Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Media and our Role Models

Every now and then a new commercial or television show comes out that seems to set off a barrage of articles regarding body image and the portrayal of body types in media. Generally these articles express a disapproval of the use of thin beautiful people to sell products, sell pop music or to star in popular television shows and movies.
Recently I heard a discussion on the radio praising a new show in which the lead characters are overweight. I haven't seen the show but from what I understand their weight problem is part of the plot line and they attempt to make light of these issues. Another new show I've noticed becoming quite popular is Man vs. Food, where an overweight American engages in food challenges, gorging on disgusting piles of unhealthy fare while hoards of fans cheer him on. This got me thinking about several other disturbing trends taking place on television and the internet such as food porn and obese teenage boys dancing shirtless on you tube.
Is this becoming some kind of overcompensation for years of the media trying to sell a nearly unattainable idea of beauty? Isn't making light of obesity, making people feel okay about being overweight just as bad if not worse? Approximately three quarters of the population of the US and over half the population of Canada are obese. This is not okay, being overweight and the lifestyle generally associated with it are not healthy. The related health problems and disabilities are not good for the economy and being in Canada my taxes go to the health care system which trys to manage the aftermath of the problem.
I understand that there are many factors that contribute to obesity and in some cases there are genetic and medical conditions that contribute to weight issues and this can be difficult to control, it is not my intention to make these people feel bad about themselves. But the majority of weight problems in the general population I believe can be controlled by the choices people make on how they live their lives.
The use of fit, beautiful people in marketing and pop culture is not going to go away. It is ingrained in our biological make up to be attracted to these genetically blessed humans for breeding purposes. But making it seem okay to be fat or lead an unhealthy lifestyle is not the answer.
I don't have hard abs or a perfect complexion, I have body hair and bad tattoos, but I am a healthy 175lbs for my 6'1 frame and I feel good about myself. This is maintained by excersizing almost every day, a healthy diet and refraining from unproductive activities like watching television or gaming. I'm not perfect, I drink beer and indulge in a bag of chips here and there but these are balanced out by playing sports, excersizing and a positive attitude. This is a healthy attainable lifestyle for any normal busy person but is hardly glorified in popular culture.
The real answer is for the masses to turn off the tv, put down the tabloids and spend some time in reality. Then maybe our society will stop worshiping these manufactured idols and find healthy positive role models. Successful friends, neighbors, professors, colleagues, cultural icons, artists, athletes, etc. Respectable, moral, well balanced people capable of critical thinking and living healthy, this is what everyone should strive to be.
It is a sad state of affairs, I see gangs of kids roaming downtown that want to be Paris Hilton or Eminem, hear countless stories of young women suffering from eating disorders and see overweight people trapped in a cycle of self degrading behavior. When is someone in the mass media going to make it cool to just be a smart, moral, healthy person?

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