The media has a long history of distorting images to achieve commercial goals. From the anatomically impossible dimensions of the classic Barbie doll to the surprising impact of menswear imagery on young men, today the media’s history of manipulative conduct is so well accepted that one of the most successful television programs today, Mad Men, builds entire storylines around the brazen manipulation that media experts have pursued with reckless abandon, day in and day out.
The core psychology behind much of this is simple: By creating images that don’t reflect who people are today, marketers can drive people to want to change something about themselves tomorrow. For teens, who are already in the process of becoming and who face enough challenges as it is in identifying who they want to be, the impact of this manipulation is amplified dramatically.
Which raises an interesting question: If teens themselves controlled the media industry and its advertising and marketing machine, what kind of images would teens themselves prefer to put forth? If teens clearly know that the culture of photoshopping models, driving mindless consumption and glamorizing alcohol and drug use by the rich and famous is so harmful to them and their peers, what would they put in its place? In short, what would a teen-controlled media environment look like?