The effects of reality television displays the dehumanizing effects of different races and body appearances and degrading opinions of women. American body image norms being perpetuated by fashion, entertainment media, and the selection of ‘good looks’ have changed the definition of beauty. Beauty standards can cause a great deal and risk to people in society and ridicule almost every women in America. Instead of letting beauty standards be socially acceptable, people should be aware of the damage they cause and ultimately, understand it is unrealistic. In modern society, many individuals are exposed to different genres of reality television shows such as the Bachelor, Jersey Shore, and Keeping up with the Kardashians. The producers of these reality television show try to show the watcher a clear view of what “reality” is through their programs. However, these shows influence, persuade, and manipulate their viewers in many ways.
The modeling industry provides healthy body images for young women. Given that many viewers enjoy watching reality television, it has become a serious issue affecting our culture. In general, there are many reality television shows, particularly the America’s Next Top Model, sending negative messages and reinforcing stereotypes to manipulate the viewers to believe that the idea standard level of beauty can be attained. The journalist Jennifer Pozner the Founder and Executive Director of Women in Media and News published “ Ghetto Bitches, China dolls, and Cha Cha Divas.” Pozner examines America’s Next Top Model which is an American reality television series about a number of aspiring models who compete for the title of “ America’s Next Top Model.” It is a popular modeling and competition show that aims towards a specific group of people women. The aspiring models face weekly challenges while living together to compete for a modeling contract. Pozner argues the show, through selective casting and editing images, embraces racist stereotypes while superficially claiming to accept all types of individual beauty. In particular, Pozner focuses on Tyra Banks claims that she expanded America’s ideas of beauty for the greater good while negatively target weight, size, and the image of beauty.
Tyra Banks was the first African American women to be featured on GQ; a international men’s magazine. From there her career thrived and she is known as one of the world’s top earning models. Tyra is often portrayed as an inspirational black model, however she still tries to change models by eradicating “Ethnic idiosyncrasies in their personality and appearance”. Pozner explains this is due to being “mentally colonized by fashion” resulting in something similar to Stockholm Syndrome (Pozener). However, Tyra Banks stated “ It’s my number one passion in my life to stretch the definition of beauty. I listen to many heartbreaking stories of women who thought they would be happier if they looked different. I want every girl to appreciate the skin she’s in” (Pozner 196). This reality television program shows the transformations of different young women from different backgrounds, sizes, and shapes into potentially the most beautiful supermodels. If America’s Next Top Model wants to expand the definition of beauty and make women feel good about themselves; why does it only promote an unrealistic standard of beauty? And why do young girls grow up having this low self-confidence and are never satisfied with what they have?
Interestingly, Pozner discusses the different accounts that had happened on the set of America’s Next Top Model. A Korean contestant named Gina Choe was confident in being an Asian model and proudly stated it out to the directors. However, when she claimed that she was not interested in “Asian guys” she was automatically changed to a girl dealing with an identity issue and the stereotype of an “exotic” fading flower. Coming from a Korean-American background it is hurtful hearing opinions from professional models and directors from this reality television show. Personally I am not interested in ‘asian guys’ but people should not automatically be criticized young women like me as a fading flower because I might find other races more attractive than my own. Another example that Pozner presented was Tiffany Richardson, also known as “The Violent Ghetto Girl”. Tiffany was kicked out of high school for the way she acted and fights she got into. Tiffany was on America’s Next Top Model until she got into a bar fight and was kicked off the show. Tyra brought Tiffany back on to the show but was unfortunately eliminated once again. Throughout middle school and high school there were a lot of black girls in my grade who fought and came from difficult backgrounds. They were labeled amongst my peers as someone not to be friends with or talk to. But when I was in some of their classes I was forced to work with them even though their label was a little terrifying to me. Once getting to know these girls I realized that there was more than just fighting and cursing at other peers for whatever reasons they had. One of them is actually my best friend. A lot of individuals label individuals with names that hurt the way others may view them as. In America’s Next Top Model the directors like to label Asians as China Dolls, Latinas as promiscuous sluts, and Black girls as ghetto bitches. Young women get their ethnic labels through reality television, fashion magazines and in the toy world, exemplified by the Barbie doll industry.
Zali Yager a Senior Lecturer in Health and Physical Education at Victoria University wrote an article “ Is Barbie bad for body image?” Yager talks about how far people are willing to go to look perfect in this society. Giving children the Barbie doll at such a young age can influence them to want to look like her which is ‘perfect’. Although Barbie is not the sole cause of unattainable beauty, it is a contributing factor. Yager wrote “ Barbie represents a completely unattainable figure for adult women…almost 40% of children are thought to be dissatisfied with the way they look, and girls as young as five report weight concerns and express a desire to be thinner.” The Barbie doll portrays a perfect body and perfect life. The influence on this doll make young girls strive to achieve Barbie’s look. Looking back at my own childhood the influence on that doll had a big effect on me along with America’s Next Top Model. I was very skeptical of my body image and the way my peers viewed me. I would weigh myself every morning and watch what I ate which was predominately fruit and water all day. Some days I wouldn’t eat. When I hit middle school I weighed 55 pounds and was considered underweight. Doctors put me on special diets to help me gain weight. Eventually I was able to overcome that part of my life and become happy with my body. Due to young girls possessing the Barbie doll is has set a high bar that is unattainable for body image. The way that young girls idolize this doll is harmful in the long run and not enough women understand the effects it has on young girls around the world.
With this in mind, a perfect example of showing how far people are willing to go to have that ‘perfect’ body image is Cindy Jackson. Jackson is a world record holder since 2011 for fifty-two cosmetic procedures was obsessed with looking like a Barbie doll. She invested all her money in her appearance to look like the Barbie doll. Jackson started with reshaping her upper and lower eyelids to widen her eyes. From there she had liposuction, collagen injections, nose jobs, breast implants, cheekbone reshaping and implants, and microdermabrasion. After twenty years of remodeling herself, she finally looked like a Barbie doll. Jackson is a perfect example of showing how far people are willing to go to look perfect in this society. Recently, in 2016 due to major controversy, there has been a new line of Barbie dolls along with the hashtag #TheDollEvolved. The new Barbie dolls became petite, tall, and curvy. Barbie now has seven skin tones, twenty-two eye colors, and thirty three hairstyles.
Over the years, the definition of beauty has gone through constant change. In today’s world young women are constantly under the impression that they have to fit in with the current ‘ look ‘ to fit in with society. For many young girls, they feel the need to change their hair, body, face, and have extensive surgery done instead of being their true unique selves. Additionally, as a child my parents always told me how everyone is different in their own unique way. However the media has drilled it into young girls minds that they have to be perfect, having the perfect body like the Barbie doll in order to be happy. Furthermore, these same girls are resorting to extreme methods in order to fit in society, such as taking unhealthy weight loss pills, developing eating disorders, and starving themselves to lose weight. The Barbie doll appealed to many young girls because Barbie was an adult doll instead of the typical baby doll. Therefore, media has established this ideological standard which is if you have the perfect body, you get the perfect man and all the things that come with it and that will equate with happiness and acceptance. In reality, most girls never reach those standards. The media has given young women an overall negative mindset toward their body proven by women trying to get the perfect Barbie image. Barbie is a damaging symbol for young women. In today’s society beauty is distorted by the media and by the toy industry.
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