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The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

Media has a catastrophic effect on young girls’ body images

Nickolay Lamm
How “Classic Barbie” would look next to an average American 19-year-old

“Hello, I’m a fat person, fat, fat, fat.” 

This introduction is certainly not the statement one might expect from a 6-year-old girl’s lips. Stereotypically, preschool to elementary-aged girls are nicer than boys of the same age. But, behind closed doors, they can be just as unkind as their male counterparts. 

In 2016, Mattel released three new “body-diverse” Barbie body types: petite, tall, and curvy. In other words, they were “thin but short” Barbie, “tall and thin” Barbie, and—as these little girls described it—“fat” Barbie. Mattel tested these new products with little girls aged from 3 to 10, most of whom didn’t even want to play with the curvy doll. In fact, some girls were particularly mean to the “fat” doll when adults weren’t in the room. One group of girls went as far as to remove the curvy Barbie’s clothes and laugh at it. 

These young girls already know the pecking order. They already know who the outsider is and how to treat them. 

It seems odd that they learned this unspoken yet prevalent norm at such a young age. Most parents try to teach love and respect; most children’s television shows and movies preach kindness, but what implicit lessons are being taught to these children to make them so cruel to a doll?

Although some may blame the accessibility of social media for younger people, I blame the entertainment industry, especially films marketed to children, like the plethora of highly-esteemed Disney movies.

While Disney princesses are starting to become more racially diverse, the slim range of body types is going nowhere. Every Disney princess has a waist the same width or, in some cases, even smaller than her head. This is setting an unachievable standard for young girls to live up to. When you look at it the other way around, you see villains that are overweight or extremely thin. Some villain body types look like average people you might see regularly—just not “normal” enough to be a hero.

What is this telling our youth? What example is this setting for young girls to live up to?

As little girls develop into teenagers, they watch high school movies starring stunning actresses who often aren’t even teenagers. The average age of an actor or actress playing a teenager in a qualifying teen movie is 21.7. For example, Lola Tung, who starred as Belly in The Summer I Turned Pretty, was 19 when she acted as a 15-16 year old. A more drastic gap is shown in Grease, where 29-year-old Olivia Newton-John plays a 17 or 18-year-old Sandy. 

Because of this widespread casting choice, teenagers are slowly looking older and wanting to look older because that is what their role models look like: effortlessly beautiful and effortlessly thin. The worship of celebrities through social media only encourages this idea.

When young girls are subject to this absurd body standard, they become slaves of comparison and body dysmorphia.”

When young girls are subjected to this absurd body standard, they become slaves of comparison and body dysmorphia. It is nearly impossible to look like a Disney princess or classic Barbie without some amount of plastic surgery. If entertainment and toy industries continue to spread these subtle yet powerful messages to vulnerable children through media, these young girls can grow up to be insecure about every little “mistake” on their bodies.

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About the Contributor
Micah McClarty
Micah McClarty, Junior Writer
Micah is a freshman who has just recently joined The Central Trend. She has been passionate about writing for as long as she can remember and is so excited to work with the rest of The Central Trend's amazing staff. Aside from school, she plays the piano both independently and in a band alongside some of her best friends. She has recently started playing both the electric and acoustic guitars and wants to continue to learn new instruments. Aside from music, Micah spends her time rewatching Community and messing around with her younger siblings. She is so thrilled to write alongside her TCT classmates in room 139. Her favorite Band: The Backseat Lovers and Weezer Her Lucky Number: 2 Her Comfort Movie: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and Ratatouille Her Favorite President: Gerald R. Ford

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    alex smithNov 10, 2023 at 8:21 am

    Micah! You are such an incredible writer. All of your stories are amazing, and I am so glad that you decided to write about this topic, as it is very important. You slay girl!