Reading Response: Younger Generations Vs. Images Portrayed by Media: Who will prevail?
Final Draft Essay#2
American University of Beirut
Friday, January 21, 2011
William Bernbach once said, “All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize it. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it into a higher level” (http://thinkexist.com). There is no doubt that media in general has enormous effects on society’s various divisions. Recently, it has been affecting the younger generations on various levels. And as most kids are introduced to media at a very young age, the latter carries ripples on a child’s life style and growth into adolescence. These effects either are destructive in some cases or carry positive effects on younger generations. And as media plays various functions its role in the growth of children must be analyzed, assessed and carefully weighed in order to reduce its negative ripples on children.
Images portrayed by media affect a person’s self esteem, how he views himself, as well as his ability to progress into adolescence. For instance, Susan Bordo describes how young girls view themselves due to images portrayed by media. Bordo (2006) draws a picture of a typical young girl standing in front of the mirror, with shaken self-confidence comparing herself to the model’s perfect body. “She’ll never look like them no matter how much weight she loses…Her butt is monstrous. She’s fat, gross, a dough girl (Bordo 2006). Similarly, researcher Carol Gilligan’s study sheds light over how media’s contradicting messages affect a child’s confidence, as well as his ability to progress into puberty (Gilligan 1988). The study suggests that male subjects who possess self-esteem as children progress into adulthood to portray confidence in oneself. On the other hand, of the 72% of the girls who show confidence in sixth grade, only 55% show self-confidence when they reach tenth grade. This indeed is due media, the fact that it has set the universal standards of beauty, and that girls who don’t possess these qualities seem to lose confidence in oneself as they progress into their teens (Gilligan 1988). Similarly, a 2002 study conducted by The Flinders University of South Australia shows that out of 400 girls who were subjected to commercials containing top models with perfect appearance, a lot lost their self-confidence due to the mass media. Gilligan’s and The Flinders University’s studies suggest that the images portrayed by the video clips, television as well as the internet serve as merciless autocrats that affect our confidence as well as our view of oneself.
Due to the unrealistic images portrayed by media, the “body image distortion syndrome”(http://sites.google.com/site) has extended to include girls of all ages especially the ages of 9 and 12 and eating disorders have become a global issue crossing all racial boundaries (Bordo 2006). According to a study conducted by Children Now, the youth are surrounded by standards of beauty that seem unrealistic and unachievable. Bordo states that we are surrounded my images carried by the media which rule our lives, affect how we view ourselves as well as others. “We live in an empire of images, and that there are no protective borders (Bordo 2006). Kelsey a 16 year old girl comments on the topic to Girl Talk magazine by saying, “They have ads about how you should dress, what you should look like, and this and that, then they say respect people for what they choose to be like. So what do we do first?” (http://www.media-awareness.ca). Researcher Jean Kilbourne states that media portrays “painfully thin women” which makes other women feel alienated, invisible and dismissed. As women view these extreme images, compare themselves to the actresses and models, they try to force themselves into the images depicted by actresses, actors, models, as well as singers. Thus, the previous study concluded that about 66% of the girls expressed their desire to resemble the images portrayed by media whereas one third of them confessed to changing something about their looks to resemble some character on TV. Images of perfect actors and actresses such as Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johansson as well as other famous actors such as Brad Pitt, Gerard Butler and Jared Leto appear on every single form of media. Thus, children from all ages are affected by the images portrayed and the standards of beauty set by such people.
Similarly, the American and Canadian statistics show that young girls at the age of 5 are forcing themselves into a diet just as a precaution against gaining weight. In the study, “Appearance culture in 9 to 12 year old girls: Media and Peer Influence on body dissatisfaction” which highlights the national obsession with beauty, about 30 % of girls close to adolescence expressed their desire to lose weight whereas 70% of the girls with normal body mass believed they had weight problems, and 35% have tried various types of diets hoping to lose weight (http://www.springerlink.com/content/j7075vt85k032m68/ ).
The exposure to mass media due to the TV, movies we watch as well as magazines we read as well as the images portrayed leads to the globalization of eating disorders and cases of body dissatisfaction (Beresin 2006). According to The National Institute of Mental Health, about 5 million cases of eating disorders are diagnosed each year and 1000 women die due to severe Anorexia Nervosa ( http://depts.washington.edu ). Beresin argues that the increased role of mass media and the images portrayed leads to cases of body dissatisfaction among both men and women. Since media shows mainly women with perfect body structure, it isn’t a shocking fact that many women as well as girls attempt to lose weight by nontraditional methods such as self-induced vomiting, following a strict diet which is low in carbohydrates, or even self-starvation. For instance, The American research Group, Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating disorders, Inc., claims that 25% of the girls attending college undergo unhealthy weight loss methods due to the images depicted in media. The same applies for men especially in younger generations. Men have become obsessed with their body figures due to images portrayed by male actors, singers, and athletes. A regular teenager would go four to five times a week to the gym just to live up to the standards of male beauty, which is defined by the perfect muscular body structure as well as the well-defined muscular abs. Thus, by portraying such images, mass media has contributed to the globalization of eating disorders (Bordo 2006) which has turned into a global issue crossing all cultural and ethnic obstructions, cases of body dissatisfaction, and the desire to attain the perfect body.As for starters, media and violence have been interlinked since the first appearance of the earliest forms of communication. In other words, children are turning out more violent due to what they see on the television as well as other forms of media. Studies have shown that children between the age of six and eleven spend more time on TV rather than in school and witness five times amount of violence on Saturday morning shows than any other day (http://screenblock.com/data.htm). According to the studies conducted by the University of Miami, 40% of the total 30 minutes news programs focus on crime and violence. The study suggests that 12% of the magazines, 20% of the books, and 7.1% of pornographic films depict explicit violent scenes that affect our children emotionally and psychologically. Some cartoons illustrate for instance embarrassing and violent scenes when addressing the audience. Beavis and Butthead, for example among other cartoon series contain high level foul language, violent scenes, as well as some material that may not be suitable for children. Thus, these scenes aired on the television induce violence between children.
As an average American child would have witnessed 8,000 murders before reaching elementary, violence depicted on TV as well as other forms of media affect a person’s psychological state of mind. The link between violence and the media was shown in several studies in 1958. Researcher Wilbur Schramm concluded that under certain circumstances, television among other forms of media may lead to violence among children especially at sensitive ages (http://www.aber.ac.uk/media). In the light of the discussion, Robert Liebert and Robert Baron conducted field experiments to test this hypothesis. Their experiments wrapped up that children watching violent programs show higher expectancy in developing future aggressions. The researchers state that what media especially the television offer to young children will have multiple ripples on how they progress to adulthood “The television habits that an eight year old acquires would influence him to have aggressive behavior throughout his childhood and adolescence” (http://www.123helpme.com). This is portrayed in foul language, harm inflicted on others, as well as violent acts towards others.
Lyrics of various songs played on the radio, video clips, cartoons such as South Park, Celebrity Death Match as well as other forms of media which are rated as appropriate material for kids cause them to become more aggressive. The latter for example, which is aired on MTV-UK shows animated celebrities fighting, ripping each other’s heads off, and other violent and bloody scenes. Although many might argue in favor of such shows as being amusing and good for the TV ratings, these shows affect children cause them to be more violent as they grow up. Although production companies may argue that such shows attract the audience and maintain high ratings, we should weigh the consequences resulting from such programs on younger generations.
Another fine example which induces violence is the lyrics of songs that are aired frequently on the TV as well as the radio. Consider for example Lil Jon’s Get Low lyrics or even Eminem’s The Warning, or nickelback’s Animals. Other movies, songs, and videos are enough evidence.
Sure thing, many people might argue that media has an upper side just like anything in life. Well, it is true that media keeps us aware of the latest news on TV channels as well as new forums and pages available online. And as media provides the public with information from all over the world, you can take a closer looks at Google for instance or consider visiting The Times Magazine’s online website for articles concerning the recent economic crisis. Indeed media has brought people from all over the world together, as it offered them opportunities to interact regardless to language and cultural barriers. For instance, thanks to social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, and Msn people can converse freely with each other. Yet regardless to these advantages we should weight the numerous effects media has on younger generations as well of society’s various divisions.
As a sum up, media, just like a coin is defined by its multiple faces. Yet the manifestation of its negative effects which range from violence, inappropriate languages, as well as portraying distorted images of our morals has its drawbacks. We conclude that there is no solution without awareness. Parents are expected to play active roles in raising awareness among the younger generations starting with their own children. Thus, they are required to embrace their supervising role by practicing censorship over what their children watch over the television and the internet. Based onBeresin’s study conducted in 2006parental guidance, supervision as well as support is also needed at times of arising conflicts. And since children at young ages are fragile, parents are expected to help their children embrace their distinctiveness and teach them to accept their inner beauty. Thus, they must praise natural beauty in order to repel the national obsession with the images created by mass media by limiting children’s exposure to media as well as the promotion of activities that aid confidence and increase awareness. As a result, together we can break free out of the cycle of predominating images and violence thus emerging and embracing life’s complexity and uniqueness.
Bordo, S. (2006) The Globalization of eating disorders. In Z. Sinno, R. Rantisii, G.Zeineddine, N. Honein, J. Najjar ,Shades of Gray. (Eds) Shades of Gray (2nd edition)( pp 320 -324). Edinburgh gate, harlow; pearson education limited.
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