The Darkest Force in the Universe…
Do me a favor and close your mind for a second from all outside influences. Now, I am about to give you a word, and think of what comes to mind the instant you read the word and keep only that first image in your mind. Ready? Okay…
Okay fine, that was two words.
Literalisms aside, what came to your mind? The latest chart-topping Glee cover? Lots of half-naked ethnic stereotypes in a hot tub? A poster for Eclipse? One of Lindsay Lohan’s mugshots?
I saw something different. I saw a scene that took place many months ago in my own life. A scene where I confronted my mother and told her I had been purposefully taking in less than 500 calories every day and working out to the point where it induced fainting spells for several months in an attempt to lose weight. I saw her tears. I felt my stomach churn with both guilt and pride for being empty. I saw my fat, ugly reflection in the nearby mirror.
The media did not do this to me. Pop culture is the driving force behind my eating disorder, the one I still struggle with every day but am slowly starting to recover from. I see a major difference between media and pop culture.
The media is an unavoidable force, unless you lock yourself in a cave in Antarctica. Media, in the form of books, films, news, photographs, sights and sounds, is around us all the time. Media manifests itself in solid forms of communication, no matter what subject it takes.
Pop culture manifests itself in FORMS of media, like films, etc., but pop culture is more an ideology that changes whenever the invisible hand decides it wants something different to be the trend. Media is the delivery boy, and pop culture, the delivery. Pop culture and media are partners in crime, and it is through this deadly alliance that they affect or lives, whether we like to admit it or not.
Pop culture is what influenced me to think that I was a disgusting piece of trash because I was overweight. Why? Because the ideology that pop culture is pushing is that the smaller the body, the more attractive they are. The more impossible the body type, the more desirable towards men, which, by the way, pop culture dictated that EVERY girl wants.
And this can be applied to so many other trends and problems society sees. Pop culture, for instance, presents the ideology that high school is this be-all, end-all experience, and it’s where you’ll find your real friends, true love, and live out the best years of your life. Even in media artifacts at least partially targeted at a post-high school audience, like Glee. Whereas, in my personal experience at least, high school was more like going to the orthodontist: a miserable place of pain you HAD to visit in order to get what you really wanted.
Maybe that’s just due to the fact that no one broke out into a showstopper every time two people decided to go out. I only speak for myself here.
But I digress. What I’m trying to say is, pop culture and the ideologies it promotes are extremely dangerous. In my case, it did irreversible damage to my body, as my eating habits induced a permanent iron deficiency, and regardless of my recovery progress, I still have fainting spells at a moment’s warning. The ideas, dangerous or benign, spread like wildfire. The power can be catastrophic.
What I don’t understand is, we know this, and we know the power that pop culture can have an society such as ours, but why can’t this incomprehensible be used for the side of good? Instead of using pop culture to promote insane ideas of beauty and how to live life, we could use pop culture to draw attention to world poverty, or civil rights for those who don’t have them, or even, Isis forbid, to help convince people that differences is good and beauty is in the eye of the beholder?
I suppose this is how the world works. Until whatever time the invisible hand shifts the tides around in such a fashion that pop culture CAN be used for a great good, it’s up to the power of individual strength of will to convince themselves that they aren’t fat.
And whether or not being fat is a bad thing in the first place is another rant entirely…