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The Significance of the Media in Issues of Beauty Culture


This unit looks at the role and significance of the media in different local, national and international contexts of beauty culture. Students investigate how the media presents different issues and views; how it can be used to promote beauty standards; and its role in publicising other events, eg beauty pageants. Students consider questions such as how the media contributes to the creation of celebrities in beauty culture and whether these celebrities should have a right to privacy. Students have opportunities for group work, discussion, creativity and decision-making.


Students will be able to understand, use and spell correctly vocabulary relating to:

  • The media in society: promotion, bias, campaign, privacy, celebrity

  • Issues of beauty culture: social codes, morality, ethical and medical concerns

  • Subject Areas

    The teaching activities link with the following subjects:

  • Citizenship/PSHE

  • Geography

  • English

  • ICT

  • Resources

  • the internet, including articles on the website, Beauty Matters

  • local and national newspapers; articles about celebrities from magazines; clips from films or television programmes

  • information and resources from local/regional independent newspapers or radio stations

  • writing frames for a variety of genres

  • Learning Objectives

    Students should learn:

  • to understand how media stories are tailored to an audience

  • to consider the effectiveness of different types of media for different audiences

  • to recognize both bias and objectivity in stories

  • to ask questions and to identify issues

  • to present a case persuasively, using selective arguments

  • to select and use secondary sources of evidence, including the internet

  • to record and present information in different ways

  • to use their imagination to consider other people’s experiences and to think about values and attitudes that are not their own

  • Teaching Activities

    1. What makes a news story in beauty culture?

    Students use a range of articles and news reports from a variety of media sources to select a current issue in beauty culture for further investigation, eg. the hijab and Islamic social codes; morality of beauty pageants; ethical and medical concerns in cosmetic surgery; masculinity and Metrosexuality.In small groups, they look at headlines from articles and news reports concerning the issue and discuss how these differ. (download Worksheet 1)

    In pairs, students consider coverage of the issue in different media – television, radio, newspapers, magazines. How and why does coverage differ?

    Group discussion of how different newspapers present an event or issue in different ways, and identify reasons why this might be so, eg the political views of the paper, the seriousness of the story. Students review the articles they identified in the first activity, considering questions such as:

  • What is the focus of the story?

  • How do the different newspaper stories compare in terms of length, language, style, use of terminology, presentation, use of images?

  • How easy is it to distinguish fact from opinion?

  • What is the proportion of fact to opinion?

  • Whose opinions are quoted?

  • Is it a one-sided view of the event/issue (ie one showing bias) or does it offer a balance of views?

  • Which story do I find most persuasive, and why?

  • What else do I want to know about the event/issue?

  • (download Worksheet 2)

    2. How does the media promote beauty standards?

    In small groups, students consider the images presented of beauty in photographs and other illustrations in the media. Using the images, they create a description of the type of person typically portrayed (body size, attributes, character, etc). A composite man and a composite woman can be created using bits and pieces of the people found in various adverts and photos. Students present their reports to the class.

    Read Jumping Through Hoops. Group discussion of how the media can affect opinion, especially concerning the promotion of particular standards of beauty as ideal. Record the results of the discussion in a chart of both the positive and negative ways, eg raising public awareness, pressure to conform to ideal. (download Worksheet 3)

    3. How does the media contribute to the creation of celebrities in beauty culture?

    Read Heroes, villains and the cult of celebrity in the 20th century. Prejudice, distortion and the cult of celebrity and The Cult of Celebrity provide further discussion and extended readings of the relevant issues. Students work in pairs to list the ways in which the media contributes to the creation of celebrities in beauty culture. How can the creation of celebrities by the media be explained?

    Using adverts in magazines create a poster of celebrity-endorsed beauty products. Consider whether these products are more popular among consumers than alternative products that are not associated with a celebrity. Students could conduct a survey and present their results in a graph.

    4. Should celebrities in beauty culture have a right to privacy?

    Group discussion of the interest of media companies in maximizing sales and profits. Why do stories about celebrities increase sales?

    Split students into groups of three. Within each group, students role play a celebrity, a representative of a media company and a reader/fan of the celebrity. They should discuss the issue of privacy and its different effects on each person in the role-play. This could perhaps take the form of a scenario in which one person presents a complaint and the others try to resolve the issue with that person.

    As a class, consider how people can complain about intrusion by the press. Introduce the roles of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) and the ‘Right to respect for private and family life’ in the Humans Right Act 1998. Do celebrities have the same rights as other people?

    Students produce a set of rules/code of practice for journalists and photographers in beauty culture, to ensure responsible behaviour by the media.

    Learning Outcomes


  • realize that not all coverage of an issue will offer a balance of views and that coverage may contain bias

  • read critically and answer questions using a variety of sources

  • give and justify their own opinions

  • identify elements of the significance of the media in beauty culture and make connections between them

  • understand the role of the media in the creation of celebrities in beauty culture

  • recognize the effects of celebrity-endorsement on consumers of beauty products

  • learn that different members of society have competing rights and responsibilities

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