Thursday, August 19, 2010

Taste of the tabloids. Why this obsession with age and weight?

Recently, I’ve been taking a more than passing interest in the contents of certain tabloids and women’s publications. I have my reasons for doing this. Namely, that I was given the opportunity to potentially use one of these publications as a platform to discuss my first book 'Web of Lies' upon its release. This won’t be happening now (for reasons I’ll go into another time), and to be honest, I’m starting to believe this is a good thing.

I’ve been drawn in, like a moth to a flame, by stories of celebrities and how much weight they’ve lost/gained, or whether or not the ‘old’ celebs can hold an ‘aesthetic’ candle to the younger ones. I’ll be honest though, my on-line ‘research’ has left me with rather a bad taste in my mouth.

I’ll admit to becoming somewhat fascinated by the endless articles about ‘this’ celebrity or ‘that’ Hollywood star. There’s something strangely alluring about reading snippets of gossip and trivia about those whose faces we know, yet personas we do not…….at least in the short term. Try reading these types of articles every day though, and they really start to wear thin (if you’ll pardon the pun).

These tabloids, such as the Daily Mail (I use this as an example simply because I’ve read it ad nauseum recently), and magazines such as Bella, Best and OK! have a circulation which run to millions. This is why I find it so curious that, with an audience made up primarily of women, these publications should blatantly ram effusive, shallow, and patronising articles pertaining to peoples age and weight, down our collective throats......AND WE SWALLOW THEM!!!!

Come on, admit it….how many of us pay money to read this stuff? I have! I admit it! No more though!

So why are they doing this to us? Why are we doing it to ourselves?

Here’s an example from the Mail. A UK celebrity (she’s famous just for being famous, which in my opinion is fine, good luck to her). She’s perfect tabloid ‘fodder’. A former pop star, mental health issues, married the wrong guy, now divorcing him, etc etc etc…. and best of all, she’s had WEIGHT issues! Yippee! The woman has been what’s termed a ‘yo-yo dieter’. She’s been photographed looking overweight, and she’s been photographed looking fantastic. Last week, the ‘dose’ of fodder was about her BELLY. Yes, she has a BELLY….shock horror!! Stop the press!! Not only does she have a BELLY…but said BELLY has WRINKLES???…..Oh My God!!!!!!! Whatever next??

The woman has given birth to FOUR children, for crying out loud!!! She looks amazing in the BELLY picture, yet still the article refers to her WRINKLES. Err, what????

Who writes this stuff? Don’t tell me all tabloid journalists are a ‘perfect’ size eights (or Adonis’s) with no dimples, dumps or flecks? Surely, they too are real people with real flaws, just like the rest of us?

Why this obsession with how much somebody weighs? Does it make them a better person because they are stick thin? Or does it help if they were once flabby and are now stick thin? Is this something we should all aspire to? ‘Stick-thin-ness’??

Kerry Katona, Britney Spears, Charlotte Church & co were all vilified for being ‘fat’ (non of them have ever been ‘fat’, as in ‘obese’, by the way). Then they were applauded to the heights for slimming down, only to be vilified again as soon as a spot of cellulite was detected with a long range lens. The tabloids were there, waiting and rubbing their hands at the first sign of exposed, non-pert flesh. I can’t keep up!

So, should they, and other women who have given birth, all get on the treadmill and starve themselves down to a size zero?

Perhaps not, because the ‘thinnies’ come in for just about as much stick as the ‘fatties’,it seems.

So, what is deemed too thin, and what is deemed too fat? Well, it appears there is no real distinction. It seems to depend upon who you are. The lines are blurred beyond belief.

Too thin?
Too fat?

Confused? Me too! (and don’t even get me started on the latest problem…that of so-called ‘cleavage stretch marks’……oh give me strength!)

So, to further add to the confusion, let’s discriminate according to age as well, just to wind up the few of us who have not yet been riled to the point of distraction by the habitual weight & stretch mark references.

In the world of the tabloids, if you’re beyond thirty, you’re a ‘has-been’. If you’re beyond thirty and still in the public eye, you’d better watch out, because your wrinkles are being papped, counted and magnified on a ‘Daily’ basis. If you’re beyond forty…better get down to the plastic surgeon and into that gym, or else don’t set foot out of the house!

But wait, no! Even if you have been to a plastic surgeon, there’s still no escape, because you’re then accused of trying to ‘hold back the years’, and slated for not ‘growing old gracefully'.

Let’s face it ladies (and men, because even you’re not immune from the tabloid age & fatism obsession).We can’t win, no matter what we do. So why try?

To be fair though, I doubt the ‘journalists’ behind these types of features understand it fully themselves. They’re doing a job, I suppose. They get a remit from above to submit this drivel, because the public seem to want to read it. Supply and demand, right?

I’m slowly beginning to understand our fascination with the ‘perfect’ and ‘youthful’ body. Very few of us possess it, after all, or indeed ever will. Even if we have it now, we’re going to get older….yes, every single one of us (including the journos….oh hooray for small mercies!)

At the end of the day, it’s all just a clever marketing ploy. We’re led up the garden path on a ‘Daily’ and ‘Weekly’ basis. We’re lured towards impossible images of ethereal beauty, only to be subsequently spoon-fed with the audacious and brazen advertising methods of the multi-national slimming and beauty industries. ‘Celebrities’ are built up, then knocked down willy nilly, all to feed the gargantuan media machine, and keep us small (or not-so-small) people mesmerised and hypnotised into parting with our hard earned cash,just so we can read the next instalment. We will them to succeed, then we will them to fail. And the money keeps rolling in.

So, as fascinating as the psychology behind it all is, I’ve decided that my ‘research’ must end here, before the bad taste in my mouth makes me gag. I’ve resolved to judge public figures purely on their actual merits (artistic, or otherwise) in future. I don’t want to read any more about their botox, their cellulite, or how many kilos they lost last week. It was nice to peep my head around the door, but I think I’ve seen enough for now. I no longer wish to be reminded of how much more I should be working out, or how much less I should be eating. From now on, I’m going to be boring, and read the broadsheets or listen to national radio, whilst wearing jogging bottoms and a baggy T-shirt. Yes, I’m forty next year, I’m allowed.

And tonight, to wash that nasty taste away, I’m going to eat carbs, followed by chocolate, and maybe a glass of (approximately 400) empty calories....cheers!

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