Weight bias is present in varies types of media, especially targeting adolescent females and males. Adolescents are males and females in the age range of 10-19 years old (Betts). At this age, self-image means a great deal to these young adults as they are transitioning into mature teens and finding their true self. Self-image starts at an early age and children at an adolescent age are taught how to dress and look a certain way to meet society’s expectations. Take Disney movies, for example the princesses and princes always look a certain way. Disney princesses are portrayed as skinny, having porcelain-like skin, and possess an hourglass shaped figure (“Body Image”). Disney princes most always have a muscular body, broad shoulders, strong torso, etc. (Paige). The average height for a female adolescent is anywhere from 60-64 inches and the average weight ranges from 95-130 pounds (Betts). For male adolescents, their average height ranges from 58-70 inches and weight 85-160 pounds (Betts). This is a healthy height and weight range for adolescents, but the media has a different perspective on what their stature and heft should be according to society’s expectations. Every female and male bodies are different and unique, they do not all carry weight the same. When it comes to the media, they are biased against weight and the type of people it greatly affects are adolescents.Order now
An example of a type of media where weight bias is found in television and movies. There are various T.V. shows and movies with teens struggling with their weight whether it be losing or gaining weight. One example of a movie is titled To the Bone, the movie is based on a teen who suffers from an eating disorder called anorexia (“To the Bone”, 2017). The main character by the name of Ellen is starving herself to look and be thin. This is a bias way of showing adolescents that if they starve themselves, they can be thin. Starving themselves is an unhealthy and dangerous way of losing weight, just to become a certain size because that is what is shown as “beautiful” in not only society but the media. Losing weight is not an easy task, it takes mental and emotional strength to be able to accomplish weight loss goals. The media creates unrealistic body expectations and being overweight is frowned upon and supports being thin. Media does not attempt to even think about the underlying reasons why individuals become overweight, especially adolescents and find any way to change their appearance to fit their expectations (“Preventing Chronic Disease…”).
Television shows use weight as a form of entertainment, especially obese individuals. T.V. shows portray obese entities as a form of ‘fat humor’ and use these people struggling with their weight to gain more ratings. The writers that use ‘fattertainment’ in their shows feel as if it can be useful to the obese individuals and see it as a form of motivation (Heuer). They portray them as only binging on food all and not being able to find a partner due to their weight (Heuer). For teens, this can take a toll on the way they view themselves and their ability to lose weight when struggling with being overweight. Overweight teens are usually the ones that are unincluded or taunted because the media shows that being fat is entertaining to watch and considered humorous.
Another setting media is bias against adolescents is in print. Magazines are the most popular form of print media for young people as they are targeted at their age group. Magazines contain photos of beautiful, skinny models setting an unrealistic body image for adolescents. One of the main topics is dieting and contains diet plans to aid teens in losing weight but are ultimately just trying to target these young individuals in purchasing expensive meal and workout plans. This type of media can easily target adolescents in purchasing unnecessary items such as diet plans for the sole purpose of they are still learning money management. There has even been research that displays teens are not taking the safest paths to lose unwanted weight are choosing methods similar to those of an eating disorder (Sauer and Robles-Pina, 2003). Adolescents can easily develop an eating disorder as diets in magazines show how to lower calorie intake, even below the needed amounts, and eating fewer quantities (Sauer and Robles-Pina, 2003). Even non-prescription medications, such as fat burners, are advertised in magazines to speed up the process of losing unwanted weight and is easily accessible. Teens are easily roped into these dangerous types of regimens and are manipulated to think is it safe and effective (Sauer and Robles-Pina, 2003).
The most popular form of media that has the most weight bias against adolescents is the internet, more specifically social media. Today’s teens are very connected to their cell phones and the world of social media such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. “Cyberbullying and hurtful “fat jokes” are disturbingly prevalent in the social media environment, especially on Twitter”, says Dr. Wen-Ying Sylvia Chou of the National Institutes of Health in the US (Publichealthwatch, 2014). Social media is used to show photos and videos of everyday life, but teens can also use it to tease and bully others. The media is so drawn into looking respectable for a photo and making sure it meets society’s expectations. In the media, companies have resulted in using an Adobe software product called ‘Photoshop’, a computer program used to enhance or alter photos to look thinner, leaner, more feminine, more masculine, etc. (“American Graphics Institute.”). Photoshop can also be used on teens social media photos and can give them a negative or altered perspective on weight as they can slim down their figures. Social media can be used as a negative aspect of weight stigma, as photos and videos can easily be altered (Publichealthwatch, 2014).
Weight bias is very present in the media and does not hesitate when it comes to targeting adolescents. There are many examples and evidence that it really does exist everywhere in the media. Weight bias found in the media teenagers use every single day and these bias perspectives need to be changed. The media is capable of not having such a bias view on how certain people should look and take into account that adolescents seek approval from the media, as to what their weight should be. In order to keep viewers interested, they publish what they believe is relevant and it is not always the right views. Media should be changed by showing individuals that you are supposed to look a certain way and embrace the different types of bodies that are out there. Weight bias against adolescents is easily overlooked and not taken seriously, but teens take a lot to heart as they wear their hearts on their sleeves. Teens are the most affected by the media and what the media presents to the world. If the media would take the bias out it could easily uplift others. There is no doubt that there is weight bias targeting adolescents in the media, it can be easily found in every type of media, but the most popular types such as the internet, movies, etc. is where is abundantly found.
- “American Graphics Institute.” Training and Classes at American Graphics Institute, 9 Aug. 2018, www.agitraining.com/adobe/photoshop/classes/what-is-photoshop.
- Betts, Jennifer. “Average Height and Weight for a Teenager.” LoveToKnow, LoveToKnow Corp, teens.lovetoknow.com/Average_Height_and_Weight_for_Teenager.
- “Body Image.” The Rhetoric of Disney, therhetoricofdisney.weebly.com/body-image.html.
- Heuer, Chelsea A. “‘Fattertainment’ – Obesity in the Media.” Obesity Action Coalition, www.obesityaction.org/community/article-library/fattertainment-obesity-in-the-media/.
- Paige, Rachel. “A Quick Look at How Disney Perfection Affects Guy’s Body Image Too.” HelloGiggles, HelloGiggles, 10 Mar. 2015, 11:32 a.m., hellogiggles.com/lifestyle/disney-body-image-men/.
- “Preventing Chronic Disease: September 2011: 10_0281.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oct. 2011, www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2011/sep/10_0281.htm.
- Publichealthwatch, Posted by. “’Fat Shaming’: New Study Explores How Social Media Contributes to Weight Stigma.” Publichealthwatch, 1 Oct. 2014, publichealthwatch.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/fat-shaming-new-study-explores-how-social-media-contributes-to-weight-stigma/.
- Sauer, Heidi, and Rebecca Robles-Piña. “Teen Magazines Vs. Adolescent Girls.” Feminist Film Theory – The Feminist EZine, 2003, www.feministezine.com/feminist/modern/Magazines-Adolescent-Girls.html.
- “To the Bone (2017).” IMDb, IMDb.com, 2017, www.imdb.com/title/tt5541240/.