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Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Psychology of Beauty - Media affects body image

Self-grooming and the desire to look good probably predate Narcissus and there is nothing wrong with wanting a few appreciative nods. But freezing your facial expressions with those needles and using scalpels to thin that 'bulbous' nose to a size never satisfying are a different desire all together, one that is nudging us closer to the approval of an elusive pseudo-self far removed from reality.

There was a bizarre news on the Internet recently about sharp spike in the number of women visiting the cosmetologist's cabin as Valentine's day approached.  From Botox to Juvederm, forehead to chin, these miracle makers promise you a skin you wore 20 years ago, never mind the love.

We are living in an incredible age. The dark-skinned wants to be fair, the fair wants to be fair-er, the fair-est wants to be marks-free, the marks-free wants to be perfect skinned, the perfect skinned wants to be something that cant be figured out and faithfully awaits a beauty brand to invent some new flaw and dedicate a new range for removing it, the straight-haired wants to go noodled, the noodled wants to be thin, thin wants to be size 0, size 0 wants to maintain it. The illustration can be more comical and never-ending.

But the fact is that Indians are equally obsessed about the looks of our daughters - especially if it affects their prospects in the marriage market. In the good old days, our grannies told us not to play outside because we would get dark and no one would marry us. In 2012, Fair and Lovely tries to convince our daughters that dark girls are unemployable and fair skin is all they need to get a great job and make their parents proud. The leggy model on TV screen says that marks look better on a Dalmation that on your face, and the story continues on matrimonial pages as 'Wanted a Fair and good looking bride/groom...'. Everything is our living world is contaminated with a certain definition of beauty.

That “imperative to be hot 24/7” is here. According to 2010 statistics, India is number five on the list of nations demanding plastic surgery. The only female role models that get any media attention are film stars, models and those who are a size zero.

What many young girls don't realize is that there's always someone thinner, prettier or more surgically enhanced around the next corner. It's not a race you can win. In this cruel new world, a beautiful face will get you so far, but no further. It may get you an NRI groom or a job in the glamor world, but give it a few years and both may evaporate into thin air, unlike the more lasting gains of education and yes, hard work.

Of course, it's difficult to convince self conscious teens that looks aren't the most important thing, especially given the pressure from Bollywood, the media, and society in general. But we need to try. So should we stop calling our daughters pretty? Definitely not. But perhaps we should also attempt, at least occasionally, to praise not just their looks, but also their brains, courage and determination. Or we may just end up in a dumbed-down world where everyone's forgotten what a real woman looks like.

This video says it all.

The largest selling newspaper is the most useless

According to the latest figures from the Indian Readership Survey, The Times of India is the most widely read English-language newspaper, with a daily readership of 7.4 million, while The Hindu ranks third. However, in south India The Hindu is the most widely read English daily, significantly ahead of The Times of India.

So far so good. But unfortunately and quite often, numbers don't tell the complete story. The Times of India (TOI) has been notorious for its poor content since the beginning. It's main focus has been the business of making money through advertisements. It is no exaggeration to say they insert news between advertisements to compensate for the few rupees the reader has paid.

The front pages of ToI are often full page advertisements. Bennett Coleman & Co started the concept of paid news or better known as "News-vertorial" (as in advertorial). They call it the "private treaty". It is an exchange of "news space" for equity. It is quite common to find 'adverts' in ToI nowadays.

So what happened to serious journalism? As a reader, I would like to see important news on the front page and not a new car launch staring at my face. How long does it take to read ToI? How long does it take to read their city specific supplement? Perhaps less than 10 minutes.

The additional named "Hyderabad" or "Bangalore" or "Mumbai Times" follows only cinema news along with very provocative and near nude pictures of actresses, useless gossips and nothing about the whereabouts of the city in particular. Either the name can be changed as "Cinema Times" or the news content can be changed. Saturday and Sunday supplements are specials. The regular 5 or 6 page supplement swells to a thick booklet of product listings and sale announcements. What a waste of paper and the time of millions of readers.

The Times Group was recently criticized for carrying a misleading front page article that read more like an advertisement. And this is not the first instance. ToI had been trivialization of news for decades. It is vital that readers are well informed about the world at large. And yet, over the last few years, there has been an increased trend in media houses to focus and serve greater dose of Bollywood news and trivia masquerading as news.

The following advertisement punched ToI in the face. The advertisement indirectly takes a jab at low quality of news covered by Times of India and how their readers severely lack important knowledge.

The Hindu claims that the advertisements were “not stimulated” and that the actors weren't told about the questions ahead of the shoot, and therefore the answers were spontaneous. Whether it is true or not does not matter as the test stands on it's own merit.

Readers have started switching from the Times of India to other smarter newspapers that publish news.

But what makes readers enjoy the low quality news?

Many people have left reading newspaper due to shortage of time, however, everyone wants to stay updated about Hollywood. Page 3 and 'Cinema Times' seems to be winning over genuine news.
Bollywood news seems to be an easy conversation starter.

Perhaps, the times have changed. Today's youth likes Page 3 gossips. The newspapers cant be totally blamed as they reflect the society to some extent. In other cases, the newspapers shape the society by feeding it with junk to such an extent that the readers become numb, insensitive and brain-dead. This has happened in UK.