Cultural Phenomena: Physical Appearance Essay Sample

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Beauty, Women, Surgery, Teenagers, People, Market, Size, Culture

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2021/02/10

Cultural Phenomena

     Cultural phenomena in the form of selfies, makeovers on television and the use of Photoshop to perfect appearances in magazines has resulted in the race to achieve perfection. The images of models glorify thin, tight bodies and beautiful countenances. Radical cosmetic surgery is becoming a common practice as is extreme dieting to achieve the perfect physical appearance. The globalization of markets is spreading these images quickly worldwide. Thin, fit and beautiful are the standard many are trying to achieve in their outward appearance.
     In modern society, social media has blossomed. An entire generation of young people live on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Photos of one’s self are the staple of sharing situations, status and experiences. There is a desire to appear happy and beautiful to one’s friends and followers on these websites. Technology in the guise of smartphones and tablets make taking and uploading of self-portraits, has achieved an art form status. Most people are trying to achieve a look of beauty, happiness or sexiness. Trying to match the compositions, poses and looks found in magazines has become the norm in these self-portraits or selfies. This pursuit is terribly unhealthy, physically and mentally. Falling short of a size zero pair of jeans or possessing the perfect nose causes emotional pain and low self-esteem.
Advertisers and marketing firms historically marketed to specific markets for products. In today’s global market, however, they are using broader advertising campaigns aimed at as many people possible in the market. Fashion magazines are a prime example. Frith, Shaw and Cheng (2005) reviewed advertisements in top fashion magazines in three different countries: the United States; Taiwan and Singapore. They chose these markets because they all have similar income and spending habits in each population. They also chose a Western society and two Eastern societies to compare beauty norms in these two worlds. In Western society, the feminine norm is attractive, not aggressive and emotional. In Eastern cultures, the feminine is virtuous and modest. Their study found that “classic” beauty that was featured in the ads was most popular. Caucasian women in all three markets were portrayed in sexually provocative poses and situations. Asians models were posed, generally, in more respectable ways. (Frith, Shaw, & Cheng 2005).
With role models like those found in fashion magazines, young women are going to great extremes to achieve the look of “classic” beauty. A pretty face, thin figure long hair. Plastic surgeons at one time would not perform surgery on teenagers but now it is becoming routine to fix a nose or enhance breasts on 16 year old girls. In 2003, there 39,000 surgical procedures performed on teenagers such as nose reshaping, breast augmentation and liposuction (Zuckerman 2005). There was a time that plastic surgeons would not perform surgery on teenagers since their bodies were still developing and growing, but that has changed dramatically. Young women are “improving” their appearance through surgery. This is understandable in light of the common and widely accepted use of plastic surgery by people of all ages to attain a perfect appearance. Zuckerman (2005) in her article, cites the difficulty that many doctors have in trying to inform patients of the risks associated with the surgery. Many patients see wonderful results on television and do not consider the risks as seriously as they ought to. Plastic surgeons are also motivated by selling their services.
Extreme dieting and the pursuit of being thin is an obsession for millions of American women. For many years, a woman with curves and voluptuousness was the ideal, consider Marilyn Monroe or Ruben’s models. A round and curvy woman signified good health and financial means. In the 1960,s Twiggy burst onto the international modeling scene and suddenly the “waif” or thin and fragile look became popular. Over the course of the last forty years, models have achieved a standard size of 4 or less. Women everywhere strive to fit into size 0 and 2 clothing. The size label is a way to measure their self-worth. Television shows such as America’s Next Top Model, feature tall, thin girls and Hollywood red Carpet shows highlight rail thin celebrities dressed to perfection. Medically, there are terrible consequences from extreme thinness and dieting. Treasure, Wack and Roberts (2008) list and explain the possible effects on a woman’s health. The reproductive system is affected because of low levels of the hormone leptin. Leptin decreases with a decrease in weight. Irregular periods, irregular ovulation and reduced fertility are all side effects. The brain has terrible reactions to being in a period of starvation. After being deprived of food, the brain actually shrinks in size. Metabolism is thrown off and feelings and behaviors are changed. Psychologically, people who are obsessed with their weight and compulsively diet can develop bulimia and anorexia nervosa. These psychological disorders can lead to death is not successfully treated (Treasure, Wack, & Roberts 2008).
The pursuit of the perfect nose, lips, breasts and body has become a dangerous obsession in our culture. This obsession is now becoming a global phenomenon. The desire to share pictures of ourselves looking perfect over the internet with friends and followers is a dangerously sick obsession. The images we see on television or in magazines are not realistic, they are and ideal that has been created and pushed on the public. Society sees these images and assumes that everyone must look like these beautiful people and will go to any length to achieve the look they see on E! Television or in Teen Vogue. Teenagers enduring unnecessary plastic surgery and dieting to the point of illness are dangerous behaviors that have deep psychological and emotional effects.


Frith, K., Shaw, P., & Cheng, H. (2005). The construction of beauty: A cross-cultural analysis
of women’s magazine advertising. Journal of Communication, 55(1), 56-70.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2005.tb02658.x.
Treasure, J., Wack, E., & Roberts, M. (2008). Models as a high-risk group: The health
implications of a size zero culture. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 192, 243-244.
DOI: 10.1192/bjp.bp.107.044164.
Zuckerman, D. (2005). Op-Ed: Teenagers and cosmetic surgery. Ethics Journal of the American
Medical Association, 7(3). Retrieved from:

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