Feminism | Posted by B.P. on 05/19/2011

Magazines, T.V. and Disney: The Negative Portrayal of Beauty in the Media

Prince Charming: What has he done for you lately?

Prince Charming: What has he done for you lately?

From a young age, I recognized a pattern in the movies I frequently watched. Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White – their major goal is to find Prince Charming. Being young and impressionable, I too started dreaming of my prince charming I would one day come to meet.

As I got older, around my pre-teen years, I developed a collection of magazines due to my interest in style and fashion. I’d flip through so many each day, and without even noticing how and why, I began to feel less and less confident in myself. And more and more self-conscious about the way I looked. Pretty soon I felt as though no guy would ever want me because of the way I looked. I began to think I’d never find my Prince Charming. I was scared that no one would ever want to sweep me off my feet and rescue me. That was the way it was supposed to be, right? Wasn’t finding a Prince Charming supposed to be one of my priorities? If only I looked more like these girls here in the magazines, I would think to myself, then surely guys would want me, and I’d feel better about myself because of that. Thinking back on it now, it almost sickens me. The fact that I, along with so many other young girls , have been deceived by the media’s portrayal of a woman’s priorities which always seem to turn back to the way in which she should look.

“50 Best and Worst Beach Bodies” Headlines the cover of an issue of Star magazine. You know, one of those tabloid magazines you can’t avoid seeing, even though you’re only waiting in a check-out line at the grocery store. On this cover it has images of various women in their bathing suits, with captions underneath such as “Lumpy and Frumpy” and “Double Wide”. If magazines continue to promote degrading and judging women based on their appearance as opposed to their accomplishments, it is not unlikely to see an even higher rise in teenage eating disorders, suicides, and negative body images. Society has instilled this idea in our minds that we must be thin and beautiful, meet the media’s standards of what “beauty” really is, in order to be accepted by all.

Once the negativity, insecurity, and overall dissatisfaction with oneself sets in, many girls give into the message the media is shoving down their throats. They strive for outward “perfection” no matter what the risk. They develop eating disorders which in turn come with mental illness, because these girls have been tainted and tricked into truly believing they are not good enough. In an issue of Us Weekly magazine, its cover features two stars of the popular teen drama 90210. It headlines “Too Thin for T.V” then it continues to state “ordered to gain weight”, “costars plan intervention”, and quotes a source saying “I’ve never seen them eat.” The most disappointing part of this cover is the angle the magazine takes. The headline could just have well read “Women pushed to be too thin by unrealistic beauty standards endorsed by the very entertainment industry they work in and cannot escape.” The media makes it a point to remind you on a daily basis that you’re “too fat” until they start noticing you’re “too thin”. Either way you’ll never be good enough, and the internalized self-hatred just grows and grows.

Now a days, there are so many different things that can be “wrong” with us; cellulite, dry skin, stretch marks, belly fat, wrinkles. It gets you wondering and you think to yourself, there must be something wrong with me. But what we really should be thinking is, where are the positive strong female role models? Where are the spokeswomen who promote loving yourself and the body you were given, accepting who you are and being proud of it? Where are the women who teach us to be strong intelligent individuals? Or that whether we have a boyfriend or whether we have the perfect body or skin, has nothing to do with being a successful beautiful woman. Those women are out there. But regrettably they do not receive half of the attention that the mainstream media does, in turn, they do not have as much of an influence on young girls. It’s so important for more women to stand up and address this issue. To let us girls know that the media’s portrayal of beauty is completely unrealistic and impossible to achieve, with most of the women in magazines being so extremely airbrushed and re-touched.

Looking back and seeing the ideas society has instilled in me from a young age, I understand how everything pieces together, but still don’t understand why it’s going on. Feminists have marched and protested so girls wouldn’t have to feel like they need to stop eating in order to be beautiful. So women could be seen as individuals as opposed to sex objects. The media is never going to stop putting out the message it sends. As women, we need to remind ourselves and each other that everyone is beautiful. Magazines, television, billboards, posters, they can’t change that. Forget prince charming and learn to love yourself.

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  • disney » Blog Archive » Magazines, T.V. and Disney: The Negative Portrayal of Beauty in … @ at 2:28 pm, May 19th, 2011

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  • A. Stovall @ at 4:40 pm, May 19th, 2011

    Good post, but I have one minor discrepancy. In your first paragraph, you cited four Disney movies in which the goal of the female lead is to find Prince Charming. For Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Snow White that is accurate, but not so much for Beauty and the Beast. Belle could have had the most handsome guy in town if she wanted, but her original dream was to get out of her small town. That eventually turned into saving her father. While she enjoyed good adventure/romance novels, I don’t think falling in love was high on her list of priorities at first.

  • fan of the fairytales @ at 5:30 pm, May 19th, 2011

    While we’re looking at Disney stories … Cinderella wasn’t looking for love as much as she was looking for a night off from her life of servitude, right? She ran away when she realized she was dancing with the prince.

    Sleeping Beauty wasn’t looking for anything, she was asleep.

    Snow White … also ran away from a horrible home life … and she was happy playing house w/ the 7 dwarves.

    Not saying these are positive role models or anything … and I agree the media is relentless on women.

  • tara h @ at 11:54 pm, May 19th, 2011

    disney movies are coming a long way in not making the princesses so dependent on a prince. the movies are entertainment; its the parents responsibility to teach her daughter right from wrong. also, her mom and dad have lots to do with what they think is beautiful. dont blame disney for making movies little girls love. its a fairy tale. talk to ur daughters about what it means to be beautiful, how to respect urself, and how they are to be treated. it will make all the difference in the world.

  • Babygirl22 @ at 7:48 am, May 20th, 2011

    Granted the magazine industry is harsh and cruel and sets poor examples, but it is really up to a parent to instill self esteem in their child. No one else is resposible for that. I had magazines, and am quite certain I was impressionable, But lack of support and someone to talk to about such things would certainly be what had led to poor self image and lack of confidence. But a good parent talks to their daughters/sons about things such as these, as well as reinforces possitive attitudes and self images in their children! Blame Media all you want, not that I’m a fan, but take a deeper look into what kind of support and love you may NOT have had before saying that “society” instilled this in you. When the only time “society” should have reached you was in your adulthood. Long after the support of your loving family had already instilled good body image, self confidence and possitive thinking.

  • VictoriaL @ at 10:58 am, May 20th, 2011

    I totally agree with your article.
    Also, I find the fact that Disney princesses dont’t even look for love even worse: often, they’re just passive objects who just accept the prince’s wish to marry them. Their main quality is their phisical appearance and that’s how they find their “happily ever after”. I think this has an extemely negative impact on young girls’ objectives and values.

  • Julie Z @ at 4:34 pm, May 20th, 2011

    @Babygirl22 I agree that we shouldn’t JUST blame the media, and I also agree that a lack of support is probably a significant contributing factor to negative body image. But I grew up with parents who DID talk to me about this stuff and did support me and I still had body issues. Also I’m pretty sure (actually I’m positive considering that I’m currently experiencing it) that society effects teenagers before they reach adulthood. Teens are targeted all the time by the media – we’re an incredibly sought after demographic and are reached, regardless of if our parents are supportive of us are not.

  • A @ at 11:26 pm, May 20th, 2011

    “Now a days, there are so many different things that can be “wrong” with us… It gets you wondering and you think to yourself, there must be something wrong with me.” Excellent line and fabulous post. I mean, the content of the line isn’t excellent, because it shows how tough the media is, but it’s so well-written and articulates the negativity that we MUST combat so well.

  • Ain @ at 3:43 pm, May 21st, 2011

    This is so true . Really good article though. I admit that I used to be one of those girls who feel a lot of insecurities about ourselves.In fact,I still can feel the low self-esteem .I still think that I’m too average to get the guys attention and I ain’t a beauty queen so I don’t deserve to be in the social cycle especially with the opposite sex.It is really depressing sometimes.This article really gives me some sort of awakening. Telling me that I’m not the only who feels the same way :/

  • Babygirl22 @ at 7:42 am, May 25th, 2011

    @JulieZ… I am sorry that you are currently experiencing such things. I am very happy to hear that you have loving, supportive and involved parents. I also struggled with self image. I know that in my precise instance, it was my “girlfriends” who made me feel less than adequate. There is definately some pressure on young girls to grow up faster than they should, although I didn’t find “media” directly affected me, I suppose that media affected the “friends” that made me feel like less, so indirectly, absolutely! Now that I am nearing 30(oh god) and have little girls of my own, I see the Icarly, Hannah Montana and what have you that my older nieces watch, and tend to keep my children from watching. But, my girls, for their ages are far more confidant and sure of themselves than I ever was. I think mainly due to being honest with them when they ask questions, age appropriately, and letting them know the sometimes harsh reality of some people. If they are feeling discouraged, they always come to me, if they feel like they aren’t doing well, they come to me. I find great pride in that fact. I hope that some of these young girls who are affected by media get the chance to know, that no one makes the decision on what and who you are except for YOU! Once I stopped trying to fit in, I became a much happier person. Those “friends” who didn’t accept me for me, did not remain friends, and the friends who did are STILL friends to this day!
    @AIN–When I STOPPED trying to impress “boys” and remained true to who I was, everything started to fall into place. It took time, but I was happy with MYSELF, with or without a “boy”! Good luck sweetie!

  • Renee @ at 9:27 pm, May 25th, 2011

    I know I won’t get alot of support with this comment but the whole “women are sex objects” thing needs to be addressed…of course women are sex objects and so are men that’s what keeps the species going if women and men weren’t sex objects we wouldve all died out…all cultures through all time have had their “ideal” beauty goal and people have gone through lengths to achieve that but the only difference is our ideal gets more coverage…our grandmothers wore girdels our mothers straightened their hair and some of us “diet”…to me it’s all just a passing fad sorry for the rant!

  • Cat @ at 10:27 pm, August 3rd, 2011

    I adore you for feeling this way. Not only was it Disney movies-it’s still here today in Disney’s shows! Just look at Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus. On their shows, both of them have the dream life. They have that “perfect face,” can get away with literally ANYTHING, have any boy they want, are stick thin, and still get perfect grades.

  • Joseph @ at 12:04 pm, November 23rd, 2011

    I think we should be honest with ourselves and say that this isn’t so much an issue of sexism as it is unreal expectations in the media. If you’ll look at Disney and others, you also never see a bad looking prince, do you? Take a look at Twilight: great rounded female character as opposed to two flat male leads with no aspirations, who’s only attributes are being in love with her and being abnormally good looking representation of sexual fantasies? Still sexism? Speaking of princes, I would take another look at most of these films and try to imagine other reasons these men may have fallen in love. As a young boy, I remember being quite enamored with the lead female characters, and none of it had to do with their bodies. Just because a woman happens to be attractive to the eye, does not exclude her from being intellectually attractive as well. I’m not saying men are blameless. I’m not even saying what goes on in the media is wrong. I just think that if we take a second look, we might find a bit more nuance to the issue.

  • Cees Timmerman @ at 12:55 pm, August 25th, 2013

    Who buys those magazines? Women. The same ones who are crippled by them. It’s like most religions, except that competing for dates is real.

    Rescue Rangers, Addams Family Values, Sailor Moon, Xena: Warrior Princess, The Slayers, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, NCIS, iCarly, and My Little Pony all star strong females characters who make good role models (if you can handle a little excessive violence).

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