Society and Media Need to Team Up to Battle Size Issue

Stefanie Townsend

Recently, Chris Peterson shared a work describing Broadway’s size issue. The column could not be more accurate.

Placing a great deal of emphasis on weight pervades society and media alike. People are pressured to look a certain way based on magazines, or clothing found in stores, or comparing themselves to peers. The media has a hand in this as well, favoring smaller actors in lead roles and in general. It’s easy for any actor to feel the pressure: either trying to lose the weight to get to the coveted size, maintain the weight or even potentially gain some.

The world we live in, unfortunately, is vain. No matter how much love is spread or preached, no matter how many people embrace their size, society is still shallow.

And so is the media, casting the same body type almost every time.

As long as neither society nor the media embrace multiple sizes, people who are affected by this war – meaning everyone – will feel the consequences of this war.

The truth is, media and society need to collaborate to end this problem once and for all.

In my personal experience, I have noticed that the media and society feed each other this harmful perception of an ideal weight and it causes a never-ending loop. Society sees the certain type of ideal body projected in the media, be it a very trim or very muscular figure, and determines this is what people need to look like and these are the standards that must be met. This is all that people see in the media, this is the only image we are shown, so this is the only body type that is normal and all must be shunned, right? Wrong.

The people in charge of the media – the producers, the marketers, everyone – want to make money off the project. They look to society to see what is safe and what is ‘acceptable’ in order to make sure they make money. Why take a risk and cast someone who doesn’t fit the mold of the ideal body to try and change society’s perceptions? Why risk losing money and getting negative commentary towards how the actors look? It’s much easier and more profitable to play it safe by giving society what it wants.

And then society wants what the media gives it.

And the cycle continues.

We cannot allow society and the media to continue to blame each other for this trend. Neither society nor the media should be able to get away without taking responsibility for allowing this harmful trend to continue. We may have to wait until different people are in power – people willing to take risks, people willing to embrace many body types, and people willing to change perceptions in society and media. People who are willing to take responsibility and who are willing to end this war. We may have to wait until future generations who are most likely to be more open to these ideas have more power and have more of a say as to what happens. I personally hope we do not have to wait that long.

Regardless of how long the wait is, media and society have to work together to end this. If neither of them is willing to take the blame and take action to change the world, they will have to do it together.

Photo: Amelia Jo Parish as Tracy Turnblad and the cast of Paramount Theatre’s "Hairspray." (Liz Lauren)