Examples of Self-Image in Pop Culture

Lizzie McGuire
Character: Miranda

“And it is the lovely Penelope, and she’s chomping hard on cinnamon gum. She’d obviously tried to cover the smell of vomit with the biggest piece of cinnamon gum in the world. … ‘What are you looking at?’ she asks me. ‘I’m looking at an anorexic,’ I say … ‘I’m not anorexic,’ she says. ‘I’m bulimic.’ She says it with her nose and chin in the air. She gets all arrogant. And then I remember that there are a bunch of anorexics who are PROUD to be skinny and starved freaks.” – The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Eating disorders are a real problem for teenagers, especially females. Many girls suffer from body dysmorphia, a disorder that makes thin girls think they are bigger and can even make larger girls think they are smaller. Those that suffer from body dysmorphia react negatively to photos of themselves like Miranda does above. Body dysmorphia, while a disorder is not dangerous in itself, but it can lead to the development of full blown eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder. Later in the Lizzie McGuire episode, entitled “Inner Beauty” Miranda suffers from side effects of the early stages of anorexia. Girls with body dysmorphia often feel proud about their eating disorders, as Junior mentions, because they feel like they are accomplishing something by losing weight, even if they are already thin.

While eating disorders are usually considered “women’s problems” or “women’s disorders” they can also affect young men, like Joey Julius, kicker and redshirt sophomore for the Penn State Nittany Lions.

Kent State v Penn State

Eating disorders can lead to major health problems like low-blood pressure, fainting, fatigue, anxiety and depression, and in severe cases, death, if they are left untreated.


Outside Looking In by Jordan Pruitt

“Emily: ‘Who was that girl?’ Heather: ‘She’s a friend. She was the first person to make me feel at home here.’ Siobhan: ‘She’s creepy. What’s wrong with her lips? It looks like she’s got a disease or something.’ … I hide in the bathroom until I know Heather’s bus has left. The salt in my tears feels good when it stings my lips. I wash my face in the sink until there is nothing left of it, no eyes, no nose, no mouth. A slick nothing.” – Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

This song by Jordan Pruitt, and the situation depicted in Speak both deal with self-image and bullying. The Marthas, Heather’s new clique in Speak bully Melinda by saying she’s creepy and she looks like she has a disease. While Melinda doesn’t let these girls see how upset she is, she cries in the bathroom after she is sure everyone is gone. The song Outside Looking In describes a similar situation about being labeled as an outcast. While bullying may seem like its own animal, and it warrants its own category as an issue in peer social worlds, bullying is also a direct, contributing factor to low self-esteem and low-self image among teens, both male and female. The opinions and comments of others, especially those made about ones clothes or appearance, can have lasting impacts on people that have low self-esteem and can lead to eating disorders, plastic surgery, or even suicide.

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