As I’m in my third year of study, I was given some module options and one of the modules that I chose was ‘Media and the Body’. So far over the whole module, one thing that has become apparent is the constant mention of the human body in popular culture.
I decided to look at some magazines (such as Closer and New) to get an honest feel of how often we (particularly women) are over-saturated with the body. Funnily enough, before I took Media and Sociology with the University of Leicester, I was an avid magazine and celeb-gossip fan – call me sad, I know. I guess, I utilised the magazines as a momentary form of escape from ordinary world. What was interesting was how much I struggled to read the magazines. Not only were the stories dull but so the topics all revolved around the same thing – human bodies (weight, shape, size, illness, health).
Looking at Closer magazine, half of the headlines on the front page (3/6) were simply about the body – there was a big emphasis on celebrities either achieving their dream bodies ‘so you can too’, or the complete opposites where celebrities were loosing their perfectly formed shape. What becomes apparent in this instance and in the literature of the subject, is how weight loss or gain is linked to your mental status within society. For instance if a particular celebrity is well known for their body, by loosing their shape a little the headlines may suggest that this individual’s life is out of control as well, pulling in other negative connotations.
In Closer magazine, on every other page there were constant reminders of body transformations. ‘Then and now’ frames were used to illustrate how dramatic the body alteration has been, adding a spark of fire to the dull story. Not surprisingly, these kind of magazines also place a lot of pressure on ‘regular’ people and their ability to get a celeb-bod, i.e ‘Get a bum like Kim Kardashian’. Thus, this provides unrealistic goals that are pre-destined for failure, acting as a catalyst for the destruction of self-confidence.
Isolating the ‘i’ paper also showed some interesting results. Although the pressure on bodily appearance was absent, there was still a mention of bodies (again specifically around women) through topics such as IVF and weight loss. The front page also mentioned a new NHS initiative that encourages businesses to provide their employees with rewards if they were to loose weight or exercise more. Although this clearly has health benefits, the pressure to loose weight is still present, which may subliminally normalise this topic as a result.
Check it out for yourself, you may be surprised at how many headlines in magazines and newspapers are centred around our bodies.