Thursday, March 11, 2010

Gatekeeping & concepts of self in media...

Media and Manipulation of Body Image
I have long been aware of and concerned about media's manipulation of images especially of womens' bodies. This practice has created an epidemic of eating disorders and body dysmorphia, especially in adolescent girls trying to fit the media presented norms. Recently, Filippa Hamilton, a Ralph Lauren model made news when an extreme distortion of her image appeared on the cover of fashion magazine Marie Claire.

"I was shocked to see that super skinny girl with my face," she told the Daily News. She was fired from Ralph Lauren for "being too fat." While the cover was pulled, it created a controversy reported on various news channels and blogs.

As Karen Dill explained, often the sense of self is informed by perceptions from media. Media's influence on us, our culture and our society, continues to grow more and more powerfully.

Idealization of Impossible Beauty
Research suggests that the idealization of body image via media is in increasingly serious issue.  Young girls strive to achieve this impossible beauty and thinness often debilitating into serious life-threatening eating disorders. Renee Botta in her article in Journal of Communications states, “Media images have a potentially indirect effect by forming an unrealistically thin ideal, as well as a potentially direct impact on body image disturbance.”  (1999)

There is an extreme social pressure to be thin that is exacerbated by these images in magazines and through various media channels held up as today’s image of beauty. The magazine cover shown above is visibly distorted and not even proportionately possible.

Questions about its efficacy and ethical practices are of importance to me and to the future of media. How does one discern truth from fiction or embellishment or in this case distortion? Photoshop gives advertising a very powerful tool to manipulate our visual field and perceptions of reality.

Personal Experience
I much prefer the real me...very strange to see the distortion and experience it personally - my own sense of self became distorted.
Since I have some experience with Photoshop, I experimented with the images below. I have struggled to maintain a thinner body, with the aging process fast winning out. Instead of appreciating this thinner image, my subjective experience is not pleasant but rather distorted. I have had a similar reaction to young girls who I sometimes mentor. They can be super -thin. The influence of media in this plays an increasingly visible and manipulative role.

Additional reading
Eating Disorder Recovery Center
Society pays a significant amount of attention to body image and physical attractiveness, youthfulness, sexuality, and appearance. The covers of magazines display pictures of men and women alike, whose images are offered as near perfection in society's consensus. These photographs are often additionally computer-enhanced and taken in near perfect circumstances. more...