[Disclaimer: all articles I will be referencing in this piece will be sourced from allkpop.com. This is not to criticise Allkpop specifically in any way, but is simply because it is one of my main personal sources for K-Pop news updates!]
“Ant waist? What on earth is an ant waist?!” I exclaim to myself as I scroll through my newsfeed. “She has a great body; I wonder what she does to get that….eats one meal a day. Alright then!”
This is an almost daily occurrence as I update myself on the world of K-Pop. I’m not going to pretend that I am not insanely jealous of the beautiful celebrities I am confronted with each day (I mean come on, how can people look so flawless?), but more often than not I find myself shaking my head.
I can’t help but feel that these celebrities, as well as the news outlets that report them are shirking a responsibility to cover suitable content. Almost immediately after this I am chastising myself for scapegoating. The media student inside me tells me to consider the media consumption framework as something much more complex than simply ‘the media influences society’ (often known as the ‘hypodermic syringe’ model).
For example, if I read an article in which a female celebrity sticks to a ‘one-meal-a-day’ diet, do I then adopt this regime? No. This is because I am too much of a pig to give up any amount of the food I currently consume, but also – and much more importantly – because I know that this is a ridiculously dangerous endeavour.
This is why I subscribe more to the theory that individuals will take a media text, from television programmes or films all the way to news reports, and apply it to their wider social background (This theory is often known as the ‘Encoding/Decoding’ theory, first officially formulated by Stuart Hall in 1995). This means that, I will read the aforementioned article and take it on board, but it will not stop me from eating as much as I usually do. No, it definitely won’t stop me from wolfing down that leftover cake in the fridge. My rather long-winded point here is that I am a firm believer that media does not make the behaviour by itself and yet I still feel that there is responsibility being neglected by celebrities and the media.
Okay, okay, I can hear you shouting at your screens that this isn’t the only point here (what? You aren’t shouting? Must be the voices in my head again). These celebrities only carry out such extreme dieting and beauty regimes because they are aware of the expectation placed upon them. They know that they are expected to achieve some sort of ‘perfection’ in the way they look and that, if they are ever to slip even slightly below this expectation, they will be likely to suffer a horrendous backlash. In fact, I suppose the very act that I partake in on a daily basis, scrutinising every detail of the latest celebrity photo shoot feeds into this culture and keeps it alive. The celebrity world is one that is very pressured for everyone involved and I think this is even more the case in the South Korean entertainment industry.
There is a particular comment I read that has stuck with me ever since the day I read it. It was a seemingly breezy comment a South Korean citizen made about 2PM’s Ok Taecyeon when the drama ‘Dream High’ was first being aired. This individual mentioned that they could not concentrate on the scenes in the drama because Taecyeon’s ears kept distracting them. This comment was made in the middle of a lengthy online discussion about the idol’s ears which prompted Taecyeon to respond about the fact that his ears slightly stick out. I was incredulous when I first read about this situation, it could have been a simple jibe made in a humorous way, but I couldn’t believe someone could make such a comment to someone they did not know. Taecyeon may have also acknowledged it in a playful manner, but I can’t see those sorts of comments not affecting him. Perhaps I am incorrect and Taecyeon is very thick-skinned, but it still doesn’t take away the annoyance I feel at this happening. This is just one of the many instances the harshness of the celebrity world has shown itself.
I just simply think that celebrities all over the world should be more aware of their role in society. They may not be the be all and end all of what the general public compare themselves to, but it cannot be denied that they hold much responsibility to set a good example. I’m sure I am not the only girl that has scrutinised their body in the mirror, pinched the fat of their stomach and sides or wondered if the latest trend of clothes would ‘suit’ them. There has also been much media research conducted into body perception in males, suggesting that girls are not alone in the practice of comparing themselves to the rich and famous.
This responsibility does not only lie in the hands of the celebrity individuals, but also the news outlets that report stories promoting unhealthy diets and behaviour. Again, I must emphasise that this is not just AllKPop, but almost all outlets that distribute celebrity-related stories. I have recently read a friend’s dissertation project for University, which was conducted on the mixed messages a certain British women’s magazine communicated in a twelve-month period alone and I was quite disappointed. One week readers see a story on how to reach that ‘perfect size 10’ and the next readers are encouraged to achieve a bottom like that of Beyonce’s or Jennifer Lopez’s.
This is an area that is nothing new and this rather undetailed piece barely manages to scratch the surface on this complex area. The main point of this post is to communicate that celebrities and the media hold a joint duty to share and report responsibly, always keeping in mind the general public in their work.
It just seems apparent to me that both these groups seem to forget the influence they hold over an individual’s mindset and perception of themselves. While this influence is by no means absolute, personally, I feel it should not be ignored.
Oh, and if I see another article celebrating a Korean female’s wonderful ‘ant-waist’, I may cry my eyes out.
Do you think this argument is founded at all or is this all just a fruitless debate as the celebrity and media worlds are too set in their ways?
Do you think celebrities have influence on the general public, or are people all so media-savvy nowadays that it will not affect them?
[Sources: Google Images, AllKpop].