The number of televisions in American homes has increased since the first television set was introduced to the American public which was in the 1950’s. “Today, 98% of American homes have a TV set, and 40% have three or more” (Judith, 2006). Therefore, most of all Americans have access to a television and the images and attitudes it portrays to its viewers. “The television is a major influence in American culture, it is a technological device present in nearly all American homes and the center of our most common recreational activities” (Nichter, 269). It can change the way people think and act towards different people, places, topics, etc. The way the media portrays certain events can sometimes change the way we think and view those events.
The way the wars are covered is an example of how the media tries to portray different events in our history. During the Gulf War, the images that were shown on the news were quite different than the ones we all see today about the war in Iraq. The images from the Gulf War were of happy soldiers and positive events. It was giving society the idea that that war was a good idea and that we were winning. But now the images we see of the war in Iraq are different. Now we see soldiers fighting, shooting guns, and we see dead bodies laying on the ground. Therefore, these images are giving citizens the idea that the war is not going too well, and that it is not positive as it was during the Gulf War. A lot of the time the media is our only way of viewing things, like war, a lot of Americans are unable to be over in Iraq fighting therefore the news is our only way in.
Our society values the media for what and how it portrays images, people and places. The media can be a powerful tool (Effects of the Media). It bombards people with extreme and sometimes unattainable images of the “beautiful body”. This is why the media is responsible for the increase in eating disorders. “The influence of the mass media has long been theoretically implicated in the development of eating disorders” (Atabe 1999).
The media gives off the message that what is on the outside is what counts instead of what is on the inside that counts (Cash, Strachan 1999). Just watch television or flip through the channels or watch a few commercials, they are all showing their audience that how people look and their appearances are what everyone looks at and sets standards and impressions on. Whether it is showing kids at school being dressed up with prefect hair and make up or it’s adults at their job looking flawless. Also, glance at the covers and the contents of most women’s magazines, most of them are telling their readers how to get that perfect body in a short time, or there are advertisements for diet pills. The ads that are selling diet pills or formulas are saying, if you are “fat” this is an easy way to become thin again and that all your problems will go away once you lose those unwanted pounds. There are also many ads promoting cosmetic surgery, these are also giving out the idea that if you had that tiny waist, or thinner thighs you would be happy and successful. These are also short cuts, or the easy way out when trying to get the perfect body.
A significant body of research suggests that television, like the print media, promotes the thin ideal (Atabe 1999). And with such a large amount of attention that is given to the media, many girls and woman strive to be like those woman that are portrayed. However, “the vast majority of female characters are thinner than the average American woman” (Atabe 1999). Therefore, trying to be like those woman is very difficult. In fact, if you were to have Barbie be life size, she would be more than seven feet tall, and her measurements would be 40-22-36 (Calanaugh and Lemberg 1999).
“Mass media is omnipresent in American and most Western societies but has been blamed for playing a powerful role in communicating the thin standard to the overall woman” (Atabe