Good Looking = Successful?

Protein Shakes, 24 Hour Gyms, Eating Healthy, Tea Tox, Carb Depleting, Paleo.

You have probably heard of one if not all of these terms being thrown around in conversation during everyday life. It’s a fact that people love to talk about body image, especially in the media.

Media effect on body image in 2015 is a serious issue for both males and females. Body image is essentially how people see themselves and how they think other people see them. It is the feelings towards your body, including your perception, imagination, emotions, and physical sensations.

Vonderen and Kinnally’s 2012 study titled ‘Media Effects on Body Image: Examining Media Exposure in the Broader Context of Internal and Other Social Factors’ attempts to examine the connection between media use and body dissatisfaction by juxtaposing the media with the internal factor of self-esteem and other social factors such as peer and parental attitudes (Vonderen & Kinnally: 2012).

The study was conducted in America with 285 female university undergraduate students answering questions about media exposure, comparisons with media figures, self-esteem, parental and peer attitudes toward body shape, and peer comparisons. Despite this being a very thorough study it immediately presents a problem discussing teen body image because no male students were interviewed.

There are also other limitations which are present in this paper which Vonderen and Kinnally (2012) outline. There were several limitations to this study; the sample consisted of undergraduate students primarily from communication students, resulting in a fairly homogenous sample that may be more attentive to media. While the student population was useful for this particular study, the topic is certainly not limited to students and a significantly younger or older sample may prove useful in gathering information for shaping effective health campaigns (Vonderen & Kinnally: 2012).

Despite this paper focusing on women’s body image alone Vonderen and Kinnally analyse the situation perfectly. They discuss the mediated thin-ideal woman ideal that is present in mainstream media causes women turn to the media for information about how to look (Vonderen & Kinnally: 2012). Consequently, women who are heavy viewers of thin-ideal media may develop the attitude that thinness is socially desirable, experience greater body dissatisfaction, and engage in weight loss behaviours and cosmetic surgery in an attempt to measure up to the standard they observe (Vonderen & Kinnally: 2012).

Triplett (2007) agrees with Vonderen and Kinnally’s theory (2012) reinforcing that there exists a weight prejudice in our society that is reinforced not only by media, but also by social interactions with peers and parents and that thinness often has a very positive connotation, one that denotes success and social desirability. Hendriks & Burgoon (2003) takes a different approach to viewing body image in the media. His theory is that attractive people achieve more in our society and that they are viewed as more successful and happier with their lives.

Vonderen and Kinnally (2012) present a well research study which coincides with numerous other papers written on the topic of body image. They conclude their paper with a relevant quote towards the issue. “It is nearly impossible to find the exact origin of body image attitudes. Instead it may be more useful to consider that the variables serve to reinforce one another and strengthen existing attitudes, despite where they originate” (Vonderen & Kinnally: 2012: pg 53).

Reference List:

Vonderen, K. & Kinnally, W. 2012, ‘Media Effects on Body Image: Examining Media Exposure in the Broader Context of Internal and Other Social Factors’, American Communication Journal, Vol 14:2

Triplett, L. 2007, ‘The Blame Game: A first glimpse at the socially acceptable causes of female fatness’. Conference Papers — International Communication Association, 1-27.



One thought on “Good Looking = Successful?

  1. Different approach to the issue Andrew! one that probably isn’t really talked about that much in our lectures and tutorials, but has a more relevant, real world tone that a lot of the content we cover in class.

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