Reality television shows that focus on physical transformation, such as "The Swan," "Dr. 90210" and "I Want a Famous Face," may be highly entertaining but, to some women, they also create high anxiety. A study published in Configurations, the official journal of the Society for Literature, Science and the Arts, found that women equate beauty with wealth and social status and that the more they watch these shows, the more likely they are to feel anxious about their bodies.
USC professor Julie Albright surveyed 662 male and female college students in Los Angeles and Buffalo, N.Y. The majority of the respondents said the makeover shows made the women more beautiful and made the respondents less satisfied with their own appearance, especially particular features such as their legs or waist. This "beauty anxiety," said Albright, may lead them "to more often seek reassurance about their disliked feature from others, to feel more worried about their disliked feature in public and social settings, and to become more upset when someone notices or comments on it."
The women in Buffalo appeared to have more anxiety over their appearance than those in Los Angeles. The Buffalo students were from families with an average lower income compared with the students in L.A. While the L.A. students tended to see their "problem bodies" as a moral failing, the women in Buffalo believed their body issues were keeping them from success. As reality shows have become more prevalent, and have featured women from all walks of life, women may see plastic surgery as a valuable step in achieving social and economic success.
"Women are being taught to access power and status through their looks," Albright said in a news release. "Before women might buy a Louis Vuitton purse to show off their 'status.' Now they might buy new breasts as a sign of their success."
-- Shari Roan
Photo: A "Swan" participant prepares for plastic surgery. Credit: Robert Voets/Fox