The line at the supermarket register today was long and moving slowly. This gave me ample time to study the covers of all the magazines I never read. According to them, Barbra Streisand is a bitch and James Brolin wants a divorce, Kim is making Khloe feel miserable and alone…and the list goes on. And on.
The fact that these magazines are there, day after day, taking up prime real estate in the face of bored and impatient shoppers, is all the proof I need that people are reading them, as well as the hundreds of similarly snarky sites online devoted to tearing our celebrities down as quickly (if not quicker) than we build them up.
Why are we so obsessed with hating?
To quote Bob Lefsetz, “It hurts, but the truth is hating is done by an underclass of people pissed that their dreams have not come true. Instead of looking inside, instead of working harder, instead of figuring out the problem is the system and not them, they needle those who are successful in an effort to make them feel bad.”
The fashion magazines make us hate, but they do it in a much more insidious way. They make us hate ourselves. A Stanford Study surveyed 75 women about women’s magazines and recorded their responses. They reported feeling worse about themselves and their bodies after looking at magazines. The results of the study revealed, “Nearly half of the respondents said their feelings of self-esteem and confidence were undermined by seeing the photographs, and 68% reported feeling worse about their looks and bodies.”
We know this. Advertising, much like fashion magazines, works by telling us what we are lacking, so that we buy their products, so that we envy and aspire, seeking an ideal that we will never attain, and feeling like shit in the process.
But another study explores this reaction in detail, and it’s actually a little more complicated. Researchers from Warwick Business School found that women are turned off by products placed next to large scale or close-up images of female models and celebrities such as Miranda Kerr or Irina Shayk. According to Dr Tamara Ansons, one of the researchers, this is because a pretty model triggers a coping mechanism in women – scorn – which helps them feel better about their own looks.
A report from professors at University of Manitoba and University of Michigan theorizes that the effect of idealized female images on regular women differs based on how blatantly or subtly the images are presented. When the idealized image is presented blatantly, the model’s beauty taking center stage, we react with defensiveness, and our self-esteem actually rises.
However, when the idealized female image is shown more subtly, when we do not have the opportunity to defend ourselves, we end up feeling insecure.
And when we feel insecure, we either hate ourselves or we hate others. So at any given time, we’re either hating ourselves or feeling scorn for others, or both.
Is there any way to break this cycle?
My book Queen of Hearts is out officially later this week. The kindle edition is up on Amazon, but I haven’t announced it yet or linked to it because I’m waiting for the paperback to be ready. Yesterday, someone posted a scathing review. The weird thing is, they didn’t buy the book, because Amazon tells you if they did. And they didn’t get an emailed copy from me, because I know the few people who did. So someone who hates me heard about the book somehow (and it’s only been on Amazon a few days) and threw up a nasty review.
Did it make them feel better? Maybe.
Did it make me feel shitty? Yeah.
Did it make me feel wracked with self-doubt, wondering if I could have (should have) written something differently, done something else, with the book, with the story, with my characters? Yeah.
But what can you do? Haters gonna hate.
Part of being an artist is that terrifying process by which you pull something out of the depths of your body and soul and throw it out there for the world to see, to evaluate, and possibly to tear to pieces like a group of hungry wolves.
And the only thing you can do to avoid that is not produce anything at all.
And that’s not really an option.
So the only thing I can do is buckle my seat belt for those nasty reviews. And not read those magazines.
(Note: One of my friends posted an excerpt from this blog as a comment to the bad review on Amazon. Within 24 hours, the bad review disappeared.)