Who’s seen Little Miss Sunshine? If you haven’t, just picture a little girl sitting in front of the TV watching a video of the Ms. America, learning how to be beautiful. That’s the first scene of the movie, and you have to feel sorry for Olive, the plain little girl who should be with her friends having a tea party, not sitting at home thinking that she should look like the most extreme version of beauty that is almost impossible to naturally attain.
Olive isn’t the only girl/young woman who has dealt with body image issues. The conflict is created when a girl is faced with the way she thinks she should look- 5’6 or taller, 110 pounds or less, face straight out of a brochure from the plastic surgeon-and what she sees in the mirror. More and more girls are turning to eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia to compensate for their ‘flaws.’ The horrible thing is, eating disorders don’t change anything. Throwing up your food or simply just not eating won’t help you love yourself, won’t help you realize that people love you. Even in cases that don’t develop into eating disorders, thinking that you’re fat, ugly or not good enough isn’t healthy, and isn’t true. Everyone knows ‘that girl,’ who, because she doesn’t look like the women our society deems ‘perfect’, will say to anyone that will listen, “I’m fat,” even though she’s skinny, and, “I’m ugly,” even though she’s not.
And now for all those Olives, ‘that girls,’ out there, and for anyone who has ever wished that they look more like a celebrity: according to the people who run the Miss Universe pageant you are correct in thinking that you don’t look good enough. Because if average little ‘you’ were pretty enough, then they wouldn’t have asked one of the final five Miss Universe contestants, “What would you change about your physical appearance.”
That’s right folks, at the pageant for the most beautiful women the world has to offer, the event organizers of Miss Universe thought that an acceptable question to ask would be what do you think is not good enough about the way you look. There were tons of questions that they could have ask that could have had CONSTRUCTIVE answers: how would you help with the epidemic of negative body image in preteens and young women? What are your thoughts on eating disorders? What makes a person beautiful?
The question was asked to Lelia Lopes, Miss Angola, and now Miss Universe, who had the grace and sense to say that she was happy with the way she looked and that she wouldn’t change anything. Let’s face it: if Ms. Universe contestants- the women who uphold the highest standard of beauty- can’t be happy with their bodies, how could Average Janes ever be ok themselves?
Media outlets constantly report on the suicides of teenagers, the abundance of eating disorders among American youth, and the self-destruction of young actresses and actors. Yet they constantly overlook their involvement in each of these issues.
Although I hope to one day be part of the media, it has truthfully ripped society at the seams. Fifty years ago, the need to look and be perfect didn’t eat away teenage girls. But in 2010, I see this top the priority list of many girls in my graduating class. As the media has gained prominence, it has altered the priorities of American kids.
Flawless, 100 pound, unblemished women plaster the walls and streets of our cities. Everywhere we turn, we can’t escape the gorgeous faces that cover magazines, billboards, TV shows, commercials, and even news reports.
This sets a new standard for the look of youth, one that most don’t realize is absolutely impossible, and even these women don’t reach it. The desire to fit this “standard” has led to an increase in anorexia, bulimia, and other tragic diseases. When youth feel as if they aren’t fitting a standard, they lose self-confidence and often go to extremes to accomplish their goal.
The constant pressure the media suffocates teenagers with also strangles the objects of its affection: models and actresses. Mary Kate Olsen, Kiera Knightly, Nicole Richie, Ashlee Simpson, and Paris Hilton have all openly admitted to struggling with eating disorders. At the recent admission of an unbearable struggle with anorexia by Portia de Rossi, the media reacted with confused reports.
The lack of responsibility that the media takes for these disorders shocks me. At de Rossi’s admission, reporters shouldn’t have been appalled, but should rather have done an analysis on the reasons teenagers struggle with anorexia or bulimia. The media is almost entirely to blame for these problems. If they would broaden their horizons and increase the diversity of people used, the haunting situations that face millions of young girls could be almost completely avoided.
Why is it that the media feels it is socially acceptable to rip society apart? Why is it that only women that mirror those on TV or runways are beautiful?
In my short 15 years I have watched numerous classmates fall apart, and be entirely uncomfortable with the body God blessed them with. The people on the covers don’t actually look like that, and it is the hands of editing geniuses that they even gain that appearance. If news stations, Hollywood, and TV would just broadcast true appearances, my classmates and I would be able to sit through movies without once judging or criticizing ourselves.
Despite the image pressure that the media puts on us, I continue to believe that what I look like now will not affect my success. In twenty years, my boss will not have even known that I had ever been a mini- Ugly Betty. While the students that surround me may choose to believe differently, I will always hope that some day they can come to the same realization: the media’s opinion is not always the correct one, nor is always best for each individual. The girl on the cover of September’s Seventeen Magazine will never cross my path. I will never have to compete against her, nor will anyone I have grown up with. What she looks like means nothing to me, no matter how much the media tells me it does.