Revenge of the Bodysnarkers

Author Hannah Seligson coins a new term in her critique of celeb-mocking websites: bodysnarking, which she defines as

the snide, often witty, comments that have become a ubiquitous part of under-30 female conversation. In an age when the digital camera is a must-bring accessory for a night out (how else are you going to upload the pictures to Facebook?), when blogs give everyone with an opinion a venue for comment, and when tabloid culture has made it fine to dissect other women’s looks, bodysnarking appears to be a favorite female pastime.

The watershed moment for bodysnarking, Ms. Redd says, came a few years ago when Google introduced its advertising program AdSense. “The program allowed sites to track pages viewed and make ad revenue based on the number of visitors. [Blogger] Perez Hilton realized that nobody cared about his personal shopping trips; they cared when he [mocked mostly female celebrities.]” The masses had spoken: Bodysnarking was now a revenue generator.

As I’ve noted before, sometimes the technology that “gives the people what they want” serves only to reinforce destructive trends. In addition to Seligson’s analysis, I’d say that the rise of the bodysnarkers is an unexpected side effect of the prevalence of plastic surgery. Whereas “defects” in appearance were once largely assumed unavoidable, they can now be “cured.” So celebrity’s “fans” demand ever more appearance-wise. Given their wealth, whatever can be fixed, must be fixed.


The bodysnarkers may also be reacting to the trend of “faked photos:”

Increasingly, photos for print are enhanced and perfected to an astonishing degree. Not only are moles, acne and subtle facial hair erased from already pretty faces, but retouchers are routinely asked by editors and advertisers to enlarge eyes, trim normal-size ears, fill in hairlines, straighten teeth and lengthen . . . already-narrow necks, waists and legs . . . .

Some of the “10 million women and one million men in the United States who struggle with anorexia and bulimia” turn these impossible standards on themselves. The bodysnarkers choose to reinforce the norms for celebrities. . . and increasingly for others. It’s not surprising that some people simply give up in response. As one article notes, “the contrast between the girls on the catwalks and the girls at the mall is creating an atmosphere ripe for binge dieting and the kind of unhealthy eating habits that ultimately result in weight gain, not loss.”

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