Mind Candy

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How the media changes our perception of beauty

Posted by mandyf on January 30, 2012

The media constantly changes our perception of what beauty is because we as a society allow it to. While the media has changed what we consider beautiful regarding men to some degree over the years as yes, men can be viewed as beautiful, it is mainly in regards to women that this phenomena has been most noticeable. It is hardly anything new, nor does it appear to show the slightest inclination as to having any end in sight.

Years ago the ideal standard for beauty in a woman was someone that had a full voluptuous body. Curves in any form were a good thing, and a woman that had some meat on her bones was seen as a sign of not only health and fertility, but being sexually desirable. Likewise, during this era, a woman was to have long hair to be beautiful. Sure she could pin it back or wear it in a bun, but to be truly beautiful she had to be able to let it hang down when necessary, cascading at least to her shoulders. As a whole, this ideal was bought into because in the limited print advertising at the time this was how women were portrayed. Therefore, it must be correct, was the general thinking.

Norma Talmadge, circa mid 1920's

As the era of the flappers and motion pictures made its entrance to the world, the standards for beauty changed yet again. A woman should still have a full figure, but not quite as full as her mothers era. A buxom woman was still in vogue and the curves were good, but they were to be limited more to the hips and bust. Short hair suddenly became a sign of desirability as the women often appearing in films chose this look as it conveyed a liberated woman that was breaking with the norm and standing on her two feet. As odd as it sounds, a woman that smoked was even seen as beautiful as this had been a taboo in early years. None of this ever would have caught on most likely had Hollywood not fed everyone a steady diet of it.

Jumping ahead past the eras of Rosie the Riveter in which the tough by day soft by night woman serving both country and her man was the near the pinnacle of beauty with her rugged exterior which cleaned up instantly to sheer femininity, to the hippies of the 60’s when the media became conflicted as to what beauty is, we reach the 1970’s. The 70’s are when we really see the media dictating what beauty is at the speed of light so to speak. As opposed to earlier generations where televisions where more of a privilege than a “necessity” and movies where far fewer, beauty was being redefined subtly on a constant basis.

Rosie the Riveter Inspiration Geraldine Hoff Doyle

One day women were being told that being large was no longer beautiful and that the pixie haired pale waif was what anyone seeking beauty should aspire to be. This was reinforced by celebrating a few women fitting this look on every visual medium imaginable until people finally stopped fighting the idea that this look was in fact beautiful. Almost as quick as acceptance of this notion had been won, the rules changed again and the long huge haired women with deep tans and curvy bodies like Farrah Fawcett became the standard of beauty due to us being told that is what we were to believe.

Farrah Fawcett

The reason the media did this is that it is, at its core, a money making industry. It identifies one thing which has a slim popularity, as it did with the television show Charlie’s Angels, identifies one marketable aspect of it, in this case Fawcett, and holds it up as the ideal. Promoting a person in this manner rather than a product takes a much smaller investment, is easier to dispose of, and is in constant demand because we as consumers are always looking to be just ahead of the pack when it comes to identifying the next trend.

They promote what their view of beauty is by simple forceful repetition. They identify the new standard and begin flooding the market with anyone who resembles it until it is all anyone sees. They push this look in the highest rated television shows, movies. commercials, print ads, music videos, posters and anything else which can portray a visual image. Lists of the “most beautiful” people are compiled over and over again further blatantly telling us what beauty is. They force us to confront the images everywhere we turn and finally just give in to it. Just as a lie can be accepted as truth by some people if it is repeated often enough, a definition of what beauty is can be changed by putting it in our face often enough.

Combat this by finding the beauty in yourself and others that lies within. True beauty shouldn’t be a competition.

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2 Responses to “How the media changes our perception of beauty”

  1. sallykwitt said

    Good overview. Big issues!

  2. FitnessPal said

    Totally agree – we need to bring the curvy women back into our society :)

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