Since the conception of advertising, we have been exposed to a prodigious number of adverts on daily basis with the primary goal being to influence our thoughts, behaviors, and above all our purchasing decisions. Naturally with this type of intention many adverts have attracted a large amount of controversy whilst attempting to grab our intention. Potentially one of the key concerns within modern advertising and media in general is it’s influence on young women and how women are represented.
We watch films, TV shows, music videos, and adverts often with a consistent theme of young, thin, and beautiful women. Indisputably this can have a very negative impact on young women’s self-confidence, body image, and behavior. However, in comparison, very little has been done to consider the influence of the media’s portrayal of “the perfect man” and how it is effecting our modern generation of young boys. With so much concern for how women are portrayed in modern media, it is easy to forget that many magazines such as GQ, Fortune, and Men’s Health often portray a very extreme and unrealistic image of rich, thin, and muscular men. It is possible there is less concern for men in this industry due to the stereotype that men are less emotional and therefore are less likely to be negatively influenced by these images. However, research indicates this is simply not true. Rather actually being less sensitive or emotional, studies suggest that men may have stronger emotional reactions to a stimulus but do a better job of hiding it than women. With this considered it is no wonder that men are just as likely to be influenced by media stereotypes as women, or potentially more.
One study found that over 80% of men spoke in ways that promote anxiety about their body image referring to perceived flaws and imperfections which were higher than the percentage found for women (75%). Moreover, 38% of men would go as far as losing a year of their life in exchange for the perfect body image. This indicates that men are just as likely as women to feel the effects of modern media if not more.
This becomes even more worrying when we consider the implications for young men. Using a national sample of adolescent boys, a recent study found that almost one in five boys were highly concerned about their weight and physical appearance. This perception also leads to a higher chance of depression and was more likely to exhibit high-risk behaviors such as binge drinking and drug abuse. From this, we can see there are concerns within young men regarding their self-image. Another important factor to consider in this area is the development of the ideal man within our culture over the past few years. According to scholars, there has been a dramatic shift in body image of young boy’s action figures since the 80s. Figures such as Batman, G.I. Joe, and Superman have all developed to encompass a more muscular and “ideal” male physic. Understandably, this has proven to have a very negative impact on young men’s self-esteem.
Body image aside, it can be argued that young men are faced with a daunting number of pressures from our modern society, not only on how to look but also on how to behave. Modern music also can have a dramatic impact on young men regard what is normal and socially acceptable behavior, specifically regarding misogyny and drug abuse. One study by Barongan and Hall conducted in the 90’s found that increased exposure misogynistic messages has led to desensitization of intimate partner violence and fosters greater tolerance of male aggression. Furthermore, a positive correlation has been found between misogynistic thinking and Rap / hip hop consumption.
With all this considered, it is important to understand that men also suffer from similar pressures as women in modern media. Despite experiencing different stereotypes, it can still be just as damaging and influential. If you are a parent of a young boy it may be worth considering opening up a line of communication regarding these issues to ensure they are not alone when facing these modern pressures.