Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Scary skinny: Media's impact on eating disorders
Teen Editorial BY ERIKA GLASS, 18, Freestyle Staff Writer
From hollow cheekbones, to skeletal thighs, to ribs protruding like someone swallowed a birdcage. These are images present in our everyday exposure to the media world that surrounds us.
It is not uncommon to turn on the television and see a nameless supermodel strutting her stuff (or lack thereof), looking as if she has not eaten in a week. We do not cringe when we admire the figures of skin-and-bone celebrities draped in designer dresses and famous fabrics. Instead, we take in these images as reflections of the world, and they have no frightening impact on us. These emaciated figures do not disturb us, although they should.
Eating disorders within the media are nothing particularly new -- females, and males as well, have been suffering for the perfect body image ever since the first heedless critic called somebody fat. In this day and age, though, the disapproval and faultfinding reaches much farther than the Hollywood sign.
Teenagers are perhaps most susceptible to the negative impression given by the media due to their vulnerablity, as well as their high exposure to the material. Many celebrities preach about the importance of self-esteem and acceptance while they themselves sport unusually slender figures, completely reversing their positive words.
Heads turned when Anne Hathaway, a longtime promoter of healthy eating habits for females both on and off the camera, dropped 25 pounds for her film "Les Mis." Hathaway, who clearly had nothing to lose in the first place, shed the weight for her role as a sickly prostitute.
However, she wisely refused to expose her technique for achieving her skeletal frame in fear of young girls taking it as an example. In an interview with Matt Lauer, she reassures viewers that she did not lose the weight "to get hot, but to look like I was dying." When asked how she dropped the pounds, she quickly replied with "you don't want to know, it's upsetting to talk about." Hathaway repeatedly says that she does not want to be seen glamorizing the issue, and that it should "not be tried at home."
Some corners of the media, however, deliver a much darker message. Shockingly, many nauseating websites exist that promote and encourage eating disorders, such as "Pro Ana" (Ana is short for anorexia). These destructive corners of the technological world contain thousands of skeletal female images labeled as "beautiful," as well as horrifyingly twisted slogans such as "pretty girls don't eat" and "your stomach isn't growling, it's applauding." As ridiculous and perverted as this material sounds, these messages are taken as a pat on the back of girls suffering from eating disorders.
The media has a drastic effect on everyday teenagers taking it all in from a distance, and being trapped in the world of eating disorders is a serious problem not to be overlooked. Overexposure to these influences instills unrealistic ideas into the minds of young people, when the media should be used to create an encouraging message of contentedness and self-acceptance. It is reassuring to see actors like Hathaway being sensitive to young audiences, but the media could certainly do a better job of portraying healthy and realistic lifestyles for its young viewers.
Sadly, it would be nearly impossible to eliminate the glamorization of thin figures on television, film, and the Internet. Unhealthy eating habits will continue to rear their ugly heads, and people will have to overcome these negative influences. Society must learn to take these images with a grain of salt, and be confident in its own beauty.