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Rated: 13+ · Article · Psychology · #2180432
An article on how the portrayal of beauty in literature can be as harmful as that in media
A lot of us desire to be successful in life, and we follow this notion that we'll achieve this success sooner and easier if we're attractive. This is true, especially for females, who are told by society that their place is to look good. We see this all the time in advertising and marketing, but has anyone ever discussed the impact of body image in literature and other forms of creative media? Even if a woman grows up not giving a single d*mn about the marketing and advertising around her, she could still grow up thinking she's ugly because of how she compares herself to the characters she sees on her favorite animated shows or in her favorite novels.

The media chooses slim, attractive people to be fashion models, actresses, and all sorts of other things as they know these people will become role models, especially to teenagers. Because of this, these media executives hire these professionals based on what they assume is most likely to be successful and popular: the slim, attractive person as opposed to the heavier-set and less attractive one (Mirror Mirror, Body Image of Women). Think about it: the slim, attractive woman appears to have her sh*t together more than the heaver, less appealing one; that's just how humans judge each other.

This trend has not only made its way into literature, but has evolved the original message, as well, into one that states, "Being pretty will make you stand out along with being successful." Of course this statement would appeal to people who seek success because in order to be discovered, you must stand out, and what better, as well as simpler, way to do it than through looks? Take this piece of prose from Raymond Chandler, for example: "It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window." This phrase might communicate to you that this woman is so attractive that she can stand out and be noticed anywhere, can influence others to do things they wouldn't normally do without having to try very hard, and that she could immediately get anything she wants with very little effort.

This way of talking about attractive people, though, is hyperbolic and unrealistic, considering that people in real life don't make decisions about whether to oblige to someone's desires based on their looks alone. Because some readers that are young enough to have this false ideology imprinted onto them by frequent enough exposure to this hyperbolic language, however, there is a chance that young readers, especially females, can start setting unrealistic expectations for themselves. We all think it would be pretty sweet if we could make our significant others remember to text us back all the time with just the mere presence of our radiant beauty, right? Sadly, that is not how humanity works.

Thinking one is ugly starts at a young age. As stated before, if a young girl reads too much hyperbolic language regarding feminine beauty, her inexperienced little mind will set unrealistic standards for her in getting what she wants and how to get it. Because we don't get what we want all the time, this young girl will notice more and more often the disappointment of things not going her way and, because her brain is wired to follow the ideology that getting what you want is determined entirely on one's looks, she will begin to think that she's not getting her way because she's not pretty enough. This type of negative thinking can greatly lower one's self-esteem and cause them to develop mental illnesses such as depression or eating disorders.

When a child starts thinking they're ugly, this thought pattern of thinking they're ugly can last a long time. When exposed to media that puts an excessive value on physical beauty at a very young age, that ideology can imprint on a child and create a long-lasting inner pressure to always be the best/most beautiful. One notable example of this is beauty pageants; many researchers have noted that children who participated in pageants regularly often grew up depressed and thinking of themselves as inferior or not pretty enough. A similar pattern can be seen in how a young child compares herself to a book character via how often she gets things her way versus how often the book character gets things her way.

The best way to prevent this mindset from developing to the point where it develops a mental illness in your child is to expose your child to more creative media that depicts getting one's way through polite yet assertive communicating rather than just batting one's eyelashes and tossing one's hair around so the child can develop a more realistic aspect on how to get what they want. If your child does grow up with depression or an eating disorder because of too frequent exposure to media that depicts beauty as being more effective in getting what one wants than the realistic alternative of communication, be sure to provide your child with therapy and other accommodations that will support the newfound belief that looks don't matter as much as effort and communication in achieving what one wants.


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