Whether you’re going green, saving African babies or helping the homeless, nothing is more in vogue than being a do-gooder. Everybody who’s anybody is fighting for something. The current cause du jour sweeping the nation is shaming the fashion and film industries for their casual portrayal and therefore endorsement of slim physiques and illicit activities. And I believe it’s time to stop blaming these businesses for our cultural ideals of beauty and fun.
The problem, as the opponents of the film and fashion industries see it, is two-fold. For one, these businesses allegedly set ludicrous standards of beauty for impressionable young gals like you and me (apologies to any men reading this… just imagine you’re a teenage girl. That should be fun). These industries “demand,” as every adult with WiFi will tell you, that we be a) whippet-thin, b) drop-dead gorgeous, even without make-up or during a sweaty workout, and c) total sex-pots. Luckily I qualify for all of these categories (I kid! Or do I…?) but not everyone does, and therefore the images broadcast by the film and fashion folks are unrealistic.
First of all, the depictions of models and actresses must be real to some extent, because otherwise these women would all be computer-generated drones with chips for brains. Secondly, are the images projected by these industries really bad influences on my generation? Do they really encourage us to test the rocky but oft-televised waters of sticking our fingers down our throats or waving around our sexuality like a Subway employee doing tricks with a sign on a street corner? Well, no.
To the all of you red-faced, bleeding-heart liberals getting your knickers in a twist about a couple of skinny, sexy women that you saw on TV, pop a squat and allow me to explain why you are totally wasting your time from the point of view of the exact demographic you believe you’re defending.
It’s sweet that you’re worried about the mental health of my generation. Really, we know your heart is in the right place (between your lungs). But your complaints are by and large redundant. Teenagers all know that the actors and models that appear in film and fashion are hotter than the average bear: #duh. That’s why they got the jobs; because they are sexy, fit and fun to look at. Oh, and hopefully because they can act/model, but these days, that’s kind of a side note, except for in Britain, where the actors are top notch but have wretched teeth and spindly arms. Luckily we are not in Britain, so our television and film is delivered with an extra helping of pretty.
Magazines do not hide the fact that they airbrush models down to a size negative one, nor do most television shows claim to base their wild scenes of sex and drinking on anything realistic (I’m looking at you, Game of Thrones).
These businesses do not intend to sell reality: chances are you get plenty of that in your daily life, and if not, step away from the trolls wreaking havoc on your once-thriving virtual villagers and get some fresh air. The fashion and film industries are selling fantasy, whether your dreams tend towards being a svelte model with legs for miles or a studly muscle-man who smolders even during a root canal. If the public’s current tastes veered towards pictures of women with more rolls than Nate n Al’s deli, that’s what would be plastered throughout Vogue. Businesses like Fox don’t claim to be portraying the average viewer’s life, and frankly, if they were, I wouldn’t care to spend money on their products. It’s nice to escape every now and then.
Furthermore, the more realistic people who do appear on television, such as Mama June from Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, are often meant to be laughingstocks, to make us feel more positive about our own bodies. Putting physically larger people on camera does not change our cultural ideals of beauty.
What’s more, I resent the idea that all teenagers duplicate everything they see in magazines and on TV. Just because I saw Anna Paquin getting up to some hanky-panky with a rather pale fellow who “doesn’t drink wine” on True Blood does not mean I’m going to go out and bite the nearest stranger. If I did, I’d probably have lots of STDs and very few friends.
That example might sound ludicrous, but then again, that’s what it sounds like to me when adults imply that I’m so brainless that I would smoke crack and wander around NYC sans bottoms because Zosia Mamet did so on Girls. My peers and I know that the fashion and film industries are not in the pursuit of truth—they’re in the pursuit of money. And that’s fine. They need to make a living, and I need to get my weekly dose of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Oh, I’m sorry, is enjoying these shows rather low-brow and unprogressive of me? Oops.
It’s time to stop whining and face the facts: film, TV and fashion are not going to force-feed their models Big Macs or burn all script pages with mention of drugs or sex, because that would pretty much mean setting fire to the whole of the CW and HBO. So until the public decides that they like their models chunky and their entertainment clean as a whistle, I wouldn’t hold your breath.