All my life I’ve been aware of the images girls in magazines portray. I subscribe to Vogue and Allure, and I am able to recognize that the girls in the pictures have been stretched, taped, hair-sprayed, and photo-shopped to perfection. I guess what I’m trying to say is this: I don’t let the models get me down, and I have trained my mind to block out the negative feelings about my body that can easily creep up while staring at a model. It’s taken years, but magazines don’t get to me anymore. I’m 21.
The other day my roommates and I were channel-surfing when we came across a show on Cartoon Network called “Total Drama Action” or “Island” or something. Basically it was like Survivor, but a cartoon. Yes, A cartoon reality show. Anyway, the majority of the girls on the show were impossibly skinny, with bulging boobs and jacked calves. We sat there staring at the TV, then finally one of my companions said “I think this is the first time a cartoon has made me feel fat.” Stick figures were only part of this show’s problem. The three characters with a BMI of over 18 were a flatulent, pale, obese man, a “chubby” (comparatively, of course) nerdy white girl, and a meatier black girl whose speech seems to channel Monique.
Now, I understand that the show is supposed to make fun of the stereotypical characters cast on shows like The Real World and Big Brother (the goth girl, the surfer dude, the spoiled rich girl, the dumb blonde, the metrosexual, etc). But it got me thinking: Do my little cousins understand that this is satire? Do they know that people don’t really don’t look like this? You’d think not, but my little brother actually wants to be Robin from Teen Titans. So are younger girls seeing shows like this and thinking that they should be as tiny as these girls? Because according to the show, if you’re not, you’re chubby and nerdy.
The idea of being envious of a cartoon seems a bit well, crazy, but I have to think about cartoon characters that I wanted to be “like” when I was younger. I remember the show Brace Face, and, although I was 12 or so when it came out, I thought it was so cool that she had braces, which I had always wanted. She was also pretty, tall and blonde with great friends; all things I wanted to be as a teenager. Yes, I was jealous of a cartoon.
Think about the cartoons you watched when you were little. Were there characters that you wished you looked like, although you KNEW they were just cartoons? And parents, do you worry about the kind of messages your children are getting from tiny wasted, rippling chested animations? I never thought body image problems really started before you’re first issue of Seventeen, but hindsight has proven me wrong.