Film and Media Essay 2719024Explain how a riskbased approach to

The following sample essay on “Film and Media”: explaining how a risk-based approach to media regulation would differ from a ‘media effects’ approach. Elaborate with an example addressing body image and eating disorders.

Body Image and eating disorders

In today’s world, it is widely recognised that the media has a massive influence over the general public; particularly with younger audiences. Children are most likely to be influenced by what they see on television and it’s for this reason that the people producing TV shows and movies have to be very particular and careful about the specific topics they portray within their creation.

One specific topic that is portrayed fairly often within these movies/TV shows is the presence of Body Image and/or Eating Disorders. The production companies have different ways they can portray this serious and upsetting theme however not all of their methods make it possible to portray these issues in a ‘positive’ light. In this essay I will explain the two different types of approach to these themes and give both the negative and positive ways they are portrayed by analysing examples from contemporary sources.

“For some children, under some conditions, some television shows can be harmful.” (Schramm, Lyle and Parker, 1961, p.61) One such example of the negative and harmful way in which these issues are depicted in contemporary media, is depicted in the reality TV show ‘Love Island’. The show, which involves a group of – “Celebrities” – trying to find love on an isolated island by competing in various different tasks, is very ignorant when it comes to portraying body image.

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At first glance, the premise of these contestants, who usually tend to be muscular men, and thin women, walk around in swimwear competing in these challenges, seems fairly ‘innocent’. However, the show seems to focus more on this, than the actual challenges itself. Due to this particular focus, viewers at home, especially younger audiences could take this as an idealistic body image and be made to feel extremely insecure and in some severe cases disgusted by their own bodies.

In addition, because a lot of young people are becoming more and more involved with various celebrities and their lifestyle, shows like this could really have a major impact over the way in which they perceive themselves. This shows that this form of media can have a very negative effect on its viewers. However, if the production company took a more risk-based approach and instead chose not to glamourise their lifestyle but instead focused more on the challenge aspect of the show, then there would certainly be a major difference in the way viewers felt about the show, but more importantly, themselves. However, there is also the argument that parents should be more responsible for what their children view, and since ‘Love Island’ could be considered as a show aimed towards a more mature and adult audience, it sparks the debate of whether children should be viewing it in the first place.

“Children, despite being a sizeable segment of the population, risk being treated as a rather difficult minority.” (Livingstone and Lunt, 2012, p. 143)

This shows that even though children are a major part of the world’s population, the media still has some difficulty in trying to produce various productions that would cater to their ‘needs’. It is challenging for these production companies to judge what a child can and cannot be exposed to on television, as obviously not every child is the same, and they all have their own individual interests. Additionally, some children mature at an earlier age and would therefore not be content with some of the shows made for a younger audience. This is where the difficulty arises though, as how does one judge what the child should be watching. It is in these situations where Risk-Based approaches become a lot more relevant as they are a great way to ensure that content may not be as triggering, upsetting or influential on the young viewers potentially watching the show.

However, an example of a current TV show which handles these themes in a more positive manner is ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’. In this multiple emmy award-winning show, famous Drag superstar RuPaul Charles sets challenges for fourteen aspiring drag queens in order to find “America’s next drag superstar”. The show is filled with sassy quips and comedic scenes, but underneath it all, it emotes positive messages of self-love and acceptance. A lot of the queens competing on the show are very confident, particularly when it comes to their body image, and body image of their peers. A few of them also talk about their personal struggles with eating disorders throughout the series, and how they managed to overcome it. This is very important as the show is giving a realistic and candid view on body positivity and some of the struggles people face with it. In addition, because it solely gives descriptions of eating disorders instead of trying to portray them, (although it could still be triggering for sensitive viewers who may have a similar issue), it gives a more positive and uplifting effect on the audience as well as promoting complete body-positivity and self-love. This is extremely valuable as viewers will be able to feel more positive about their own body image and if they are suffering from an eating disorder, they can become more aware and know that there are ways in which they can get help or guidance.

“The relationship between television exposure in general and criterion variables categorised as thin-ideal internalisation, body dissatisfaction, weight and shape control, and disordered eating.” (L?pez-Guimer?, Levine, S?nchez-Carracedo, Faquet, 2010, p. 392)

This helps prove that there is indeed a profound link between the viewers watching these shows, and the viewers affected by them. It is being made clear that some of these shows are having a major impact on the wellbeing of some of their audience members.

Both of these television shows are classed as ‘reality TV’, however, it is clear that they both approach the topic of body image in polar opposite manners. But it must be noted that to truly monitor the effects these two shows actually have on audiences would be near impossible as there are too many factors involved to know for certain. However, although body image is a common theme throughout various TV shows and movies, there are also some examples of productions which involve certain eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa and/or Bulimia.

“The media may contribute to low self-esteem by promoting slenderness as the pathway to love, acceptance and respect while at the same time reflecting a trend in society to demonise fat.” (Deanne, The Media and Eating Disorders, n.d,

This shows that a lot of people, including professionals, consider the media as one of the main components of some mental health issues such as low self-esteem and a warped image of what the “right” kind of body to have is. This leads to an ever-growing number of viewers who could pick up on this and begin to believe that there is something wrong with them, or their bodies, because it does not match those portrayed on television/in movies.

One such example that could have a negative effect on viewers could be seen in the 1999 drama ‘Girl, Interrupted’, based off of the real life story of Susanna Kaysen. The plot revolves around Kaysen, who is admitted to a mental health institution, where she meets an array of different women who all suffer from their own mental health issues. One such character is Daisy, who suffers from Bulimia. Within the movie, the audience watch as it comes to light that she stashes rotisserie chicken carcasses beneath her bed, and over-uses laxatives in order to help her pass the chicken that she eats in order to not gain weight. This is quite upsetting and for some sensitive audience members who may be going through a similar experience, it could be very triggering for them to view. Sadly, despite having been in care to help her Bulimic habits, Daisy unfortunately commits suicide near the end of the movie. This is particularly distressing and to these viewers, it could suggest that even after seeking help and getting treated, it may not properly benefit them. It can be noted that the movie depicts Daisy’s struggles realistically and portrays the illness truthfully.

However, this may have a negative impact on viewers who are struggling with an eating disorder such as Bulimia, as they may start to believe that even after treatment, their illness could still continue. If the production company had taken a more risk-based approach, they could possibly have portrayed Daisy’s illness in a less distressing manner, however, it is extremely difficult to judge what viewers can and cannot “handle’ in terms of what is shown in a television show or movie, as different people are affected in different ways based off of what they view. Therefore, it could be argued that ‘Girl Interrupted’ does handle the theme of Bulimia in a considerate and realistic way, despite it possibly having a negative impact on certain viewers.

“There is a clear distinction between examining the role of the media in the aetiology of EDs and thinking about responses to media representations of EDs.” (Holmes, (Un)twisted: talking back to media representations of eating disorders, 2016, p. 151)

This shows that the media is clearly having some degree of effect on viewers as there is a clear link between the representation of eating disorders within media and the rise in people who are suffering from an eating disorder. If more shows took a risk-based approach, there could possibly be a lower number of audience members negatively affected by viewing these shows. However, it is not guaranteed, and even after taking a more risk-based and precautious approach, there could still be some viewers affected by the representations.

However, a TV show which represents eating disorders and body image in a much more positive way is ‘Skins’. The hit show which aired back in 2007 and immediately gained a cult-following features one of the most interesting insights into Anorexia and eating disorders through the character of Cassie Ainsworth. When we are first introduced to Cassie she seems to be in her own world and disconnected from everything around her. However, as the series progresses we come to learn she suffers from Anorexia Nervosa and has an eating disorder. In one scene, she shows her friend Sid how she gets away with not eating and this gives a very shocking, yet realistic scene of how people suffering from this condition manage to ‘trick’ others. Near the end of the series, she overdoses on sleeping pills and is immediately taken to the hospital. This is extremely upsetting and if some audience members suffer from a similar condition, or know someone who does, this scene could be distressing for them and have a negative impact.

However, Cassie manages to survive this incident and is given proper treatment to help her with her condition. This is important as the show is depicting how someone suffering from Anorexia Nervosa, and/or has eating disorders can get the proper help they need. However, like the other examples, this does not necessarily mean that this representation won’t negatively affect some audience members. Nevertheless, the show has accurately depicted what it’s like for someone suffering from this illness and goes a step further by also showing their recovery and medical treatment. This is very important as viewers who may be in a similar position can see that there are ways of getting the right help for their condition and should not be made to feel like they are going through it alone.

“The hypothesised role of the media is often shown to be minor relative to other factors and, moreover, the outcome (aggression, obesity, prejudice,etc.) is not necessarily reduced when media exposure is reduced.”(Livingstone, 2007, p. 5-14)

In conclusion, this shows that there is a significant link between the way media represents body image and eating disorders. Some TV shows/movies will not give proper attention and consideration to the way they depict these themes, while others take a completely risk-based approach to the way they portray them. However, it is clear that despite whether a piece of media uses a risk-based approach or any other method of representing these issues, there will always be some viewers negatively impacted by what they see on screen. It can be said that taking a risk-based approach can provide less of a possibility of a show/movie being particularly upsetting or distressing for the audience.


  • Deanne Jade. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  • Guimera, L., Levine, Carracedo, S., & Faquet. A review of effects and processes. doi: 2010
  • Holmes. (Un)twisted: talking back to media representations of eating disorders. doi: 2016
  • Livingstone, S. M. (1998). Making sense of television: the psychology of audience interpretation. London: Routledge.
  • Lunt, P., & Livingstone, S. (2012). Media regulation: governance and the interests of citizens and consumers. Los Angeles: Sage.
  • Schramm, W. L., Freedman, L. Z., Lyle, J., & Parker, E. B. (1961). Television in the Lives of our Children. W. Schramm, Jack Lyle, Edwin B. Parker, with a psychiatrists comment on the effects of television by Lawrence Z. Freedman. Pp. vii. 324. Stanford University Press: Stanford, Cal.; Oxford University Press: London.

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Film and Media Essay 2719024Explain how a riskbased approach to. (2019, Nov 14). Retrieved from

Film and Media Essay 2719024Explain how a riskbased approach to
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