Professor Robert Prince
Journalism 101 UX1
Body Warping by Media — a Craze that Negatively Distorts Self-Worth
This trend has become more contentious, not just nationally, but internationally as well. It showcases what is wrong with the viewer-media relationship; the effects of body warping are not good. For those who do not know, body warping is a technique utilized by mass media to create a corridor of accepted body image. Anyone who has picked up a magazine or compares a few current tabloids will immediately understand what men should look for and what women should look like. Women need to be skinny, nearly unhealthily skinny, have great breasts and be unblemished and untarnished by imperfection. Any imperfection mars a woman’s beauty and they should be working on that to be found beautiful in society. This effect is pervasive on the minds of young women and has spurred debate on the morality and ethicality of this doctrine. Body warping, at its roots, is an attack on positive self-perception.
- Origins, Effects, and Methodology of Body Warping.
Before the advent of advanced computer technology that made body warping capable by keystroke alone, there was and still are tried and true methods. This one has been utilized for decades and it is simple, find women that are extremely thin (Kite and Kite). It sounds simple, that’s because it is! That is the beauty of it and serves as the infrastructure behind body warping. What mass media has done, and peddles to young women across the nation is simple. This one type of body, this rare type that is not physically possible for the vast majority of women is your ticket to beauty. Not only do they link it to beauty but to success and pretty much everything else (“100 Percent of What You See In Fashion Magazines Is Retouched’). Slim models and then super slim models and then ultra slim models came into the fashion industry in spurts and it took decades.
Changing a nation’s perception on body image takes time and careful planning. Imagine trying to say that women that were on the opposite side of the spectrum, fat, were more beautiful. If mass media wanted to play that angle, they would have to begin slowly phasing out the pawns that support the institutions of lithe and slimness. It is easy to say that can’t happen, but perception management is best done subtly, subconsciously, and covertly. If the audience knows what is happening, then it has lost its effect (Diller). As magazines, brochures, T.V. channels, movies and other forms of media bought into it, it influenced the opinion of the American people.
Now people may think they are not impressionable, but people are whether they know it or not. The links that bind media and the viewer together are a steel trap that escaping from is difficult and for some quite painful (“Body Image of Women’). Mass media is mass addiction through the form of stimulation through fear. Read any article and it is trying to make you want more of it. It will sell any angle, prove any point and display falsities to get money. Body warping is a form of falsity.
Now when Photoshop came online in 1988, its use for body warping started slow. Within nearly three decades it is the premier editing tool for professional firms (Diller). It is a cost effective tool to take that model all the way into fantasy land for beauty. When combined with airbrushing techniques it creates a person in all but name. People on magazines are as fake as a cartoon character. However, women don’t see that way, for some it is because they think they actually look like it. There are women though that see the red flags but still yearn to look that way anyways (“100 Percent of What You See In Fashion Magazines Is Retouched’). That speaks to an industry that has completely sold this body image to the public. Its influence overrides cognitive dissonance of its viewing base and their paradigm remains intact.
Depending on who that individual is when they receive the body warping image, it does different things to them. Now the research is not conclusive, but there are reports that suggest that negative body image does play a role in eating disorders in women (“Body Image of Women’). The American Medical Association has gone as far as to state that effects are known to be negative in the cognitive domain. The thoughts that go through someone’s mind when comparing themselves are very negative.
That is what they want though. The adage “beauty sells’ is apt but “get more beautiful’ sells way better. If a person’s paradigm of themselves can be affected then they have won. From there, all the industry has to do is provide an outlet or a service that fulfills the hole in self-confidence. A good example of an industry that capitalizes off of insecurity is the beauty industry. They always sell fear to young women that they are not pretty now but could be temporarily if they buy and wear the product. That is the obvious example, but also the weight loss industry profits from body warping.
There is a pill for everything and fat loss is apparently one of them. Popular fat loss pills like Hydroxcut and other firms peddle to people who think they need to lose weight. Whether it is true or not is irrelevant. They provide a service to serve the anxiety of people affected by body warping stereotypes (“100 Percent of What You See In Fashion Magazines Is Retouched’). It is a dangerous phenomenon that has changed the way beauty is perceived.
The beauty industry perpetuates this dangerous standard out of sheer greed for profit. They created a body image that is a niche market that is incredibly hard to obtain. By controlling and using mass media they have become the voice of body image. By willfully continuing this trend, they set a collision path for women to either ignore body warping media which is everyhwere or become pawns in a consumerist money trap. Always note that no solution they peddle is permanent, the individual must always keep buying. They have created a legalized addiction and through it a highly profitable addiction market. The victims are beautiful young women and the profiteers are the antagonists.
- Is it Ethical?
Ethics and mass media is an interesting subject to say the least. Photography professionals say that airbrushing, photo shopping, and a selective modeling cliental are just part of the game (Kite and Kite). The only game that is being played in the United States, as an example, is a rigged one. There is no driving capitalistic incentive imaginable that would have these firms change what they are doing. If it is good for the game, then it must be good for business. If you have a catalyst that creates the paradigm of scarcity, beautiful lithe models, why would you change that to an overabundance of normal looking women? You wouldn’t, case and point is the overall value of the beauty industry in the United States which is valued at $50 billion dollars (Anneli). Businesses will not surrender current market share or the future value of the cosmetic industry.
Can you blame businesses? They are just doing what they set out to do, which is provide a service. Never mind that they artificially create the demand and have profited madly by it. PR fronts that are pro-cosmetic point to the boons they bring to the economy, that they are service oriented. It is an industry that drastically needs regulation on how they advertise their products. Because they, the cosmetic firms, believe they do no wrong and see no wrong with what they peddle incessantly to the masses (Diller). Due to the combined unrealism and the cynicism that these firms proliferate, a line must be drawn by public institutions.
- What has the U.S. done, what has France done?
The U.S. and France are quite different on how to curtail the practice of body warping through specific editing techniques. On April 7, 2015 the country of France joined a growing body of nations that debated and ruled against body warping techniques. Specifically, France has created laws that specifically target and try to combat effective textbook techniques cosmetic firms utilize. First, France banned ultra-thin models, citing them as a threat to people’s safety. Parliament stated the glorification of ultra-thin culture for the sake of fashion is not healthy (Asuncion). Not only did France pass the law they actually put teeth to the bill.
Unlike in the U.S., Spain, and Israel which have robust fashion industries and have tentatively placed bans, they haven’t accounted for much. They lack substance and enforceability, something the French want to rectify. They attached a financial penalty for firms that hire ultra-thin models under a BMI number. There is also the possibility of confinement in prison for a period not to exceed one year. The key hope is to prevent exploitation of not just viewers, but also the models who starve themselves to keep their weight low. France also introduced another provision that is quite an exciting development.
They were not the first do this, in fact Israel was, but the French want their people to understand the difference in images. It is believed that the fashion industry owes it to its customers to give a disclaimer, much like the disclaimers on cigarettes and their dangers, on any photo that is touched up. If they do not, that firm can be penalized for it with the previously stated measures. This opens up a chance for a difference in how opinions form. If people know that the image is photoshopped that can help them be more informed on their cosmetic choices. In essence, the French want the game of perception management to not be their private monopoly and have to play by a moral play book the parliament designed.
The U.S. though has been silent on these issues and has been content to let the status quo go unchanged overall. That is not to say that activists are not lobbying for a Federal solution to this issue. The lobbyist war continues to this day as pro-cosmetic forces attribute their work as art and is protected free speech. They do no wrong because what they do meets the provisions of the 1st amendment. Anti-cosmetic forces argue that there is a moral imperative at stake and Federal regulation is necessary to breakup this dangerous advertising scheme. As of now, there are only half-effective solutions in place such as the Council for Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). The CFDA is only an education and awareness organization and has no enforcement capability.
Decades of subtle perception management has yielded the vastly unfair and unrealistic beauty standards of present day. This scheme was cooked up not to showcase the beauty of the human body but to create a caricature of beauty. The unobtainable nature has created a gluttonous cosmetic industry that will do anything to sell the next body craze to its viewers. It has created a nightmare addiction of self-hatred, self-loathing and apathy that they seek to fill as the cure. Their words are hollow, their products ineffective at curing the damage they have done. Regulating this market is necessary to not only heal the damage they have caused, but mitigate further damage in the future.
Body Image of Women. Mirror Mirror Eating Disorders, N/A. Web. 07/22/2015.
Anneli, Rufus. The Cosmetics Racket: Why the Beauty Industry Can Get Away with Charging a
Fortune for Makeup, 09/10/2010. Diller, Vivian. Is Photoshop Destroying America’s Asuncion, Maria. France passes law banning ‘anorexic’ models and photoshop with no lable.
The Science, Technology, Gist, 04/04/2015. Body Image. Huffpost Healthy Living,
07/08/2011. Web. 7/22/2015.
Kite, Lexie and Kite, Lindsey. Photoshopping: Altering Images and Our Minds. Beauty Redifined, 03/12/2014. Web. 7/22/15
100 Percent of What You See In Fashion Magazines Is Retouched. Ideal Bite, N/A. Web.