Media Spotlight on Beauty Images

Michelle Pheiffer, My Co-Star and Close Personal Friend, (Who is
Also One of the Sexiest Women in the World) Is Ruining Your Life

General Purpose:  Explore the effects that media images of beauty
and sexuality have on our self concepts and actions.

Spotlight Outline

I.   Once Upon A Time I Was Famous, Really . . . Kinda

     A.   The Children Nobody Wanted - made for TV movie starring
          Michelle Pheiffer and Steve.  The movie is actually the story of Steve's
          uncle who adopted two boys who were stuck in an
          institution with mentally ill adults. 

     B.   They Say Michelle is Sexy 

II.  Beauty Images in the Media (Myers & Biocca, 1992)

     A.   Examples - Rocker (tons of images of thin, beautiful,
          healthy people)

     B.   Proportion of Thin and Fat Portrayals 

          1.   60-80% of female models are describes as thin
          2.   5-10% are what you would call overweight
          3.   Very few are "normal size" women
          4.   In real life, 1 in 3 women are obese.
          5.   Male models are depicted more like real men,
               although some exaggeration still exists with thin,
               hunky male models.

     C.   Diet Ads - rare in male magazines but pitched at all ages
          of women

     D.   Playmates, Miss America, and Models - In the 60's and
          70's, women models were about 6% leaner than the average
          American women.  In the 80's and 90's, this figure
          changed to about 20%.  Interestingly, in real life, all
          Americans have gotten heavier.

III. Health, Beauty, and Sexuality (Cognitive Effects)

     A.   Message Equates Health with Appearance

          1.   Cool People are Thin and Healthy 

          2.   Uncool People are Fat and Unhealthy

     B.   Good Health is Not Good Image

          1.   Image is Distorted and Unhealthy

          2.   Take Body Fat Percentage - a good indicator of true
               health.  For men, 10-15% body fat is normal, 20% is
               considered obese.  For women, 15-20% is normal.
               Women need more body fat for childbearing. 

IV.  Women and Weight Loss - Behavior Effects (Wolf, 1991)

     A.   Percentages of Women Dieting - 75% of all women are
          dieting at one time.  Virtually every woman has dieted in
          her life.

     B.   Body Satisfaction - 50-80% of teenage girls are
          dissatisfied with their bodies.  25-35% of them are
          actually overweight.  The number one goal of professional
          women surveyed is to lose 5-10 pounds.

     C.   Eating Disorders - up to 20% of women have been bulimic
          at one time.  Five percent of women suffer from anorexia
          nervosa (psychological disorder) which can lead to death.

V.  Media Exposure and beliefs

     A.  Goals of study - link exposure to "thin" media images to beliefs about
            dieting, appearance.

     B.  Sample and Methods
            1.  Participants - college males and females
             2. Procedure - complete several self report surveys on media exposure
                  and beliefs and attitudes

     C.  Surveys
            1.  Eating Disorders, Body Dissat, Drive for Thinness, and
                  Perception of Women (men only on this last one)
                  all these measures assess beliefs and ATTs about beauty,
                  thinness, and dieting
            2.  TV and Magazine Exposure
                  how often you watch/read messages like:
                  Melrose Place 90210, Fashion and Fitness magazines

       D. Results for Women
             1. More Magazine Reading (No TV Effects)
             2. More fitness (2+) and more fashion (3+) mags, more negative effects
                             moderate        small

      E.  Results for Men
            1.  More "Thin" TV (MP, 90210) and More Mags More Negative (small)

       F.  Study Conclusions
             1.  Small effects for both males and females
                  more exposure to "thin" media, more negative
             2.  Correlated Survey, Causality?
                  hey, this isn't a causal design, so we can't claim from this data
                  that exposure caused this, but it is consistent with other data.

VI.   Unit Conclusions

     A.   Cultivation effects - In the mass media, there are many
          images of lean, curvaceous women.  These images are
          actually uncontradicted.  Women think they have to be
          lean, and some men think their girlfriends/wives should
          be that lean.

     B.   Modeling Effects - Girls model after images in media. 
          Guys also suffer from modeling effects.  They wonder why
          their girlfriends don't look like that.

      C.  Who Do you want to Be and Why?
           you see the media influence on our beliefs and behaviors.  Is this
           what you really want in your own life?

Back to Notes Table of Contents

Notes prepared by Teresa Jones, Spring, 1996. Page created April 21, 1996; updated on October 6, 1999. Edited by Mike Lowry Copyright © Teresa Jones and Steve Booth-Butterfield, 1996.