Looks don’t matter; beauty is only skin-deep. We hear these sayings every day, and yet we live in a society that seems to contradict this very idea. If looks don’t matter, why does the media use airbrushing to hide any flaws a person has? If looks don’t matter, why are so many young women harming themselves because they’re unhappy with the way they look? It’s because our society promotes a certain body image as being beautiful, and it’s a far cry from the average woman’s size 12. The unrealistic standard of beauty that women are bombarded with everyday gives them a goal that is impossible to reach, and the effects are devastating. These impossible standards need to be stopped, and society instead needs to promote a healthy body image along with the idea that women of all shapes and sizes are beautiful—not just women who are a size 2.
The media’s use of airbrushing is one of the major causes of these impossible standards of beauty. Leah Hardy, a former Cosmopolitan editor, admitted that this is true—many of the stick-thin models in Cosmo were actually struggling with eating disorders, but were airbrushed to look less unwell (Crisell). In an interview with the Daily Mail, Hardy stated, [the models had 22-inch waists, but they also had breasts and great skin. They had teeny tiny ankles and thin thighs, but they still had luscious hair and full cheeks. Thanks to retouching, our readers never saw the horrible, hungry downside of skinny. The models’ skeletal bodies, dull, thinning hair, spots and dark circles under their eyes were magicked away by technology… A vision of perfection that simply didn’t exist. (qtd. by Crisell) By airbrushing these models, the media gives young girls the idea that this body image is attainable—and by trying to look like these models, these girls become just as unhealthy.
Cosmopolitan also asked their readers if they were confident with their bodies. Of the 1000 women surveyed, over 60% revealed that they weren’t (Cosens). Psychologists and doctors are beginning to push for a ban on airbrushed images, stating that these images are causing eating disorders and depression in girls as young as five; a survey by Girlguiding UK found that over half of girls ages eleven to sixteen are dieting in order to be thinner (Couzens). And these airbrushed images don’t only have a negative effect on the women who see them—can you imagine being one of the women in these advertisements? Myleene Klass spoke out about what it’s like, stating that in some photographs she’s seen, she looks absolutely nothing like herself. “It’s always weird to see what an art director creates as a flawless version of yourself,” she admits (Crisell).
Studies have also been done concerning the influence of magazines on women, and the results make things perfectly clear: the media needs to stop promoting unrealistic body images. Turner, Hamilton, Jacobs, Angood, and Dwyer conducted a study in 1997 in which thirty-nine college-age women were randomly assigned to two different tasks: one group of women viewed a fashion magazine prior to taking a body image survey, while the other group viewed a news magazine. The women who were assigned the group that viewed the fashion magazine stated that they wanted to lose more weight and viewed themselves more negatively than the women who read the news magazine. A study performed by Marian Morry and Sandra Staska in 2001 found that “media exposure to the ‘ideal’ form is being internalized” (Chojnacki). However, this ideal form, quite simply, doesn’t exist—“print and electronic media images blur the boundaries between a fictionalized ideal and reality. Therefore, these ‘ideal’ images that are represented in the mass media are not only unreal, but also very misleading” (Thompson and Heinberg, qtd. in “Dissatisfaction”).
Some companies have already begun to take the necessary steps to put an end to these impossible standards. In 2004, Dove started their Campaign for Real Beauty, in which they feature women of all shapes and sizes in their advertisements and don’t retouch the images (Cosens). Dove also includes self-esteem toolkits and resources on their website as part of their mission: “to help develop girls’ self-esteem from a young age, so they have the confidence to feel happy in themselves and reach their full potential” (“Our Mission”). H&M has also recently joined in the effort to promote a healthier (and more realistic) body image by using bigger mannequins. While most mannequins are sizes 4 to 6, these mannequins are a size 12—the size of the average American woman (“Photo of plus size mannequins”). This seems like another step in the right direction; however, H&M has met worldwide debate as many feel that these mannequins encourage obesity and unhealthy lifestyles. One man commented on the article about the new mannequins saying, “Cover those fat women up. This is sick.” Another stated that this is just an attempt to lower men’s expectations of an ideal mate and is encouraging “mediocrity, laziness, and self-indulgence.” These comments are exactly what’s wrong with today’s society, and are why things need to change.
While many young girls are aware that the photographs they see of celebrities have been retouched, they don’t realize the women they see in movies, music videos, and TV shows have also been airbrushed (Crisell). Not only that, but as former actress and singer Demi Lovato pointed out, the stars of many TV shows have also been getting considerably thinner: “Is it just me, or are the actresses getting THINNER and THINNER… I miss the days of That’s So Raven and Lizzie McGuire,” Lovato tweeted, referencing actresses Raven Symone and Hilary Duff (Piazza). Lovato isn’t the only one to hold this view, either. Psychotherapist Dr. Jenn Berman stated that “networks and shows that cater to children need to be more mindful in both casting and writing to ensure that children of all shapes and sizes are represented”; similarly, Dr. Jeffrey Gardere stated that “constantly portraying these so-called perfect bodies in the media… can promote unhealthy eating, diet, and food disorder practices that can cause injury and sometimes death, not to mention the psychological damage that can severely impact self image and self-esteem” (Piazza).
Things haven’t always been this way; in the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe epitomized the standard of beauty at size 14. However, the ideal body size for women keeps going down, and with it, women’s self-esteem: the average model today is 5’11” and weighs in at 117 pounds, whereas the average woman is 5’4” and weighs 140 (“Dissatisfaction”). Actresses are getting thinner; models are getting thinner; and as if these models and actresses aren’t thin enough already, the media proceeds to airbrush them. What was wrong with Marilyn Monroe’s size 14? Absolutely nothing, and since this was the image that the media promoted, this look was accepted. Why can’t we go back to promoting curves instead of skin and bones—or better yet, why can’t we promote the idea that women of all shapes and sizes are equally beautiful? We can, and the place to start is with the media.
The sad thing is that these unrealistic body images don’t just exist in the media; they surround us, although they’ve become so entrenched in our society that we don’t even notice. Take the Barbie doll—many young girls grow up playing with Barbies, but have you ever stopped to think about the body image that Barbie promotes? If Barbie was real, “her body fat percentage would be so low that she would not be able to menstruate. Her measurements would be 38-18-34.” Comparatively, the average woman’s measurements are approximately 41-34-43—only about one in 100,000 women even come close to matching Barbie’s body image. These unrealistic body images are introduced at such a young age that it’s no surprise young girls struggle with their weight; about 90% of all cases of eating disorders are diagnosed before the age of 20, and the majority of those diagnosed are young women (“Barbie”).
College women also face these ideas of the ideal body image every day, and from their own peers. Many fraternities judge women solely on appearance when it comes to deciding whom to let into parties, as they only want “attractive” women; we also see examples of this in movies such as Knocked Up, where there’s a long line of women waiting to get into a club… but if you look a certain way, you can skip the line. In this way, women feel a lot more pressure to look a certain way than men, as much of this pressure comes from the men—and this peer pressure actually “influence[s] women to compare themselves to the models in fashion magazines and on television,” leading to further body dissatisfaction. Faced by all this pressure to look a certain way, is it any wonder that 88% of women want to lose weight (Sheldon)?
We see these unrealistic body images in the media; we grow up surrounded by them without even noticing it, because they’ve “seeped into American culture” (Kantor). As a result, this idea of the ideal body image has become internalized, along with negativity toward fat. Dr. Michael Levine, co-author of The Prevention of Eating Problems and Eating Disorders: Theory, Research, and Practice, proved this point by proposing a hypothetical scenario: suppose someone comes up to you and tells you that you’re looking really good because you’ve put on some fat. While this statement is intended to be a compliment—telling someone that they’re looking really good—because the word “fat” is included, it’s perceived negatively (Kantor). But if so much negativity toward fat exists, and so many young women are struggling with eating disorders, why are obesity rates skyrocketing?
Our nation’s obesity epidemic is actually related to these unrealistic body images—the same unrealistic body images that are causing eating disorders. “American society is not suffering from two distinct health problems,” Kantor of the Harvard Political Review writes, “It is experiencing two symptoms of one serious disorder.” Dr. Allison Field, Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School, noted that, “as obesity has become more and prevalent, the ideal standard of beauty has not changed, resulting in a growing gap between the average person and his or her ideal body image,” a contrast which fuels the obesity-eating disorder paradox. As our society emphasizes this negativity toward fat and obesity, while holding up these stick-thin, airbrushed models as the ideal body image, it’s actually causing depression, dieting behaviors, excessive weight concerns, and loss of control eating—many of the things that lead to both obesity and eating disorders, according to Dr. Marian Tanofsky-Kraff of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Tanofsky-Kraff also makes sure to point out that “dieting frequently backfires and can lead to more weight gain,” although that’s what many young women feel they have to do in order to meet these unrealistic standards (Kantor).
These unrealistic body images are a huge problem in today’s society, as their effects are detrimental—but there is a solution. The media can stop airbrushing; more companies can follow in Dove’s footsteps and feature women of all shapes and sizes in their advertisements. Quite simply, “the environment in which [we] live needs to change in order to foster healthy behaviors and prevent a situation that further stigmatizes overweight persons” (Sheldon). Instead of focusing on weight and dieting in order to meet an unrealistic standard of beauty, we can promote healthy lifestyles for the sake of being healthy—thus putting a stop the obesity-eating disorder paradox and allowing women to feel good about themselves again. And once the media starts promoting the idea that all women are beautiful, women can stop feeling pressured to look a certain way. It’s time to prove that these sayings aren’t just sayings: looks really don’t matter, and beauty really is only skin-deep.
Mass media is a constant in our daily lives. If you ever watch TV, read a news feed, surf the Internet, watch or hear an advertisement, or listen to the radio, you’re consuming media.
Given that most of us are experts when it comes to consuming media, we should be experts on writing about media, right? Some things are easier said than done. Don’t worry, even experts are subject to brain freeze every once in awhile and need a little inspiration.
If your brain is in a state of perpetual brain freeze right now and you can’t think of a topic for your paper, here’s the inspiration you need: 20 sensational topics for your mass media essay.
20 Sensational Topics for Your Mass Media Essay
I’ve divided the topics on this list according to the following types of essays:
- Compare and contrast
- Cause and effect
I realize the types of papers included here might not meet the assignment guidelines for your mass media essay, but the broad topics can be reworked and narrowed to fit just about any type of essay.
Take note of the links in each section, as I’ve linked to a few example essays to give you even more ideas for your paper.
Mass media topics: Argumentative essay
1. Trustworthiness of mass media
There has been recent debate about whether the media accurately presents information and whether people can trust the media. You might focus your argument on mass media in general or one specific form of media, such as cable news or newspapers.
2. Mass media and stereotypes
The media has often been accused of perpetuating stereotypes by including only one group of people in advertisements or presenting one class, race, or gender in a specific manner. An argument essay about this topic might examine print media, movies, or television.
3. Scare tactics in the media
Current technology means that we can receive news coverage almost instantly, but does the media bombard us with continual coverage and hyped stories to scare people?
4. Violence in media
If you’re writing an argument essay about violence in the media, consider how much violence is presented in the media and whether excessive violence can desensitize people.
5. Relevance of newspapers
When was the last time you picked up a local newspaper? If you answered, “Never,” you’re not alone. Newspaper readership has been on a steady decline for years. Consider whether newspapers are relevant today or whether other forms of news are now more relevant.
To learn more about writing an argumentative essay, read:
Mass media topics: Compare and contrast essay
6. Newspapers and news websites
If you’re comparing newspapers to their modern equivalent of news websites, you might compare the type of information that’s shared, the speed of news, and the type of information presented.
7. Print ads and TV ads
It’s obvious that print ads are static, using only words and still images to interest consumers, while TV ads can present both images and sound. But think about the similarities between the two. What types of strategies do both use to attract consumers, and who are their audiences?
8. Bias in various forms of media
News sources—such as CNN, Fox News, and The Wall Street Journal—are often accused of presenting liberal or conservative slants to news stories. An essay about media bias might compare the techniques used in different types of media and examine how these techniques might affect the public.
9. Compare and contrast two media outlets
In this type of paper, you might want to compare news sources, such as network news or cable news or other types of mass media, such as television and film. You might examine the similarities and/or differences in programming, the audience, or the advertisements.
10. Traditional mass media and social media
Traditional mass media is produced and distributed by a select group of individuals working in the field. Social media is distributed by everyone. Consider how this affects what type of information is distributed and how people consume media.
To learn more about writing a compare and contrast essay, read:
Mass media topics: Cause and effect essay
11. Effect of media on social norms
What causes people to act a certain way in public? What’s polite behavior on the subway or in a traffic jam? How should people act in high school or in the workplace? What effect do television shows, movies, and other mass media have on a society’s behavior? An essay about media and social norms might also examine what causes people to imitate the media.
12. Cause and effect of media addiction
Why do people become addicted to media, and what results from this addiction? Are different age groups affected by the media in different ways? You might approach this essay from a medical or psychological perspective and examine the causes of addiction.
13. Mass media effects on children
If you’re writing about mass media and how kids are affected, think about how much media you consumed when you were younger.
How did it shape your personality, what you wore, which toys you wanted, or which restaurants you wanted to visit? Did this exposure have a lasting effect, and did it shape who you are today?
14. Effect of media on psychological and emotional health
People can become obsessed with media and can be emotionally harmed. Consider how media (such as print ads that present unreasonable body images) can affect a person’s self-image and self-worth.
15. Effect of media on relationship expectations
In romantic comedies, romance and love flood your senses. It’s always a happy ending. In real life, however, relationships rarely follow the pattern of a romantic comedy. In other movies, one partner is always cheating, lying, or being abusive, and couples cannot trust each other. This isn’t always real life, either.
If you’re writing about this topic, think about how these types of images affect people’s real relationships and their expectations of a partner.
To learn more about writing a cause and effect essay, read:
Mass media topics: Opinion essay
16. Mass media’s effect on daily life
Do you think mass media has a positive or negative effect? Or does it not have any effect?
17. Mass media’s influence on the economy
How might mass media affect marketing and consumer trends? Think about all those ads and sales at Christmastime. How does this encourage spending (for gifts for others and gifts for ourselves)?
18. Are any types of mass media obsolete?
Are printed newspapers or magazines needed now that the Internet is so prevalent? Is there another form of media that you’d like to see changed or revised to meet current needs?
19. Has mass media improved or declined in recent decades?
Does mass media still meet the needs of consumers, or does the media need to change? Do you feel that mass media is reliable and/or trustworthy, or are other news sources more credible?
20. Mass media’s influence on political attitudes
If you’re writing about how the media might influence politics, consider the 2016 election and the discussions surrounding fake news. Also consider how political ads have the potential to shape people’s opinions about local and national candidates.
To learn more about writing an opinion essay, read:
Finally… An Excuse to Binge-Watch?
Writing about mass media might give you the go-ahead for binge-watching your favorite series or may even give you an excuse to wander aimlessly around the Internet. It does not, however,give you permission to simply consume media and forget about your paper.
You still need to write a mass media essay—and you need to get started on it pretty soon if you want to get it done before the deadline!
For those of you who need a few more tips before finalizing your paper, check out these articles:
Don’t forget: you can also get help putting the finishing touches on your mass media essay with the assistance of the professional editors at Kibin.
Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.