Who shapes the media?
Our recent discussion about Lillian Russell, and the size-positive editorial policies that governed the women's magazines of her day, raises a rather crucial question:
Is the shift that took place in society during the past century--which resulted in plus-size beauty being displaced as the feminine ideal, in favour of emaciation and androgyny--due to a general cultural change, a change to which writers, publishers, and everyone else working in the mass media simply acclimatized themselves?
Or, did it occur because altogether different individuals, with different personality types--and correspondingly different tastes--proliferated in the media?
Before we suggest an answer, let's consider an artistic parallel.
As we all know, Western culture developed in stages, or stylistic periods, and many of the greatest artworks that were created during these respective periods were broadly similar in theme and manner.
For example, the art of the Neoclassical era (18th century) is marked by its adherence to order and rationality. The art of the Romantic period (early 19th century) evokes passion and myth. The art of Realism (later 19th century) is less fanciful, and more down-to-earth. And so on.
The puzzle, then, is this:
Do the artists of any given era create their works in accordance with the prevailing style of the time? Or, does the prevailing style dictate which artists achieve prominence, and which languish in obscurity (or never become artists in the first place?)
For example, are there potential Romantic poets born in every century, but do such individuals only gain recognition if they happen to be born in an era that is itself Romantic? And in other eras, are Romantics and their works simply ignored, and dismissed?
Conversely, in anti-Romantic times, do anti-Romantic individuals become the celebrated artists of that era?
Would Beethoven have composed music like Bach's, had he been born during the Baroque? Or, (unthinkable as this may seem,) would he never have become a composer at all?
Now, to return to the original question . . .
This is not merely an abstract problem, but one that has very specific ramifications for our case.
Re: Who shapes the media?
If your hypothesis is correct, it would explain a lot, not just about the media in general, but also about the problems of the plus-size fashion industry.
For many customers, it always seems as if the plus-size industry is sort-of "getting it," and sort-of not. Well, this could be why. If most of the individuals who are creating campaigns for the plus-size industry are pre-selected (by the nature of the media today) to prefer the modern look, in all its angularity, then no wonder they have a hard time switching gears and trying to create timeless beauty. It isn't in their blood. They probably entered fashion and the media because they like it, just the way it is today.
This would also explain why so many companies keep using faux-plus models, and plus-size models with harsh facial features, no matter how much the public complains. It's a look that's closer to the creators' own modern tastes. They can't understand why anybody would ever want to see anything different. They can't imagine that a customer would rather see a model with a "a full, round face" or a soft figure instead. But the customers do, since such faces and figures are closer to what they see in their own mirrors, ever day.
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