In class we discussed the effect that media has on our perceptions of ourselves and the ideals we strive for. We talked about what influences popular culture and how it changes over time. We touched upon the fact that representations of thinness in the media may lead to eating disorders. There was a study done on how the introduction of media affected young girls’ perception of themselves and how they began developing eating disorders in response to the introduction of Western television. In a region of Fiji, there is a community of natives who have previously not been exposed to Western media. The culture is to eat a lot, and having a larger size is a sign of health and beauty. Teenage girls were interviewed and surveyed on their eating habits, and self perception is 1995 (when television has been introduced for only 3 months) and again in 1998 (when television had been around for 3 years). It was found that young girls experienced more eating-disordered habits, were less happy with their bodies, and strayed more and more from their cultural ideals. This study shows how representation in the media can influence the behavior of young girls. When they were interviewed, the girls said they wanted to emulate the characters in the shows they watched because the women had high power jobs and were independent. There is a link to a NY Times article explaining the study.
My abnormal psych professor showed us this study when we were discussing eating disorders. I don’t have access to the original article, but this is the next best thing.