As I was sitting in my dorm, logging onto Netflix to find a new TV series, I was mulling over many ideas in my head. Maybe I should watch a creepy, horror-filled show like You or finally watch The Office, which seems to be a favorite among my friends. However, I'm your typical 21-year-old girl that is into watching dramatic shows that are filled with romance so I finally jumped on the bandwagon and watched Gossip Girl. Since it's all about teenagers living in the upper East side of Manhattan, known for being where the wealthy people live, the teens are dressed in designer clothes from head to toe.
I was watching characters like fan-favorites Blair Waldorf and Serena Van der Woodsen traipse across the screen in their scantily clad Gucci dresses, while characters Chuck Bass and Nate Archibald remarked how beautiful the girls looked. I paused the show and thought about myself and how, even though these are fictional characters, I wish that I could, at least for one day, feel as beautiful as Serena and Blair. While watching the episode, noting what the girls were saying such as: "Thank God I'm not fat anymore, I feel so beautiful now." and "Nate is totally checking me out, thank you Spanx", these comments in particular made me question how I felt about my own weight. In fact, it even caused me to look in the mirror and harshly judge my own appearance, focusing on my "imperfections", especially the fact that my waistline is not flat. I became depressed that I didn't have a beautiful figure like the girls on the show. As I watched more episodes, these types of comments became even more frequent, with the girls and guys all continually remarking about their own or others' physical appearance.
From this experience and many others, I had a major revelation about what the media may be doing to young women. It is teaching them that in order to appear beautiful you have to be thin and fit into skimpy clothing. Essentially, you have to present yourself as an "ideal woman" to society. Through TV shows like these, society is influenced to form their opinions on what beauty is. These messages become toxic to young women. They often make us question everything about our own physical appearance, from our weight to the size of our noses.
By watching Gossip Girl and indirectly receiving negative messages from the media, I was able to truly look inside myself and make the decision that I was going to not let it influence me, but I would rather decide for myselfwhat being beautiful really means. My "aha moment" occurred when I realized that art doesn't necessarily always imitate life. I finally came to terms with the negative emotions that I once felt by looking in the mirror each morning, and instead of judging myself, I say 3 positive things about my physical appearance. For the first time, I was prompted to redefine what beauty means to me. I was now committed to judging what is "beautiful" not by just looking at physical appearance, but inner beauty and personality as well. It is safe to say that Gossip Girlhelped me to really see how unimportant society's idea of beauty really is. It ironically, given its exploitation of "typical" beauty standards, led me to instill in myself the belief that no individual should allow society to dictate what beauty means to them, but instead that we should all decide for ourselves what we feel is beautiful.