Body Image & the Media: Calling for the New Look Model

A model poses on the runway at Style Fashion Week 2011 in Los Angeles.

by Tara Ashraf

Why is it that America is always a little bit behind Europe?  (I don’t mean educationally — if we were talking about education, frankly, we’re light-years behind.)  But even in the realm of media, I’m ashamed to state this fact: we’re losing the race again.  America has a plethora of beautiful supermodels, but for some reason, we are a little too fixated on their looks.

The complete saturation of media means that we are all exposed to ads:  Constantly, and often without realizing it.

When most people think of Parisians, the image of a whisper-thin woman with a cigarette dangling from her mouth often comes to mind.  And yet, France was the first country to attempt to revamp its media when it came to body image.  By 2008, negotiations had begun to create a new image of French models.  Instead of encouraging the starvation and rigorous exercise routines in practice by many models, France took a radically different approach: the country debated plans to outlaw extreme thinness in advertising.  (Although the bill passed the French Assembly, it has yet to be debated by the French Senate, and has been tabled for the past few years.)

(Click here to see a discussion of similar body image laws under consideration in Australia from CNN International.)

And the Spanish, the people associated with siestas and flexible start times for everything, followed the French trend.  It is the Spanish who wanted to completely revamp their media situation; broadcasters can no longer show advertisements that would in any way derail a child’s self-confidence.  That meant: nothing showing slimming products or surgical procedures would be played during times that children typically watch television.

By implementing this strategy, the Spanish changed international media.  I have to wonder whether America, which has a nationwide problem with obesity, would do well with the same kind of media change.

Curiously enough, visual representations impact us in ways we never thought about before.  By banning extreme thinness, the media will have to come up with a new image for the average French girl or the average Spanish girl.   By shifting the image, not only do the media change, but the perception changes.  Soon, an image of a normal, healthy person can become the goal to strive for again.

The Spanish have become exasperated.

That, alone, should be a cue to America to shape up our own unrealistic ideals.

(The photo is from henryjose of Los Angeles, Calif., via Flickr using a Creative Commons License. To see a video from the Dove campaign on body image, please check below.)

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1 Response to Body Image & the Media: Calling for the New Look Model

  1. Very interesting article, thank you !

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