“You’re like… Really Pretty”: Lessons from the Media

January 12, 2021

In a world where “Saturday morning cartoons” have evolved into a constant stream of blue light, television and social media have never had a more receptive audience. 

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry states that teens spend up to nine hours on a screen each day, paying with their perception.

Take Regina George. The iconic queen bee of the 2000s. Popular, manipulative, and clad in low rise jeans, she’s perfection in a satirical high school until a ploy to make her gain weight strips her of all her street cred. 

Regina obsesses over food, exercise, and her dress size until it’s a punchline. 

She’s not alone.  

Hannah Montana, Monica Geller, Lizzie McGuire, Maggie Fitzpatrick, Marley Rose.

These characters with diet-related dialogue have been on television for years. Whether they’re bullied into skipping lunch or are trying to lose weight to attract the boy next door, they’ve created the stereotypical persona of an eating disorder.

Female, caucasian, heterosexual, thin. 

This trope is impressed upon viewers time and time again; teenage girls so focused on obtaining the skinny ideal that they manipulate their food intake to change their bodies.

“I remember watching reruns of ‘The Suite Life of Zack and Cody’ when I was younger,” said Kristie Stevens*, a 16-year-old. “There was an episode; I’ll never forget it; two of the characters were trying to lose weight for a fashion show. Having struggled with an E.D. [eating disorder] myself, I look back and get so angry. […] They made it seem trivial.”

Between pre-recorded laugh tracks, neurological differences become narcissism. 

You can’t eat, so you must be obsessed with how you look. 

Not only is this woefully incorrect, but it’s also harmful.

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