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America Then vs. Now: How Has the Media Shaped Us?

Updated on February 9, 2018

Body Image: What's the perfect body?

For a long time, the media has shaped the way consumers view both men and women's body image and what the ideal "perfect body is". A great example of this in the images below. In the first advertisement, sellers are convincing women to buy their product in order to gain weight which will in turn make them more attractive. Constant advertisements in the media like this one shaped the way consumers thought, and made them think a heavier and plump body was more desirable than a skinner one.

As a 20 year old woman now this is strange for me to see, especially because of the large market for weight loss products like the second image below. Media and advertisers have convinced us now that the skinnier the better; and a toned, thin body is what every woman should want.

When it comes down to it, these companies don't care about what the perfect body is, or what body type is the healthiest; they just care about which one sells the most. Weight loss products make more of killing in the market than weight gain products ever did, and that is why we see both weight loss products and thin women so often in todays media. This directly effects how we view ourselves as consumers, and more than likely convinces most of us to believe that this is what we should want to look like.

1920's vs Now: The Media Shapes American's Idea of an "Ideal Body"

Here is a newspaper ad from the 1920's encouraging women to buy this product to gain weight.
Here is a newspaper ad from the 1920's encouraging women to buy this product to gain weight.
Here is an ad from present day encouraging women to buy this product to lose weight.
Here is an ad from present day encouraging women to buy this product to lose weight.

1950's vs. Now: Media Shapes the American Family

Although family is something Americans have always and will always value, the structure of families and what is commonly accepted as "what the American family should look like" has been shaped and influenced by movies and tv shows throughout time.

The first image below is the cast of a very popular show from the 1950's called, "Father Knows Best". This is funny, lighthearted show about the daily life of an average American white man and his family. In this show, the father goes to work everyday, his wife stays at home, and they have 3 children who are very cheery, good kids. The show is very PG, and doesn't ever show any real everyday problems. Because most media from the 50's was similar in that sense, Americans perceived this to be the correct way of living and any other way was looked down upon (ex. single parent house holds, mothers who worked, problematic children, etc.)

Fast forward to now, and shows like Modern Family (pictured below) show us that this is not the case anymore. Families of all different race, situations (single parents, gay parents, etc.), and more are plastered all over the media and show us that different is okay and is 100% accepted; cookie cutter families are a thing of the past and there is no "correct" or "perfect" American family. They also deal with real life problems, something tv shows never did in the 50's.

Father Knows Best
Father Knows Best
Modern Family
Modern Family

Then vs Now: Health and Cigarettes

Americans have always valued a healthy lifestyle and making sure we are doing all we can to maintain one. If we go back in time, advertisements just like the one below were actually aired on tv, and tricked consumers to believe that smoking was okay for your body.

In present time, we know that smoking is terrible for our bodies and never let big tobacco companies advertise the way they used to. Instead, we see advertisements like the one below that frown upon it. Anti smoking campaigns have had a huge impact on American consumers which has in turn caused smoking rates to drop rapidly over the past decade.


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    • sangre profile image

      Sp Greaney 

      13 months ago from Ireland

      It's amazing how society has changed over the years. Until you see comparisons, you don't realize how much.


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