Pretty Girls: Body Image on Television vs. Reality

In an article by Into The Gloss, Lucy Hale, who plays Aria Montgomery on Pretty Little Liars said, "It’s important for young girls to realize things like we have fake eyelashes on, some of us have extensions, we have good lighting. It’s the same thing as Photoshop!" People who enjoy watching shows like Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl, Once Upon A Time, The Vampire Diaries, etc. can’t help but think about the fact that the actors’ makeup, hair, and clothes all look great. But where is the line drawn between what is natural and what isn’t? Is there a way to teach people about behind-the-scenes tricks? Is there a message that can be sent out to the public that says a lot has to be done so that the camera catches it? (Even in a film like The Hobbit, Martin Freeman’s robe was extremely bright and colorful because they needed to make sure the camera and filters could "pick it up.") Should audiences be made aware about the tricks to the trade via a disclaimer? On the flip side, is the emulation of their favorite actors/characters a positive thing? Isn’t wearing makeup and getting "fixed up" fun? I’d love for someone to explore the pros and cons and what should or shouldn’t be done about television’s impact on body image.

  • I highly approve of this topic, because it comes at female body image and the perception of feminine beauty from the angle where it is causing the most confusion and lasting impression: make-up and costuming in film and television. There are some television shows and ongoing projects which explore makeup and costuming from a creative angle, but don't quite explore how it is used to fully transform a typical actress into what we see in the final product, and how huge the difference can often be. I also think that doing a one-time expose' on this sort of thing wouldn't really do the trick, because it would be here and gone within a few months. So there ought to be some sort of continuous thing, like maybe a type of promotional featurette that different TV shows can produce, which show how make-up, hair, costumes, and lighting are done, and show how "the magic" happens: maybe like a PSA series. And the message would always be to explain to those younger audience members watching, that what they see the characters wearing and looking like isn't something truly attainable in every day life, nor should it be everyone's goal. – Jonathan Leiter 8 years ago
  • Also, from the perspective of a filmmaker, knowing how the magic is done never ruins a film experience for me, or a television experience either. Seeing how every last detail was conceived and executed never breaks the veil because when it's done right, it still suspends my disbelief. I think it has to do with the editing and the sound design. If neither of those two things were effective, then I probably would notice all of the gears and wires and the illusion would die instantly. But otherwise, there's no harm in letting everyone in on the make-up techniques or the cinematography. It's deeply fascinating. – Jonathan Leiter 8 years ago
  • Agreed to the above - if filmmakers guarded their "tricks" of the trade as jealously as professional illusionists, there would be no behind-the-scenes special features or director's commentary added to DVDs (which I love). Another interesting take on this would be film vs. television and their differing attitude between revealing their magic; I wonder if there is data anywhere that gives an idea whether young girls' body image is affected more negatively by TV than by film. I'd venture a guess and say that it is. (As an aside, I've been thinking for a while that it's very interesting fake lashes have made a serious comeback from the '60s. They've been used in TV and film since then, but not since the '60s has the general public worn them regularly.) – Katheryn 8 years ago

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