As a little girl growing up in the twenty-first century it is not uncommon to refer to the models of high society that are seen on a day-to-day basis in magazines, television shows, movies and in the lyrics of music for the picture of perfection.
These mediums provide a bar that no woman could ever possibly meet. They use Photoshop in magazines to give celebrities the ideal look, but the problem with that is the ideal woman does not exist. A real woman is found beneath layers of makeup, a good fitness trainer and the help of Photoshop. The “ideal woman” is created through the time and efforts of media geniuses who are good with a computer. Examples of this are presented on a daily basis in magazines like Teen Vogue or Seventeen. They present articles providing advice on how to dress, what makeup to wear, how to do their hair, how to lose weight and so on. The message this sends to children is that a little extra weight around their hips or thighs is simply unacceptable. It makes young women work hard for the ideal image that might never be attainable.
Looking back through history, woman like Marilyn Monroe were revered as beautiful and sexy, even though she had curves and thighs and was not as straight as a ruler. Women were perceived as beautiful whether they were large or thin, but somewhere along the way this idea got lost and young ladies became women under the false pretense that love was based first on appearance and second on personality.
Representations of this are found in films continuously from Easy A to Hunger Games and Mean Girls to House Bunny. In House Bunny for example, the movie focuses on five women’s transformation to popularity through intense makeovers that involve hair extensions, a new wardrobe and an entirely new makeover. Yet by the end of the movie there is a speech in which Shelley, the main character says “I do know that one day, when your looks are gone, if everything you have is based on looks, well, then you’ve got nothing.” Every story has a moral, and House Bunny is no exception; but if the hour and a half before the speech focused on how important it is to be beautiful, the question remains whether or not that speech denotes the message given through the rest of the film.
Women get the message, it is important to be beautiful but not vain. Therefore they continuously find imperfections in themselves and bond with one another based on these imperfections. It is typical for a woman to look in the mirror and be able to instantly point out at least one flaw they find in themselves. In Mean Girls the three girls stand in front of the mirror complaining about their “man shoulders” and “large pores” yet they look flawless. Young girls are impressionable, they often try to replicate what they see in the media, and seeing a film that advertises the lack of perfection results in low confidence and they attempt to duplicate what they see. Another example shown in the movie is when the little girl is dancing in front of the television trying to mimic the performers dancing. In a lot of ways, it is up to the celebrities to make a positive impression on young children since they are who children idolize. Similar to House Bunny there is a speech in the end when Kady apologizes for treating people negatively after she became popular. The problem still occurs that there is still an hour and a half of the movie before the speech that shows that being beautiful and the ideal version of sexy is the most important thing.
To get attention women believe they have to personify themselves as a sex symbol and the film Easy A does nothing to refute this ascendant ideology. The movie represents a growth of the idea of being a sex icon, and that it makes a person more attractive if they are this symbol of perfection. The film does provide an alternate position though, through the presentation of the material. In the beginning, it is presented in a way that states what the lead character did was a bad decision and should not be replicated. It then shows a downward spiral that occurs after she becomes popular due to her new-found male attention. However, this may promote the thought that it is acceptable to be beautiful but not vain, and the lead character searches for attention in a way that presents her as vain, so if overlooked, children and young adults could still grasp the underhanded message that it ultimately pays dividends to be beautiful.
The process creates a domino effect, for young ladies learn from older women, who have been brainwashed by society telling them that they are not beautiful unless they are under a certain weight or have a low body mass index. Young ladies often sit in the bathroom or bedroom and watch their mother meticulously apply makeup; foundation to cover those scars, eyeliner and mascara to enhance those eyes and a blush to make their cheeks appear constantly flushed. No one questions the obvious problem, if women didn’t care so much then their children wouldn’t either. Girls want to be like their mothers, or other women they look up to, but how can they strive to be something that does not exist.
People don’t behave like the characters in movies and they certainly do not look like them. Celebrities are even caught with the age-old problem of insecurity. Elle Varner wrote and recorded a song called So Fly in which she complains about everything from her breast size to her thighs and everything in between. She comments on the simplicity of being young and it shows that as we get older, our ideas of what is beautiful changes, not of others but of ourselves. In her lyrics she says “I’ve got a beautiful soul but only 4 people know. They’ve known me since I was 10, beauty did not matter then.” She makes an interesting point that at a younger age less matters, it is easy to become friends with someone just because they are nice, or you have a similar interest. She presents the idea in a clear-cut way that the only true friends we have are the ones we have kept with us since childhood. This is because those friends have stayed with you through the awkward years, the pesky pre-teenage years that everyone woman goes through, even if she won’t admit it. Those friends have accepted women for who they are, but Varner presents this idea that the only real relationships we have are with people who accept us for who we are, and those can only be found in people we have known since we were little.
Varner provides a good exemplification of a woman who has been affected directly by the media. She spends the entirety of the song criticizing her body by saying things like “I can’t help being depressed when I look down at my chest” or “I’m rolling my eyes when I look at my thighs.” Varner’s song is set up in a way to tell women not to believe the lies they see in the media, she scolds herself in a way at the end when she says “Don’t go believing the hype, there’s no runway in the sky.” When someone becomes interested and looks up a picture of her, they would see a beautiful woman who does not have any of the problems that she complains about in her song. That is the point of her song, it is meant to make women realize how ridiculous they are when they complain about a problem that does not exist.
Varner is making a direct point that just because it seems like the bigger breasts or the less cellulite you have the more attention you will gain from the opposite sex. However, she refutes this at the end of her song. There is one verse that lets the listener know that she is trying to show women how ridiculous they sound when talking negatively about themselves. She says “So I decided I’m the definition of fly. And if you want to know why, I know what money can’t buy.” Two simple sentences that shows the listener that Varner knows beauty is only skin deep and there are more important things than trying to obtain an unobtainable image.
Even movies like the Hunger Games glosses over the idea that beauty matters. The entire process leading up to Katniss’ entrance into the Hunger Games shows that people think there is a direct correlation between being confident and strong with beauty. The people in the Capitol support the people they were dazzled by in the interviews based on who was the most beautiful. There are sections of the movie that show perfection can never be obtained. When Katniss is having her legs waxed, eyebrows plucked, hair cut and so on, the people who are doing the basics are deciding if they can show her to the man in charge of her appearance yet. Katniss asks what they are talking about and they say “We were just deciding if we should hose you off again before showing you to Cinna.” They say this right after the audience has seen all of the work they have done on Katniss to make her “beautiful” but then they discourage the audience by showing that no matter how much work a person has done on themselves there will always be more to do. It shows that there is always another way to make yourself perfect, and even if you get close to perfection there will still be another thing to do to make yourself even more beautiful.
With every progression there is always a way to take a couple steps back, and that is what happens with the media time and time again. While women are being told that the media presents a false image of what women actually look like, there is always another new program that can enhance women’s bodies even more. It is a confusing idea that the media lets people know that the image is fake, but then they basically write over those words completely by presenting more women who are an image of perfection. And the problem is that women go along with it.
The celebrities are told to lose weight and then lose more weight, and they do it. But when a celebrity steps out and says “no I won’t lose weight because I am a celebrity” it makes a big impression. Jennifer Lawrence for example, who is the lead in the Hunger Games said she would not lose weight and took a stand. Due to this she was presented all over the media, some people said she was wrong to say that, but a vast majority respects her even more because she is comfortable in her own skin, just like all other women wish they could be.
Standards for women will change when young ladies find confidence in themselves from a young age and keep that with them through growing up. The media needs to stop presenting this false image of women and call it for what it is, a lot of hard work to make celebrities look better than they could ever possibly be.