A few weeks ago, I had the misfortune of being attacked via Facebook message by a girl I had never talked to before. In this message, she accused me of showing her “a different side” of her boyfriend and asked if I wanted to know the size of his penis, too (I didn’t).
My crime? I had the audacity to interview her boyfriend for a journalism assignment. That’s right—this girl was in a psychotic rage (she also later barred him from speaking to me ever again) over four harmless questions I had asked him for school.
So, naturally, this got me thinking: why are some girls so damn crazy? Why are men stupid enough to stay with these psychos? And, perhaps most importantly, how do mainstream media (i.e. TV, movies, magazines, commercials, etc.) condition these women to be insecure and pathetic lunatics?
Everywhere you look these days, we are bombarded with images of skinny, big breasted women with perfect hair, teeth, butts, and skin. If you’re a woman, you must strive to look like this. If you’re a man, you’re a nobody until you date one.
From the moment we become consumers of mainstream media, we are overwhelmingly conditioned to believe that perfection is beauty. For women, this leads to feelings of insecurity and inferiority. For men, images of buff and rugged men make even the most average of Joes feel the need to fuel their machismo with daily trips to the gym and trophy girlfriends (and it doesn’t matter how crazy the girl is as long as she’s smokin’ hot). Many girls are made to feel bad about themselves if they dare to be bigger than a size five and some men won’t even give you the time of day unless you’re fit enough.
“I would never date a fat chick,” says a fourth-year University of Western student who we’ll call ‘Willie.’ “I go to the gym a lot because image means a lot to me. I couldn’t go out with someone who didn’t feel the same.”
When asked if the way men and women are portrayed on television or in the movies had anything to do with his feelings, Willie said, “I guess it does. Everyone on TV and in the movies looks good. The women are always sexy and thin and the men are all jacked. But I think it’s better that way.”
For a third year Concurrent Education student at Laurier Brantford who we’ll call ‘Irene,’ this portrayal of women has had negative effects on her own self-esteem.
“It affects how I see myself because I would love to look like them. And even though I know it is unreal, I definitely feel intimidated by girls who look like that in real life. I would never approach a guy if one of those girls was talking to him.”
So what implications do these types of images have on our real life relationships? In addition to feelings of inferiority, there are also numerous conflicting messages regarding women as wives and girlfriends. On one hand, you have strong, independent women in relationships like Pam from The Office and Dr. Bailey from Grey’s Anatomy. But for every empowered woman you see on TV, you get an onslaught of certifiable crazies, as well. Take Terri Schuester from Glee—this woman is nuts! Not only is she manipulative and deceitful, but she is so insecure that she feels resentful of her husband’s job for “taking him away from her.” And don’t even get me started on Melissa from the movie, The Hangover, who is the epitome of the psycho girlfriend.
“I think those psycho bitches really put a negative stereotype on women in general,” says Irene. “I see these perfect girls on TV acting like psychos and I become a little apprehensive about talking to them in real life. And I hate how girls who are crazy bitches make it seem like women are always PMS-ing.”
According to Professor Rick Gamble, what is seen in popular culture, and specifically, in ads, has major social implications, especially when it comes to the distortion of values. “The notion of beauty has become so universal: white and skinny. And it’s just the same woman over and over again. These images objectify women and it does make us look at women in a different way.”
And it’s not just women who are portrayed negatively. Men are shown that it’s okay to be a cheater and a douche bag as long as the crazy ball and chain doesn’t find out (see: many of the characters played by actor Bradley Cooper). Men are supposed to be manly and sow their oats while pumping iron, growing beards, and sporting designer suits. Look at the music videos that have been dominating the airwaves for much of this decade—”Sexyback” by Justin Timberlake, “The Good Life” by Kanye West, and basically every rap video. The message is: if you don’t have the finest girls and the most expensive lifestyle, then you’re not a real man.
These images manifest themselves in real life when men begin pampering themselves with nice clothes, cars, and cologne to impress, well, everyone. And their women begin feeling insecure and questioning whether their boyfriends and husbands are up to no good. The slightest transgression—no matter how slight or non-existent—could lead to her sending a stark-raving Facebook message.