Title of Project

Media Images, Self-Reconstructions, and Young American Women’s Quest For Perfection

Researcher Information

Danielle Garcia

Project Type


Start Date

7-4-2006 12:00 AM

End Date

7-4-2006 12:00 AM

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Apr 7th, 12:00 AM Apr 7th, 12:00 AM

Media Images, Self-Reconstructions, and Young American Women’s Quest For Perfection

The late 20th and early 21st centuries produced a new variety of female adolescent who was reared on a heavy diet of popular images, especially through consumer magazines and television programming. Now entering into adulthood, these young women continue to negotiate their self-identity within the context of cultural apparatuses that instruct them in everything from life-style choices to the ideal body image. According to the National Institute on Media and the Family, some fifty-three percent of thirteen year-old girls are unhappy with their physical appearance, and by age seventeen, body dissatisfaction in this population escalates to seventy-eight percent (The Body Project xxiv). This phenomenon should be no surprise given the media’s insistence on portraying only one body ideal for females, one that is exceptionally thin and flawlessly beautiful. This statistic also displays young women’s obsession with their physical appearance at the expense of other key aspects of personal identity, such as their personality and intellect. This paper seeks to examine popular media texts—fashion magazines and trendy television shows—to explore the relationship between the popular culture images seen in the media and the personal identity and body image of young American women. By using qualitative analysis and drawing on cultural theorist Anthony Giddens’ concepts concerning the “self-reflexive project,” this study proposes to explore this ultra-thin and flawless body image, as reified in popular culture, and what it reveals about the connection between the identity formation of young American women and the growing trend toward adopting extreme measures in order to reconstruct their bodies and achieve perfection. This iconic image is clearly illustrated in contemporary magazines and popular televisions programs targeted specifically to women.