Social pressure and the body
There are strange connections in life that we don’t always make. A lot of different spheres in our life are connected through tissue we wouldn’t see unless we look very very closely. For instance, there is a direct connection between the behaviors of corporate America and an impact on the environment. You might think business offices and the natural world are two completely separate things but, in actuality, they are very intimately connected. They share a bond that affects both of them in ways far beyond what anyone might think if they weren’t looking closely. There is also a link between the way we feel about ourselves and the way movies portray a typically heroic character. Media influences the way we buy and spend our money. It’s weird to think about but there’s direct quantitative evidence to show that this true. Sales of certain products will go up if people see the product or service in a popular movie. So what does this all mean? How do we make sense of all of these strange connections? Well, that’s a difficult question to answer. It requires us to take a close look at ourselves and examine the habits we might feel better if we didn’t examine. But, if we do this, it gives us more agency than we might have had otherwise. Let’s search through a more concrete example.
- Going back in time
In order to better understand this problem, we need to go back in time. We need to take a look at the early and mid nineteen sixties in a way that makes sense and has a direct impact on the time we live in now. Before rhinoplasty, before facial plastic surgery or the facial plastic surgery or fast food restaurants or the internet or pop up ads, there was the newspaper. And there was the start of TV. And, most importantly, there was the rise of mass advertising. Let’s skip a farther step, even, and look at the rise of television in the nineteen fifties. This was a big deal in culture and it’s hard to underestimate just what an effect it had on the people who lived through this time. For the first time, direct visual stories could be broadcast to the public. It was first example of an entire population having a mass experience. Radio kind of had a similar effect but it was separate enough that it’s not considered to be the beginning of large scale mass culture. For that, you need to turn to television.
Showing the world what it cares about
There was another rise, shortly after the rise of television. It was quiet, not like the rise of rhinoplasty, as we’ve said, or plastic surgeons or airplanes or anything that defines our modern culture. But therein lies the irony. Because it does define our modern culture, as do rhinoplasty or airplanes. We just think it doesn’t. I’m talking about the rise of mass advertising and what it communicated to the American public. For the first century and a half of American life, and global industrial life for that matter, people living in separate places had separate ideas about what they needed to have in their lives. Separate enough, anyway. The only things that bonded them were national ties and various cultural tissues. But with the rise of mass advertising that everybody could see? Well that changed everything. That altered how people feel about their minds and bodies.
Where we are now in culture
So now we circle back around. What does this have to do with mysterious connections, rhinoplasty and who we are today? What mysterious connections does advertising have with the rest of our lives? Cultural pressure and social models, for one. Helping and hurting the psyches of our population, for another. For better or for worse, advertising painted a certain picture of the world and demanded that people fit into that mold. It didn’t remove their agency. It just shifted the object of their agency somewhere else. The lesson here is that if you want to change yourself, do it for you. Lose weight, change your body because you are the one chooses.