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How Women's Body Images Are Portrayed by Nip/Tuck
The television series "Nip/Tuck" and the tremendous
amount of plastic surgery in the United States is a
classic "chicken or egg" scenario.
The television series "Nip/Tuck" and the tremendous amount of plastic surgery in the United States is a classic "chicken or egg" scenario.
In 2004 the National Institute on Media and the Family posted statistics that reveal by the age of 13, 53 percent of girls in America are displeased with their bodies. According to the same statistics, the number increases to 78 percent for 17-year-olds. A separate study was conduced on fifth graders. Both 10-year-old girls and boys told researchers that they were unhappy with how their bodies looked after watching a clip form the television show "Friends" or a Britney Spears music video. The study also revealed that adolescent girls felt "less confidant, more angry, and more dissatisfied with their weight and appearance" if they watched commercials that showed unrealistically thin models.
Sexuality and the importance of physical attractiveness is often emphasized by advertisers in an attempt to sell products. This has led to researchers being concerned that this is placing undue pressure on women to put too much focus on their appearances. Teen People magazine conducted a survey in which 27% of the girls surveyed felt that they were pressured to have a perfect body by the media.
A 1996 poll conducted by international ad agency Saatchi and Saatchi revealed ads made women afraid of being old or unattractive.
Research suggests that advertisements and the media can have an adverse affect on women's body image. This can result in unhealthy behaviors as women and girls attempt to have the ultra-thin body that they see being idealized.
On average, a woman sees between 400 and 600 advertisements each day. By the age of 17, a woman has been exposed to over 250,000 commercial messages from the media. While just nine percent of the commercials make a direct statement about beauty, most implicitly emphasize beauty's importance. Many of these commercials are targeted towards girls and women. A study was conducted of Saturday morning toy commercials. The results of the survey were that 50%of the commercials that were geared towards girls focused on physical attractiveness. There were no commercials geared towards boys that focused on appearance. There have been other studies that found 50% of the advertisements in magazines for teen girls and 56% of television commercials that were geared toward female viewers used beauty to try to make the advertised product appealing. The constant exposure that girls receive to these advertisements can lead to girls becoming self-conscious about their bodies and can also lead them to obsess over their physical appearance with regards to their worth as a person.
The bodies idealized in the media usually are not typical of normal healthy women. Instead, the advertisements focus on thinness as the standard for female beauty Fashion models, who are portrayed as how women should aspire to look, weigh 23% less than the average woman. The reality is that a woman between the ages of 18-34 has a seven percent chance of being as thin as a cat walk model, and a one percent chance of being as slim as a so-called super model.
According to one study, 69% of girls said that their idea of the perfect body shape was influenced by magazine models. Unfortunately, the pervasive acceptance of this out of touch with reality body type has created a standard that is impractical for most women.
It is believed by some researchers that unrealistically thin bodies are purposely normalized by advertisers. This is done to create an unattainable desire that will cause women to buy products that aren't needed and also have unnecessary surgery. The media reproduces ideals that have no basis in the reality of what bodies actually look like. This creates a market that can never be satisfied, and therefore creates customers that will always return.
Comparing their bodies to those around them is something that women frequently do. Research has shown that exposing women to idealized body images lowers their satisfaction with their own attractiveness. Another study showed that people who were shown slides of slim models had lower self-evaluations compared to people who had seen models that were oversized or average. In a Body Image Survey, girls responded that "very thin" models made them insecure.
After looking though women's magazines, 68% of a sampling of graduate and undergraduate students from Stanford felt worse about their appearance. The prevalent distorted body image of women has many healthcare professionals concerned. This incorrect image is influenced by women's constant self-comparison to the slim models that are shown by the media. Studies of women that are considered "normal" weight show that 75% of these women think that they are overweight. Overestimating their own body size is done by 90% of all women.
This dissatisfaction with their bodies has caused many girls and women to want to attain this false ideal thinness. For girls ages 11 to 17 their number one wish is to be thinner. What's even more shocking is that five year old girls are even afraid of getting fat. By the time they are 10-years-old, 80% of girls have dieted. These horrifying statistics continue into adulthood as 50% of women are dieting at any given time.
Research shows that depictions of slim models can cause girls to develop unhealthy weight-control habits. This is because the image of ideal thinness that they are seeking to attain is in fact unattainable for many and is also unhealthy for most women. A study revealed that although only 29% of girls were actually overweight, 47% of the girls wanted to lose weight and were influenced to do so by pictures in magazines. Research also shows that stringent dieting can be a contributing factor to the beginning of eating disorders.
Teen and preteen girls look up to the movie stars and celebrities that they have seen on television. Many of these celebrities are disseminating a false body image. Because these girls have watched television since the early days of their childhood these false images that they see on television have become the normal standard. The misinformation continues while they are teens. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that the average teenager spends between 22 and 28 hours each week watching television. The misinformation then continues into adulthood. By the time a person has reached the age of 70 they have spent 7 to 10 years watching television.
This tremendous amount of exposure will obviously have a tremendous amount of influence on preteen and teen girls, and women. The negative images are nearly inescapable as both the television programming and the television commercials promote unrealistic thinness.
Unfortunately, the media helps form society. Not only does it help form the opinions of youth, adults allow the media to affect their thoughts and behaviors. Doctors even allow the media to change their perception of a health body. Research shows that children who have weight problems frequently don't have self-worth, which can result in obsessive weight concerns.
In effect the problem becomes a vicious cycle. Television, for the most part, is a reflection of society and public opinions. Society wants to, and expects to, see thin actresses on television. The problem is that society wants and expects to see thin actresses because of the images of thin actresses on television.
"Nip/Tuck" is the epitome of this vicious cycle. The website ediets.com reported that last year Americans spent nearly $8.4 billion on more than 15 million plastic surgery procedures. This is an increase of $2 million from the year before.
The unbelievable amount of money involved answers the question of why the media would do this. Presenting an ideal that is at best difficult to achieve and maintain, and in most cases impossible to reach, assures customers, growth, and profit. The ideals that are presented are not coincidental either.
Youth is heavily promoted as well as thinness. Although not every woman needs to lose weight, everyone eventually becomes older. So of course the media must let women know that aging is bad and that youth is good. Once this message has been ingrained women spend money in order to attain this false ideal.
According to Canadian researcher Gregory Fouts, more than three-quarters of the female characters in television situation comedies are underweight, while just one out of twenty are over weight. Fouts also reported that when male characters make negative comments about overweight female character 80% of these comments are followed by a laugh track.
While there's no canned laughter, "Nip/Tuck" is still a negative influence. The drama series focuses on the lives of two plastic surgeons in Miami, Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) and Christian Troy (Julian McMahon). Most of their patients are women who want breast augmentation surgery.
The self-esteem of women is already low, with the media (especially television) playing a huge role in this problem. More and more women are choosing to undergo surgery in order to defeat their self-esteem problems.
Most women have insecurities about their bodies. Whether it is their breasts, stomachs, or noses, there is something that is not considered good enough. "Nip/Tuck" is clearly sending the wrong message. A show about plastic surgery glamorizes the procedure. This leads to further abuse of cosmetic surgery, which is any procedure that is unnecessary and done strictly for vanity purposes.
"Nip/Tuck" was the highest-rated new series on basic cable in its first season. It was also the highest rated basic cable series in the 18-49 and 25-54 age demographics.
Unfortunately "Nip/Tuck" isn't just popular. The show has been nominated for and won Emmy and Golden Globe Awards. This acceptance and acclaim of the show adds to the problem. It adds to the acceptance of plastic surgery. It adds to the acclaim of attaining the ideal body image that women see on television. Plastic surgery has become so common that it is now considered "normal."
The success of "Nip/Tuck," which is now in its third season, increases the success of the plastic surgery industry. It increases the success of every industry that seeks to capitalize on the false ideal body images that have been shown to women since they first started watching television in their early childhood. This decreases the already low self-esteem of women,
with every nip and tuck.