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A Beautiful Influence?

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In the world today there is an unprecedented increase in the pressure on our society to look a certain way. Children watch shows that expose them to women who are portrayed as beautiful, and advertisements that offer products with the promise you too can potentially reach their perfection. In actuality, the current media ideal for women is achievable by less than five percent of the female population, just in terms of weight and size. The people with the ability to achieve the ideal shape, face, hair and style is only about one percent. With more and more emphasis to look perfect, is our society slowly forgetting about inner beauty? Even shows meant to support individuality, self confidence, and morals over looks, offer "beautiful" main characters with makeup and editing used to make them more pleasant entertainment, because who wants to watch a show about ugly people? Our society has surely forgotten what ugly entails.


Young girls have most abundantly been affected by the idea that it is necessary to have a "perfect" body and look. The average age of eating disorders onset has dropped from teenagers to preteens as young as nine. These innocent nine year olds have become corrupted by the pressures of the community and media to change how they look in order to be more accepted. This has caused the number of people with eating disorders not only to drop in age, but also to increase substantially in the past years, those afflicted being ninety percent adolescents and children. It's not just females though, the number of males with eating disorders has doubled during the past decade. Try as people may to look like the models and celebrities of today, it is literally impossible for most to achieve this skewed appearance of beauty. To put things in perspective, models twenty years ago weighed eight percent less than the average woman; today they weigh twenty-three percent less.


This effect the media has on people's perceptions of themselves has lead not only to trying to change their weight, but also to having a constant hatred of their body. In a recent study of ten year old girls and boys, almost all participants said they were dissatisfied with their own appearance after being shown a Britney Spears music video or a clip from "Friends". In days before World War II, when popular media had not yet taken over, real women and men who were unedited and didn't have stylists were the accepted ideal. Curves were considered beautiful, personality and ambition out-shined pretty faces, and minor imperfections were overlooked. Now with the constant exposure to perfectly edited faces and thinner and thinner bodies, the number of people concerned with trying to be flawless is constantly rising. In an ongoing study of nine and ten year olds by the National Heart, Lung and Body Institute, forty percent of them have tried to loose weight. This phenomenon is not all over though, proving that American media is a serious issue. It has lead not only to people malnourishing their bodies, but around 220 deaths a year occur due to extreme eating disorders. America holds the number one rank in the deaths due to eating disorders, over 30 more than Japan which takes second place, and 180 more than Germany which ranks as third.


There is a serious need to change what is considered beautiful in our society. Healthy needs to become the goal rather than skinny, and real people other than over-edited women and men should be shown in magazines, ads and movies. A serious focus shift from the obsession with superficial outer appearances needs to switch to an appreciation of all people, and society needs to prioritize the importance of who people truly are, consisting of their personalities, morals, and beliefs. Idols for children should not be unhealthy looking women whose bones show through on the pages in a magazine, but a woman with a realistic figure who has her own thoughts and views. Children need to look up to someone who is more than just a image on screen or billboard. This shift would not only stop at least some of those 220 deaths, but also give children and adolescents a better feeling about themselves along with a more balanced perspective regarding looks and values.





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