. Mass communication influences us constantly whether on a subconscious level or not.Order now
Some of the widely recognisable forms are through television, magazines, newspapers, books, radio, video games, CDs and tapes, as well as internet, billboards, posters, movies and videos (Grant 2000). The criterion for this particular study will primarily focus on aspects of ‘body image’ related through the power of the media. There is a lot of opinion regarding body image in terms of its portrayal through the media. Much discussion has been spent on how body dissatisfaction has been a cause of media as well as other influencing social factors such as ethnicity, social class and family environment associated with its psychological effects.
The role of the media has been commonly held by belief that body dissatisfaction is a response to representations of thin women included in magazines, newspapers, television, film as well as novels using images of thin women. According to Sloan, (1995) “Body image can be defined as how we perceive our physical appearance, as well as how we think others perceive us” (Sloan, 1995, p2). Furthermore, Sloan (1995) maintains that, “people with a positive body image often feel comfortable and confident in their own bodies, people with negative body image usually feel uncomfortable and lack confidence about their body” (Sloan, 1995, p2).
Advertisements, which are body sized related have been portrayed through mediums in promoting food, clothes, neutral items, vacuum cleaners and wallpapers as well as various other types of industries, have always predominantly been ‘thin women’. Normally within the media context, no matter who they are, whether passers by or characters in story, even if there was a representation of ‘the real world’, they were always ‘thin’. It is led to believe because of the media that ‘being thin’ is the actual ‘norm’ as well as the ‘desired norm’.
When ‘fat’ women appear, she’s usually a funny character or comedian, making jokes about eating chocolates, cake etc. and making ‘fat’ statements, either evil or unhappy, but hardly ever simply as normal women. The effect of representations through the media on society is indicative for some of the possible causes of image dissatisfaction. Ogden and Mundray (1996) have implied that this is the actual case and supports the argument. They asked men and women to rate body dissatisfaction before and after studying pictures of either ‘fat’ or ‘thin’ men or women (pictures depending on gender were matched with participants).
The results of the study showed that all participants regardless of sex felt more body satisfaction after studying ‘fatter’ bodies and more dissatisfaction after studying thin pictures. The response was greater in women than men, with similar results found with those suffering with anorexia, bulimics, and pregnant women (Waller et al 1992; Hamilton and Waller 1993; summer et al. 1993). If such body changes can occur in this type of measures and conditions, it is possible to predict that long-term exposure would mean serious damage.
Silberstein et al (1998) in ‘conceptualization to body dissatisfaction’ have postulated that care of body image dissatisfaction is a result of discrepancy between ‘self’ and ‘ideal self’. The ‘ideal self’ would seem perhaps to attribute the ‘internal ideal’ or ‘societal ideal’, from what is dictated through society to what constitutes to a perfect body. The perceived ‘malleable look’ i. e. : through weight and distribution of fat is believed to provoke to a narrow discrepancy through such methods of dieting and exercising.
Many theorists such as the Socio-cultural theory, social comparison theory, cultivation theory, the development Transitional model, Dual-Pathway Model and Bandura social cognitive theory has outlined the connection between mass media and body image. Media does play an important role in ‘creating’ and ‘exacerbating’ the phenomenon of body dissatisfaction (Silberstein et al. 1986, 1987; Morris et al; 1989) and consequently an increase in prevalence of eating disorders (Garner et al 1980).
Beauty ideals in western society are represented through the value of slimness in more recent times (De Jong and Kleck, 1986; Polivy and Herman, 1987; Garfinkel, 1981). Garren and Garfinkel (1980), state that a significant trend over a study period of twenty years towards a ‘thinner standard’ in models portrayed in American media while women generally, have been getting heavier. An increase in the prevalence of dieting behaviours is related to this shift in the size of fashion models towards a thinner ideal (Morris et al. 1989).
Several other researchers have cited this factor, as an indicator for the prevalence of eating disorders (Agras and Kirkley, 1986). The media primes individual by giving a preconception of being ‘fat’ as associated with a range of negative attributes; self indulgence, lethargy and slovenliness (Glassner, 1988; Ogden, 1992). Thinness on the other hand reflects a level of self-control, as well as success and attractiveness (Glassner 1988; Ogden, 1992). Sternhall argued that ‘thinness has become a cultural symbol of competency’ (Sternhall 1985).
Although research has provided theoretical implications for body dissatisfaction which include psychodynamic, gender and sexuality perspectives (e. g. Bruch, 1974; Orbach, 1978); a majority of investigations lie in papers and books relative to media stereotypes playing an integral element in ‘creating and exacerbating body dissatisfaction’ as mentioned earlier on. A suggested comparison of self and media ideals creates ‘dissatisfaction and shame’ (Silberstein et al. 1987; Gerner et al. 1980; Morris et al, 1989).
Due to the fact that we are exposed to media images in the TV, and all the various types of media as mentioned above, the current study was carried out to emphasize the importance of body image in the media. Paying particular attention to even the smallest editing details that are always vital aspects of media tool using thematic analysis major and minor themes established. Methodology Design: A qualitative approach was used to carry out this study. Picking out major and minor themes by using thematic analysis. Materials:
The articles were taken out from five different mainstream magazines, particularly ones that aim to reach women’s interest; so these were mainly celebrity and fashion related magazines. The magazines analysed consisted of ‘Star’, ‘Heat’, ‘Now’ and ‘Reveal’. Each was examined with respect to how body image was portrayed. Analysis was carried by only paying key attention on ‘body image’. Therefore essentially any other information within the magazine was disregarded and not used for the purpose of this study. Procedures:
Each magazine was looked at individually, picking out all of the major and minor themes as part of what constituted to anything which synchronized with ‘media and its influence to body image’. All of the magazines chosen, displayed similar issues of body image being a central feature. Thematic Analyses Major Themes: Negative descriptions of women in the media Star magazine (11 April 2005) states: Teri Hatcher (actress) “The wafer-thin actress is skinny enough to fall down the plughole” Star magazine (11 April 2005) states: Christina Ricci “As a child she was in Adam Family but Hollywood actress looks spookier than she ever did”
Star magazine (11 April 2005) states: “If Erin 0’Connor stood next to a lamppost there’s a danger she could be impossible to spot” Heat magazine (5-11 March 2005) states: Jessica Simpson “He’s grabbing my butt even more than usual. Hmm, we’re surprised he can even find it”. With magazines and generally within the media, a certain effect or ‘special’ effects are terms that go hand in hand. Editing tools such as lighting, camera angles, airbrushing, computer techniques and so forth, are all vital aspects to the business of the media and fashion magazines alike.
With these aspects in mind, many are used for the mere purpose of achieving a certain image particularly where there is a ‘Hollywood’ actress involved for example, the common idea of an actress would be that which transmits an image of ‘glamour’ or ‘beauty’. Pictures of models in magazines are normally altered or enhanced with hardly ever any sense of reality – any unwanted features like freckles, lines and skin folds are always edited out. Unfortunately the effects of what these images have are not as positive as previous studies have implied.
Body features from the majority of these magazine clippings offer the notion that a ‘perfect’ image is only suitable to be accepted. Pressure of media concerning diet Star magazine (11 April 2005) states: Nadine Coyle “She was told to diet by Louis Walsh, but it seems that Girls Aloud singer has taken it a bit too far. Come on, Nadine, its time to stuff some pies down! ” Star magazine (11 April 2005) states: Sophie Dahl “Once the size-16 model who went against the ‘heroin chic’ trend of the 90s, Sophie is now a shadow of her former self and looks much worse for it”.
It would seem that a lot of celebrities are often under a lot of pressure, their image is what sells if they look good consumers will buy their fashion products, buy their music and watch their films. When they are told to lose weight, they lose too much; when they need to put it back on they’re overweight. The need for perfection is apparently always the message when looking at these issues. However, these types of pressures come with their downfall, eating disorders being a great problem.
Extreme diet & exercise and medical condition Heat magazine (5-11 February 2005) states: “Jessica Simpson, From a size 8 to size 4, her womanly shape has turned to skin & bone, Extreme exercise and diet plans working out in the gym for three hours a day, cutting out sugar to get in shape”. Heat magazine (5-11 February 2005) states: “Nadine Coyle, from a size 10 to size 6, going over the top with sever diet and exercise regimes that are leaving them looking frighteningly skinny and robbing their beauty”.
Heat magazine (5-11 February 2005) states: “Teri Hatcher, from size 8 to a size 6, suffered from eating disorder, Super-skeletal frame is down to hiking and pole dancing and exercise classes”. Star magazine (11 May 2005) states: “Mary-Kate Olsen , she’s been trying to put on weight since battling anorexia, but Mary Kate still has a way to go before she has the looks of a healthy 18-year old”. A Heat magazine (5-11 February 2005) states: “Nicole Richie, from a size 8 to a size 4, scarily skinny physique”. The price for achieving a ‘perfect’ look is a sad case, as it sends a negative message of achieving happiness via these methods.
Readers receive the idea that in order to be happy, they need to be an unhealthy size, and really and truly underweight; otherwise you are not perfect. Views on what is ‘Nice and nasty tummies’ Reveal magazine (30 April –6th May 2005) carried out a survey that stated that the following 5 celebrities were voted to have the best tummies. Number 1: Keira Knightley Number 2: Eva Longoria Number 3: Cameron Diaz Number 4: Kimberley Walsh Number 5: Kirsten Dunst The message that is being sent out is, in order to be perceived as beautiful and attractive you must have one of these celebrities’ physical traits.
Some of theses celebrates are over-exercising and may not be eating well. In addition, the danger to wanting to achieve the ideal look, which is idealised by the media, one has to go beyond the physical means but also adopt the psychological constructs that come with it. Reveal magazine (30 April –6th May 2005) voted the following five to have worse tummies. Reveal magazine (30 April –6th May 2005) states that: “this bunch of celebrities have more of a sack of spuds than a six-pack”. Number 1: Peter Stringfellow Number 2: Ricky Groves Number 3: Jade Goody
Number 4: Javine Number 5: Scarlett Johansson Five celebrities are selected to have the worst tummies, what is the message to the reader? The idea to be beautiful is to have a flat stomach and not to have a stomach that looks like the five celebrates listed above. The irony, however, is that in both surveys for the two ‘thin group’ verses two ‘fat group’ the media appears to still discredit people regards of their appearance, there is a no win situation, if you are a size ‘00’ your are considered as being too thin whereas being a size 12 is seeing as being over weight.
Minor Themes: Men opposing to skinny women Now magazine (23-29 April) states: “That 85% of men prefer Curvy women whereas, only 15% of men like skinny women”. Dermot O’Leary in Now magazine (23-29 April) states: that he votes for curvy women “I prefer curvy women”. Now magazine (23-29 April) states: Steven Jones votes for curvy women and he states: “I much prefer curvy women”. Now magazine (23-29 April) states: Cliff Parisi votes for curvy women he states: “j-lo has a perfect body-she’s a bit like Marilyn Monroe, who was size 16 and all women”.
Now magazine (23-29 April) states that: Kevin Simm vote or curvy women he states: “curvy women like J-Lo are more attractive because, for starters, it shows that they don’t have an eating problem, and they look far nicer in clothes. Skinny women often have no bum –I don’t like that”. Women who starve to achieve the so-called ‘perfect image’ have in actual fact have an altered perception of what they believe the opposite sex find attractive, so therefore, they starve themselves to achieve the so called perfect image.
As it has been highlighted above men actually prefer women who are curvy and look healthy not women who are very skinny who look like they have an eating disorder. Men who are keen on skinny women Alex Zane from Now magazine votes for skinny women he states “I prefer skinny women”. Off-putting portrayal of plastic surgery in the media Now magazine 1st Jan 2007 states: “ what’s going on with Beyonce’s right boob? Perhaps its just a case of double – sided tit tape pulling in all the wrong directions, but the 25 – year old diva’s turnout at the Los Angeles premiere of Dreamgirls has started whispers of post surgery encapsulation. This indicates extreme measures of one beautifying themselves, which people may bee influenced in doing for creating the perfect image in turning to cosmectic surgery. Highlighted in pictures Star magazine (May 2005) drawings of bones have been placed around the celebrities’ pictures to show that they are too skinny. ‘Curvy verses Skinny’ Heat magazine (23-29 April 2005), states “See how good you can look! Added a few ponds to show Teri, Posh and Jen Bony isn’t always better, pictures of ‘Before and after’. Showing pictures of the actresses looking extremely skinny but their shapes are altered to look healthier.
It has been highlighted in the first major theme that, pictures of celebrities and models that are presented in the magazines TV are altered to fit into the idealised images that individual have of the ‘perfect image’. Discussion It is clear that the media is a powerful tool; the images that individual are exposed to do not affect everyone in the same way. Some people are more likely to be affected by the media imagery than others; this could be because some people are more venerable than others due to the level of self-esteem and self-satisfaction that they already have of themselves.
The pressure that are put upon individuals through the media may very well influence individual’s perception of the perceived ideal body image and their views about their own body image, this has also been clearly pointed about by research carried out by Ogden & Murray (1996), Silberstein et al (1998) that clearly highlighted that after the exposure to thin models in videos, magazines, advertisements the participants have noted a great level of body dissatisfaction and lower self-esteem.
The images that are normally found in advertisements emphasize thinness as a standard ideal for female beauty, so therefore real women body has become invisible. In order to look perfect women believe that in order to be attractive you must be tall, thin, and young and have a glamorous appearance of a supermodel. Everyone has the need to express him or herself in order to feel good about themselves. Some people like to wear new clothes and change their hairstyles.
Movies, TV, Magazines, web sites are a big part of our leisure time, and are fun as long as its does not shape your whole life around what you see. It has been highlighted in the result section of this study that some women who are dissatisfied with their bodies would go to extreme level to achieve the ‘ideal body image’, as it has been mentioned in the theme section some women have become so thin that even the media themselves are making fun of them, and highlighting the effects of the extreme dieting.
It is obvious that media main focus is on the individual’s physical appearances and that a lot emphasis has been placed upon the importance of physical appearance. Women are judged by their physical appearance not on their mental ability their worth is based on how attractive they are physically. The misguidance and mixed messages that are presented in the media are a great influence on young girls, they are constantly exposed to very thin women who are perceived as successful and attractive, which may influence the ways they perceive their own body-image.
The messages that young girls are bombarded with are in order to be attractive you must be very thin and tall. The disadvantage of reading and looking at magazines and TV is that individuals fall victims of media pressure that create the perfect images that does not exist, due to the fact that every picture we see are altered and edited. Due to the fact that only five magazines were used to carry out this study a generalisation cannot be made, in future it would be ideal to use more magazines to see if more themes could be established.
If this study was to be continued it will be great to look at eating disorder in-depth, the effects of starvation, media effects on gender and identity. Reflexivity Due to the fact that we are constantly bombarded by the images in the TV, magazines we are to a degree all victims of the media. This study was carried out to see the influences of media on body image. Beauty products, losing weight regimes hair kit products and any type of beauty enhancer that you can think of are what are mainly concentrated on when we buy a magazine.
Another important issue that I thought of was that we are a perfect marketing industry target due to the fact the we are forced to believe that we are not attractive enough so therefore, we go out and buy these beauty products promoted by glamorous celebrity in order for us to look like them because we have been lead to believe that success is equal to those who live in Hollywood and magazine spreads. Reference • Agras, W. S. and Kirkley, B. G. (1986). Bulimia: Theories of Etiology.
Handbook of Eating Disorders. Physiology, Psychology and Treatment of Obesity, Anorexia and Bulimia. New York: Borei Books. • Bruch, H. (1974). Eating Disorders: Anorexia, Obesity and the Person Within. London and Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul. • Glassner, B. (1988). Bodies: Why We Look the Way We Do and How We Feel About It. New York: Putnam • Ogden, J. and Mundray, K. (1996). The Effect of the Media on Body Satisfaction: the Role of Gender and Size. European Eating Disorder Review, 4(3), 171-182 Silberstein, B. , Streigel-Moore, R. H. and Rodin,J. (1987). Feeling Fat: a Women’s Shame. The Role Of Shame in Symptom Formation. Hillsdale, NJ:Erlbaum. • Sloan, B. (1995). Body Image among African American women: A comparison of two cultural contexts. Unpublished master’s thesis, The Ohio States University, Columbus. Magazines Used : Heat (5-11 February 2005) Now (23rd-29th April 2005) & (1st Jan 2007) Reveal (30th April- 6th May 2005) Star (11th April 2005) Appendix