PSA Reflection: The Media’s Influence on Girls’ Body Image

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and between the time I posted my last blog post and now, I have been working on a video public service announcement. It’s my first time shooting a public service announcement (PSA), so it has been a really interesting, enjoyable learning experience. Composing the PSA has really taught me to use each mode of composition to the best of its ability–each mode of composition has unique properties that help communicate a message, and all these properties combined make for a very rich, enlightening, and effective PSA.

The topic of my PSA is the media’s effect on girls’ body image. I chose this topic because as a female living in an age dominated by the media, Internet, and celebrities, I understand the pressure faced by many women and young girls to look a certain way. Self-esteem and body image are long-standing topics, especially among females, and it is important to address these issues and teach women and girls that beauty cannot be defined by the media. As I did research, I discovered that one of the reasons young girls were developing negative self-esteem was because of the way their mothers viewed beauty. Mothers are a tremendous influence on their daughters; a girl’s view on beauty is largely influenced by the way her mother views beauty. Shows such as Toddlers and Tiaras depict the negative consequences on daughters when a mother has an unhealthy, obsessive attitude towards beauty. However, if a woman has a healthy body image and a healthy view on beauty (such as viewing beauty as something more than looks), this positive attitude is adopted by their daughters. Many existing PSAs on body image addressed the effects and the dangers of trying to emulate the media’s idea of beauty but did not directly address the cause and what could be done to help girls develop a positive body image. Targeting my PSA toward mothers and daughters would be one way to address the causes of negative body image. The media does not only affect young girls–it affects women, so it is important that women adopt a healthy attitude towards beauty, which in turn will influence young girls.

When I began writing the script, I wanted to include both the negative aspects of the media’s influence on body image, as well as what women, specifically mothers, could do to help young girls develop a healthy body image. I opened with the statement, “The media is everywhere” to show how the media is so pervasive and tells women everywhere that beauty is defined by being dangerously thin or having a Barbie-like body. The first draft of the script was very long, so the main challenge in writing the script was making every word count. I needed to keep my PSA under a minute and a half, so the script went through a lot of editing. I ended up keeping the bare essentials of my message–the lines in the script that got to the heart of my message. This included the statistics of women and young girls who faced self-esteem issues and eating disorders, the consequences that arise when mothers have a negative body image, and the positive effects on young girls when mothers have a healthy idea of beauty. Editing and condensing the script was a great way to help me learn to write more concisely. Having to communicate a message in just a few words made me choose my words more carefully and forced me to make sure each word contributed to the overall message of my PSA. This technique of writing concisely is something that I can apply to any type of writing I do. Clear, concise writing is an important skill to have, and writing and editing my PSA script helped me further cultivate that skill.

Choosing content for my PSA also proved challenging. I chose to make a video PSA because I thought it would best communicate my message. The message of my PSA was positive, so I wanted the visual content to reflect that. In my first draft of the PSA, I included video shots of young women taking diet pills, weighing themselves, and measuring their waists, to depict the measures girls take to look the way the media tells them to. However, when I revised my PSA, I wanted the video shots to be more cohesive and to show the effects of changing one’s body image as well.  In the end, I chose to include girls of various ages, from young adult women to young girls, holding signs that read their own insecurities and perception of their appearance based on the media’s definition of beauty. As my script discussed the positive effects of mothers having a healthy body image, the visual content depicted these same girls tearing their signs.  I thought that the general mood created by these shots helped to strengthen the message being read by the narrator.

Another challenge I faced when composing the shots was portraying “true beauty,” because it is hard to pinpoint what true beauty is. True beauty means something different to each woman, so I felt that the best way to depict “true beauty” was to have different girls holding signs that celebrated their own beauty, saying things like, “I am unique,” “I am smart,” or “I am beautiful.” Although true beauty is hard to define, it is universally known that beauty is about loving oneself. This challenge really made me think about a universal way to portray true beauty that would speak to many women. I think that the process of planning, recording, and editing my video shots really showed me how to best communicate using this mode of composition. It made me think about the best way to use video images that would not only communicate the message of my PSA but also enhance the other modes of composition, such as the narration.

When it came to the audio for my PSA, the main challenge was cutting and condensing the recording to keep it at a minute and a half. As I familiarized myself with Audacity, I learned how to cut the recording and keep the recording smooth, and I learned how to apply effects that helped speed up the recording. Being familiar with Audacity and having a clear idea of what I wanted the audio to sound like really helped me make the most out of this mode of composition.

Overall, I learned a great deal throughout the process of composing my PSA. The peer review was very helpful, as it allowed me to address issues within my PSA that I may have overlooked. In addition, it helped me come up with solutions to problems within my PSA that I did not know how to address. Prior to composing my PSA, I was mainly used to composing through the written word. The composing process taught me how to take the best aspects of each mode of composition and combine them in a way that best communicates my message.

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