Blog 06, Media Portrayal of Food and Body Image

Consider movies, TV shows, or advertisements that you have recently seen. How is the act of eating depicted, particularly among ethnic, regional, or socioeconomic groups? Similarly, how is being thin depicted? How is being overweight depicted? How could these depictions influence young persons’ views of food? (Chard & Roth, 2015)

Broadcast media and digital media has been a major influence in people’s life. Movies, TV shows, and advertisements have become such an integral part of life, we often fail to recognize the impact it can have on our choices. Numerous movies and TV shows have scenes with characters eating food. It can be characters of TV series ‘Friends’ celebrating Thanksgiving by eating turkey, character Marie from ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ cooking food for her family or casual dinner dates in every other movie or TV show.  Popular TV shows like ‘Friends’, ‘Big Bang Theory’ and ‘How I met your mother’ repeatedly portray their characters consuming the ethnic food. TV show ‘Friends’ characters Joey Tribbiani and Chandler Bing are often portrayed consuming Chinese food as their favorite food. TV show ‘Big Bang Theory’ characters have assigned days for consuming a variety of cuisine every day, including Thai, Chinese, and Indian. In a way, this promotes ethnic food consumption as young people usually follow the likes and dislikes of their favorite characters in movies and TV shows. Considering the fan following of these TV shows, these scenes offer a medium for introducing various cuisines.

The type of food, its availability, and preparation is heavily influenced by geographic region. Coconut, for example, thrives on sandy soils, requires warm conditions, and are intolerant of cold weather. As a result, most of the world production of coconut is in tropical Asia. The blue crab is an important symbol of coastal Maryland, and people socialize with friends and family at crab feasts eating a pile of steaming crabs together (Chard & Roth, 2015). As a result, food advertisements, movies, and TV shows illustrate geographical regions with emphasis on locally unique and popular food culture. For instance, serving food on a banana leaf would associate the southern region of India while using chopsticks would remind East Asia primarily Chinese, Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese cuisines. However, using stereotype food choices in the TV movies and TV shows as per character’s country of origin is common. Italians are repeatedly portrayed eating only Italian dishes like pasta or meatballs, Asians eating noodles or rice with chopsticks, and Indian food is often depicted to be very spicy.

Television is arguably the most influential form of mass media. It plays a critical role in encouraging body dissatisfaction. Media has been criticized for depicting thin women as ideal (Holmstrom, 2004).  The movies, TV shows and advertisements constantly portray an ideal and beautiful body for women as one that is thin. When young women look at such images, they self-assess, often resulting in dissatisfaction with their own body. Consequently, reducing their self-confidence, leading to low self-esteem and at times leading to eating disorders. Females are far more likely than males to be depicted wearing tight or alluring apparel, showing some exposed skin, thin and referenced by another character (verbally or non-verbally) as physically attractive or desirous (Smith, Choueiti, Prescott, & Pieper, 2013). In a segment titled ‘The Dangerous Pressure on Teens to Be Thin’ by Katie Couric, Dr. Cyntha Bulik, Ph.D. (Director, UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders) participated in a discussion along with young female students. The female students described the pressure they feel to be thin. One student explained how the media plays a significant role in changing their perception of own body. Being constantly bombarded with images of women who look unnaturally perfect can have a negative impact on the minds of young people. In this video, Dr. Bulik and others also discuss how professionals use Photoshop software to portray perfect bodies of models and actors.

 

(Source: Katie Couric YouTube Channel )

 

TV shows often stereotypically portray overweight characters as either comedic, lonely characters or crazy individuals. On The Drew Carey Show, the main character repeatedly joked about and expressed disappointment about his weight; his main “nemesis,” Mimi, was portrayed as being unattractive partially because of her weight (Whyte, 2010). The overweight characters are depicted not having control over their diets and frequently eating unhealthy food. In TV series ‘Friends’, one of the main characters in her teen years is shown overweight, always consuming unhealthy food and being shamed by her parents and friends because of her body. In 2016, Sports Illustrated magazine featured a plus size model Ashley Graham in their swimsuit edition, stirring a controversy. Former model Cheryl Tiegs expressed her disapproval for featuring ‘overweight’ model on the magazine cover. She claimed that being overweight is unhealthy and should not be promoted. Of course, news channels and social media made sure of spreading this news to the whole country. Consequently, after receiving a backlash, the former model apologized for her criticism. Episodes like this have a potential for reducing the self-worth of those who are overweight and struggling with obesity.

There are some advertisements which downright humiliate the overweight individuals. In 2009, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) released an advertisement on a billboard to promote the vegetarian diet. The billboard reads “Save the Whales – Lose the Blubber: GO VEGETARIAN” with a picture of an overweight woman. This created a lot of controversy about the insensitive approach of PETA to address a good cause with an insulting advertisement.

 

whalebb4

(Source: PETA)

 

Also, there are extensive numbers of advertisements which promote unhealthy fast-food. For instance, celebrity Beyonce promoting Pepsi soft drink, other sugary beverages and cereals being promoted, and fast food restaurants promoting unhealthy food. All of these advertisements can negatively affect young person’s view on food. Movies, TV shows, and Advertisements are going to be in our lives forever- introducing new foods, cuisines, and culture. The harmful portrayals of the thin or overweight body will also continue.  Teaching generations after us that what we see in the media is not necessarily what they should aim for is required.

 

 

References,

 

Chard, S., & Roth, E. G. (2015). Food, Culture, and Society. In R. A. Neff (Ed.), Introduction to the US Food System: Public Health, Environment, and Equity (pp. 215-236). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Couric, K. (2014, July 14). The Dangerous Pressure On Teens To Be Thin [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bP05Cx0Css

Holmstrom, A. J. (2004). The Effects of the Media on Body Image: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 48(2), 196-217.

PETA [Image]. (2009). ‘Save The Whales, Lose The Blubber’ Billboard. Retrieved from http://www.nutritionunplugged.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/whalebb4.jpg

Smith, S. L., Choueiti, M., Prescott, A., & Pieper, K. (2013). Gender Roles & Occupations: A Look at Character Attributes and Job-Related Aspirations in Film and Television. Retrieved February 29, 2016, from http://seejane.org/wp-content/uploads/key-findings-gender-roles-2013.pdf

Whyte, J. (2010). Media Portrayal of People Who are Obese. AMA Journal of Ethics, Formerly Virtual Mentor, 12(4), 321-323. Retrieved from http://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/2010/04/msoc1-1004.html

7 thoughts on “Blog 06, Media Portrayal of Food and Body Image

  1. Rucha, very well structured, thought out, and executed writing.
    1. Thesis is well articulated and clearly focused.
    Argument is very well written and articulated. The theme of the argument was very clearly focused. The structure of the writing was appropriate for the four individual questions that needed to be addressed and the length of post was appropriate for the volume of questioning.
    2. Essay is organized logically and is very well-written.
    Essay was organized appropriately for the volume of questioning. The structure of the writing was appropriate for addressing four individual questions and the video segment and photo were both appropriately placed to enhance the writing.
    3. References sited are focused and fully support the thesis of the essay.
    References sited are within scope of the argument and provide direct supportive information to better understand the overall argument.
    4. Additional sources are of professional quality and where necessary, quantity
    A total of six references were included in the references section. All sources were valid and provided supportive information. The video reference and picture reference help the reader better understand the overall argument by providing specific examples.
    5. Argument is well made with adequate support from the literature
    Argument was well made, with several specific examples to help reader better understand the theme of the argument. Adequate support from the literature was provided allowing the reader to easily understand the response to each question presented.
    6. Conclusion emerges logically from evidence presented
    Conclusion was appropriate to close the argument. Several statements of a general nature, referring back to the original questions were made providing effective closure of previous information, both written and video material.
    7. Bibliographic format and internal references are correct
    It is apparent from the in text citations and references at the conclusion of the post that appropriate formatting resources were used. Internal citations are appropriate placed and accurate in format as well as the placement and formatting of the references section.
    8. Essay includes clean and proofed grammar, spelling, and sentence structure
    One grammatical error in last paragraph, Line 1- the statement reads “Also, there are extensive number of advertisements which promote unhealthy fast-food”. Statement should read as “Also, there are AN extensive number of advertisements which promote unhealthy fast-food” or “Also, there are extensive NUMBERS of advertisements which promote unhealthy fast-food”.

  2. 1. Thesis is well articulated and clearly focused.
    Yes

    2. Essay is organized logically and is very well-written.
    Yes

    3. References sited are focused and fully support the thesis of the essay.
    Yes

    4. Additional sources are of professional quality and where necessary, quantity
    Yes
    5. Argument is well made with adequate support from the literature
    yes

    6. Conclusion emerges logically from evidence presented
    I didn’t find a conclusion. The final paragraph introduced new information and didn’t summarize the information that was already presented.

    7. Bibliographic format and internal references are correct
    References were in the correct format but there were some issues with movie titles and grammar. See below.

    8. Essay includes clean and proofed grammar, spelling, and sentence structure
    P1, S2, L2: Remove ‘that’. Add comma after ‘life.’ Reword sentence to say “…have become such an integral part of life, we often fail to recognize…”
    P1, S3, L2: Thanksgiving needs to be capitalized.
    P1, S3, L4: Remove ‘just’
    P1: All of the TV show titles need to be in italics, not quotations in order to comply with APA guidelines.
    P2, S1: You need a comma after ‘availability’
    P2, S2: Change ‘require’ to ‘requires’
    P3, S7: ‘The Dangerous Pressure on Teens to be Thin” needs to be in italics
    P4: S 2: ‘The Drew Cary Show’ needs to be in italics
    P4, S4: ‘Friends’ Needs to be in italics

    I really enjoyed your blog. I’ve written many reports and done presentations on this very topic. Regarding the recent Sports Illustrated cover with Ashley Graham, I remember reading Cheryl Tiegs’s response about Ashley’s weight. In the article, she comments that a waist larger than 35” is unhealthy, yet fails to realize, Ashley’s waist is 33” therefore she is healthy. She also doesn’t take into account that you can be fat and fit. I’m overweight per medical standards, however, I workout daily with high intense cardio and weights, I eat incredibly clean, and drink nothing but water. I’m healthier than my thin soon-to-be sister-in-law.

    1. Thanks for your critique Tasia. I have made the necessary grammatical changes. I absolutely agree with you. Being thin does not necessarily mean healthy and being overweight does not necessarily mean unhealthy. In my opinion, there is much more to being healthy than body weight or waist size. When we consider who is healthy and who is not, we need to consider the overall well-being of a person.

  3. 1. Thesis is well-articulated and clearly focused.
    You provided a strong introduction to your topic which made me want to keep reading (I love Friends and Big Bang!)

    2. Essay is organized logically and very well-written
    Your essay was written very well and was easy to read. It flowed in a logical progression.

    3. References cited are focused and fully support the thesis of the essay.
    You found some good articles to support your thesis.

    4. Additional sources are of professional quality and where necessary, quantity
    Great use of resources to support your argument. I’d never seen that PETA ad before – that truly is horrifying!

    5. Argument is well-made with adequate support from the literature
    Your arguments were strong and you found really good examples from popular culture to support your essay. I hadn’t considered tv as a way to promote ethnic food diversity, but you were right on in using Big Bang as an example of this. In addition to their frequent Thai, Chinese, and Indian food, don’t forward Howard’s Jewish culture – he often references his mom’s brisket!
    I think one of the biggest dangers of media/celebrity portrayals of unhealthy food is that it’s not portrayed in a realistic manner. Like your example of Beyonce’s Pepsi ad. TV likes to show thin, arguably healthy (though it is very possible to be thin and unhealthy) people eating/drinking junk food…but not experiencing any negative effects. Of course in reality these people are not likely eating/drinking these foods as often as media portrays….but we don’t see that. This ties into our chapter on promotional marketing (Hawkes, 2015). Product placement and celebrity endorsement targets “psycodemographic” markets (i.e. groups with shared lifestyles and values) – specifically those people who want to emulate the celebrity lifestyle. I think product placement is one of the sneakier ways to advertise. We already have very limited regulation of overt advertising (e.g. tv commercials), but there is even less regulation for product placement or rules about realistic portrayal of the consumption habits of those who endorse a product.

    6. Conclusion emerges logically from evidence presented
    You did a nice job of summarizing your arguments into a logical conclusion.

    7. Bibliographic format and internal referencing are correct
    Great job with this.

    8. Essay includes clean and proofed grammar, spelling and sentence structure.
    You did a great job with this.

  4. 1. Thesis is well-articulated and clearly focused
    You did a good job pointing out what a large impact television has on perceptions.
    2. Essay is organized logically and very well-written
    The essay flows well from point to point.
    3. References cited are focused and fully support the thesis of the essay
    The references support the thesis well, though maybe the chapters from the text should be incorporated more.
    4. Additional sources are of professional quality and where necessary, quantity
    I thought both sources were very applicable to body issues that the media contributes to.
    5. Argument is well-made with adequate support from the literature
    Your argument was multi-faceted and well directed. You did an excellent job pulling supporting arguments from the media itself, which I felt underlined your point really well.
    6. Conclusion emerges logically from evidence presented
    The conclusion is logical, and I thought your closing statement was excellent.
    7. Bibliographic format and internal referencing are correct
    Good job.
    8. Essay includes clean and proofed grammar, spelling and sentence structure.
    Your writing has really improved over the semester!

    I thought you raised really important points in this blog. I like how you tied the popularization of ethnic food and stereotyping together.

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