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Idealized Body Images in Mass Media and Eating Disorders (Essay Sample)


The assignment was to write an essay that shows how mass media (Film, tv) is contributing to a negative perception of individual. This paper discussed how mass media has led to an idealized body image among young audiences, leading to eating disorders .


The Association between Idealized Body Images in Mass Media and Eating Disorders
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Mass media especially television and magazines are continually influencing every aspect of a person’s spheres as more and more audiences get exposed to negative images of an ‘ideal’ body. The audience of mass media is surrounded by images of men with muscular bodies and women with toned, slender bodies, which could twist what individuals consider to be an idealized body. Furthermore, these images might make some people feel uncomfortable and or dissatisfied with their body shape and weight. Some researchers argue that many media outlets are portraying body images of perfection that make the audience very inundated with them. Therefore, young people are growing up with the assumption that the images are what should be the norm. This paper argues that mass media is contributing to a negative perception of an individual’s body image, and thus, may lead to eating disorders among its young audiences.
The TV series titled Teen Wolf offers the best example of normalized body images. In the show, most of the teenage characters are depicted with incredibly defined bodies devoid of excess cholesterol. The transformation from human to werewolf enables some of the characters to experience enhanced abilities such as heightened senses, speed, and body transformation. The main character — Scott Mcall (Tyler Posey) and other characters including Derek Hale (Tyler Hoechlin), Peter Hale (Ian Bohen) all portray a unique body ideal that could be misinterpreted by the audience as a reflection of a perfect body in the real world (Teen Wolf, 2017). Body dissatisfaction intensifies women’s body image disruption and undesirable affect after being exposed to images of slender women leading to low self-esteem (Hausenblas et al., 2013).
Almost all women characters in Teen Wolf, both the main and supporting cast, have slender bodies with averagely low body fat. Scott’s mum Melissa (Melissa Ponzio) and Scott’s girlfriend Malia Tate and the guidance counselor and villain Tamora Monroe have lean bodies. Very few cast members in the entire TV series are either obese or overweight. It is, therefore, ironical to portray most of these characters as lean and healthy yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approximates that in the US., two-thirds of the adult population is overweight while one-third of the same population is obese (CDC, 2017).
The ‘ideal’ image presented in Teen Wolf is particularly concerning because the series targets teenagers and young individuals. Therefore, such audiences are going through a difficult phase of their lives in trying to find their place in the world. Through observational learning, teens are often thinking about their identity in comparison to others. According to the observational learning theory, while peers help teenagers shape their identity, media figures can also be strong contributors in defining the opinions, attitudes, and self-image of teens (Bryant & Zillmann, 2009, p.121). Many teenagers look up to these characters as body role-models, and thus, increases the likelihood of developing eating disorders like anorexia (Hausenblas et al., 2013).

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