Academic journal article Journalism History

Slim Hopes: Advertising and the Obsession with Thinness

Academic journal article Journalism History

Slim Hopes: Advertising and the Obsession with Thinness

Article excerpt

Slim Hopes: Advertising and the Obsession with Thinness.

Northampton, MA: Media Education Foundation, 1995. 30 min. $250.00 and $215 nonacademic.

Slim Hopes is Jean Kilbourne's third illustrated video lecture on gender stereotypes in advertising (the others being Killing Us Softly: Advertising's Image of Woman and Still Killing Us Softly). In this newest video, Kilbourne addresses an unseen studio audience and demonstrates that there is an ideal woman portrayed in media advertising. However, she concludes that this ideal is unattainable because the ideal body type is genetically thinner than 95 % of women, and many of the images have been air brushed and/or computer enhanced.

Further, the ideal is harmful because it creates an anxiety about weight which focuses upon unnatural thinness rather than health. The image persists, however, because it is profitable to cigarette manufacturers (who base their advertising on weight control and stress relief) and the diet industry. Anxiety about weight is further exacerbated by women's magazines which promote diets and food concurrently. Kilbourne links food to sexual appetites and suggests that the modern "good girl" is the one who can control all of her appetites, especially the one for food.

Finally, Kilbourne urges her audience to free their imaginations, to speak out and challenge these harmful images, and to join an anti-diet focus on health and wellness.

Kilbourne illustrates the cumulative effect of these images by including over 150 still and moving ads which provide ample evidence for her arguments. Further, meaningful statistics are emphasized with computer graphics, and there are video sections which demonstrate the computerized enhancement and creation of the ideal woman's face. However, one of the most compelling images is the picture of 1950s sex symbol Marilyn Monroe, who appears fat by today's standards. Clearly the standards have changed and that, from Kilboume's evidence, these standards may be unattainable.

Some of the same issues were discussed in Still Killing Me Softly, which covered ideal female beauty, the objectification and infantilization of the body, and the cooptation of female needs in service of profits. …

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