My daughter loves the movie The Devil Wears Prada. If you have never heard of this movie, I can tell you that it is a delightfully entertaining movie with Meryl Streep (Miranda Priestly: Chief-in-editor of Runway Magazine) and Anne Hathaway (Andy: Miranda’s assistant and fashion misfit) set in the world of the fashion industry.
There is a great scene in the movie where Miranda Priestly gives a lecture after Andy (foolishly) refers to fashion as “this stuff.” After giving the history of the color of the “lumpy sweater” Andy is wearing, Miranda concludes her monologue with:
“However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.”
My point is that we are victims of the media. The media spends billions of dollars every year to tell us who we should be, what we should look like, what we should wear, what kind of paper towels we should use, and what car we should drive.
The other day, I had an aha moment while I was getting ready for the day and staring at myself in the mirror. I have been thinking a lot about self-esteem, the media, and the current body image epidemic that we are facing in the western world lately. And all of a sudden I had this thought: “What if there was no media? How would our self-esteem be affected?” Like what if you lived like the Ingalls family in the Little House in the Big Woods and the only other people you ever saw were your relatives? No underweight models, no football stars, no pop singers. Of course, there would always be the “pretty one” (like Mary), but still…
When I brought this thought to my historian husband, he offered the suggestion that maybe it’s not as much about media as the cultural norms for what is considered “beautiful,” “handsome,” etc. And this changes with time. That is definitely true. For example, the whole underweight model thing is actually fairly new. According to www.media-awareness.ca, 20 years ago female models weighed 8% less than the average woman – now they weigh 23% less.
I think these ideas go hand in had. Media (along with big business) drives the cultural norms in this day and age. What’s on TV, in the movies, and on magazine covers defines how we think about beauty, fashion, and what is “in.” “News” shows like NBC’s Today Show cannot survive without its advertisers. That’s why 75% of the show is “fluff” (i.e. how to lose those Christmas pounds or an interview with the (skinny) actress from the latest blockbuster).
The diet and beauty industries are huge. They want us to feel bad about ourselves so we will buy their products. They are ruining the lives of millions of young girls who starve themselves to look like the (airbrushed) girls in the magazines. To make a profit. Why do we allow this to continue?
Well, one way to fight this insanity is not to give in to it. Be comfortable with who you are. Don’t let media tell you that you should be 105 lbs or wear $300 jeans or own a Mercedes. Turn off the TV. Don’t buy magazines that are 80% advertising. Buy clothes that make you feel good and are good for the planet. Teach your kids the truth about advertising. Let them know they’re valuable for who they are, not what they wear or how they look.
“I do not read advertisements – I would spend all my time wanting things” ~Franz Kafka
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