Media pressure, stemming from a plastic doll

Whoever came up with the phrase, “Beauty is only skin deep,” was seriously mistaken – because if that’s true, then why has Barbie stood the test of time by becoming the most popular fashion doll in history, and ultimately the depiction of beauty in society?

Society thrives off of physical appearance. Some of the biggest money growing industries known to mankind are the beauty industry, the fashion industry, and anything involving nutrition, diet, or health programs. Barbie, who turned 50-years-old this year, never developed any wrinkles, and is still as flawless as ever. 

The picture below is not unfamiliar to most of the world. Barbie’s image is the media’s depiction of perfect. 

beach-fun-barbieBy the time most children enter pre-school, they have already succumbed to the pressures of society. At this young age, they are subconsciously being told what they are supposed to look like when they grow up.

Pertaining to Barbie’s image, it’s only right to have long, beautiful hair that shines and glistens without sunlight. Or flawless, clean skin that tans evenly and perfectly. Throw in perfectly curled eyelashes, bright pink lips, pearly white teeth, freshly manicured nails, and a size zero body. Collectively, these images portray society’s depiction of perfect. 

It is safe to assume that through the concept of Barbie, the media is essentially telling society’s youth that they need to look like Barbie when they’re older.  

But it’s not just Barbie. It is a mix of everything young boys and girls love at the mere pre-school age. Typical role models include Cinderella, Ariel from The Little Mermaid, and Batman. When you’re young, the media is all you have, and Disney princesses with size zero waists in addition to comic book heroes with chisled, unattainable bodies are what youngsters idolize. 

Professor Mark Sullivan confirms this assertion. After being asked for an example where a young   person is affected by what they see and/or read from the media, his first response was “Barbie.”

“Barbie has a ridiculously unattainable body: 39-21-33 if she were 5′ 6″, the likelihood of which in a real woman is 1 in 100,000,” Sullivan explained.

He then continued, “Little girls are given this model, literally and figuratively, of a grown up female body at a very young age.” 

According to a study done and listed in the book Preventing Eating Disorders among Pre-Teen Girls: A Step-by-Step Guide, by Beverly Neu Menassa, 90 percent of girls in the United States own or have owned a Barbie.

“Barbie has changed considerably over the years. Her hips have widened, her breasts are smaller, and her clothing reflects the current fashion scene. Mattel continually competes with the new trends and works to keep Barbie hip,” Menassa states in her study.

From this, along with various studies, any reader can conclude that the majority of society accepts the fact that Barbie’s body is the perfect body, and that’s where the troubles begin. In fact, one study claims that if a seven-foot women had Barbie’s proportions, she would only weigh 110 pounds.

Young girls are more susceptible to the media’s messages because their brains are not fully developed. If they see over and over again what they should look like through various depictions and notable celebrities, then they are most likely going to accept that as the norm in society. 

photo Kate Clemmer is the Community Outreach Coordinator  at The Center for  Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt. As an expert on psychological disorders, Clemmer emphasized that eating  disorders are “extremely complex,” and that  it is hard to fully blame the media for their existence in society. 

 “When they look in the mirror, they’re seeing things that are completely different  from what their body actually is. So, regardless of what size they are, they’re seeing  themselves as overweight and fat,” Clemmer said. 

 Clemmer’s job requires her to educate the public  about eating disorders, which includes giving statistics and emphasizing how the  media contributes to the disorders.

She travels to middle schools and high schools  throughout the region in an attempt to help these young people and to make sure these students know that the models portrayed in the media are not by any means what they look like in reality. 



Collectively, the media places pressure on and manipulates people to look like a fictitious creation, which is literally equal to a cartoon character, because this person doesn’t exist. Barbie does not actually exist, and most magazines photo shop celebrities on the cover to the point where the person doesn’t even recognize his/herself.

For example, Filippa Hamilton didn’t recognize herself when she saw an advertisement that she starred in for Ralph Lauren. Her body was altered to the point of emaciation, when she is actually a healthy, headstrong professional model. 

Hamilton is just one example of a model who has been physically altered to look a certain way. Though the media cannot be completely blamed for society’s problems with body image, it is examples like this that become a serious issue.

In fact, Julie Parker, who is the General Manager of The Butterfly Foundation in Australia, agrees that the media does contribute to body image issues in society today.

“There are still many widespread practices in media circles that are unacceptable to my mind and definitely detract from people’s self esteem and body image. While we do occasionally see some positive diversity of people in the media, it is still something that is not done on a regular enough basis. Small steps are good, but some big strides are now due,” said Parker.

Barbie will most likely never depart from the mainstream media, but what can society do to stop the big messages that this little doll gives?


One Response to “Media pressure, stemming from a plastic doll”

  1. Great post Jess! I loved collecting barbie dolls too so I can totally relate to all those societal pressures.

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