Media & Communication Department

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Brittany Nelson

How Does the Media Define What is Attractive?

Evidence from Published Beauty Lists

The media constantly bombards the public about the importance of being attractive, desirable, hot and beautiful, but what do these terms really mean? What does it mean to be "successful" at satisfying these ideals? An attempt was made to answer these questions by using quantitative content analysis to code women listed on Askmen's "99 Most Desirable Women," Maxim's "Hot 100" and People's "Most Beautiful People." The women were analyzed based on body size, body type, hair color, breast size, breast prevalence, characterization, frame of the shot, race, nationality, occupation, clothing, description and social age. There were several striking similarities among women from all three magazines, as well as magazine-specific patterns. Maxim, for example, strongly implied that youth makes women "hot," as most of their subjects were in the age range of 18-25. The standards for female beauty that both women and men subscribe to, the study argues, are partly determined by media representations, including those employed by the magazines' lists.