America’s Obsession with Body Images
Today’s generation is obsessed with beauty. In fact, it has been argued that the aesthetic pursuits of man have engineered the growth of the cosmetic industry and that of the fashion industry. With billions of dollars at stake and millions of jobs on the line, America’s obsession with body images has shown no signs of slowing down even amidst the recent financial crisis. The real danger in this lies in the ability of these marketers to influence and feed America’s Obsession with body images.
As the top fashion companies and movie stars vie for the limited resources of the public, the race to alter and dominate America’s attention and fuel its obsession has reached all time highs. As such, this discourse shall tackle the issue on America’s Obsession with Body Images and the influence that media and marketing has had on it. There are five main reasons why America is so obsessed with body image. The first reason is the human psyche. Human behavior and dominant habits to a greater extent are products of the reigning consumerist culture.
The need to adapt to a prevalent culture is inherent in human society and human beings invariably try to conform to the images (Lubkin & Larsen 2005). Traditional societies idealized with huge men with pot bellies as a sign of wealth and influence, well endowed women with ample bosoms and huge backside were seen as appropriately structured to sire children. The concept of sexuality and how a person is supposed to look is something that changes over time. As such, the recent obsession with body image is nothing more but a typecast that is recently in vogue.
A look across the various ages since the turn of the 20th century indicate the notion of beauty has been popularly determined and the public especially women have been striving to conform to the idolized image (Tattersall 1999). Each and every culture and society has its own idea of beauty which is bound to change with time. Another reason why American culture is obsessed with body image is brought about by the fact that media plays a profound influence in this aspect.
One of the major reasons for the present Americans obsession with beauty is the urge to conform to the images being idolized by the media (Wykes & Gunter 2005). Media stereotypes of beautiful bodies are being held as the truth and men and women are struggling to conform to the said images. Media is imposing its own idea of beauty and the traditionally held perceptions of beauty are being shed with each passing day. American culture is greatly influenced by peer group opinion leaders who are being controlled by the media.
Media is seen as one of the key culprit behind the spread of drugs, casual sex and violence amongst the teenagers due to airing of programs that tend to glorify such practices. Recently added to the list is the influence on the eating habits of the audience. One way through which the media achieves this is by exerting “some influence primarily through peer group opinion leaders. ” (Curran 1987) Opinion leaders are people regarded to have authority in a particular subject. A nutritionist may give credence to a certain eating habit terming it as the perfect way to lose weight and live healthily.
Finally, the media has overtaken all other institutions as the sole authority that defines beauty and fashion trends. The popular view of fashion and beauty is inculcated into the audience. A look at most teenagers for example today indicates that their role models are the key prominent individuals that frequent news and television programs. They dictate the types of clothes to be worn, haircut and hairstyles to be adorned, body weights to be maintained as well as the cars to be driven. Their influence extends to eating habits and other lifestyles (Curran et al 1987).
Indeed, the current obsession with beauty in America can be traced to the media, family and peers. The media however remains the biggest influence in this. The media today is glorifying beauty and is emphasizing on beauty. Being the leading opinion shaper hence the audience has to conform to this trend. The family is also obsessed with beauty and parents pass such ideals to their children. Peer groups are also important in this and peer members have to conform to the set beauty standards to fit in their groups.