David Randall: Fiji shows evils of TV, while the 13th Caesar is a soap you can't switch off

Four corners of the world

Share
Related Topics

A lot of people have pondered whether television, and the slim, perfectly formed actors and presenters who appear on it, influence what the young and impressionable see as a desirable figure. Wonder no more. The case has been proved.

Our story begins in Fiji where, since time immemorial, the feminine ideal was the fuller, rounder body shape. Men admired what we would regard as the plumper look, and women were comfortable in their well-filled skins. Eating disorders among teenage girls were virtually unknown. Then, in 1995, along came television, and centuries of cultural assumptions changed. Harvard psychologist Anne Becker, who conducted the research, said that before television, no Fijian girl had induced vomiting to lose weight. Just three years later, 11 per cent of them had done so. They had begun to regard the sylph-like women on their screens as role models, and people to whose skinny appearance they wanted to aspire.

But this is not just a study revealing what happens with the advent of TV. It also – by examining attitudes to weight among girls with widely varying, or no, access to television – showed that the girls did not even need to watch television themselves to be affected. What counted, and what was enough even for girls whose parents had no TV, was that their peer group watched, and so imposed television's near-impossible ideals of slimness and sleekness on their friends.

* People, I think, generally get the governments they deserve – or, at least, the ones they are willing to tolerate. But this idea runs into apparent difficulties when we come to Italy. How, you wonder, as you return from Rome, Venice, Padua, or Umbria, can a place so obviously civilised and stylish bear to be governed by a man whose private life owes much to the unfortunate example of the Emperor Tiberius? The answer, of course, is not found in rented villas, Etruscan ruins, Renaissance palaces and charming restaurants or with the sort of liberal Italians who speak good English. It lies in the other Italy, the right-wing one which endorses the routinely racist press coverage of immigrants. And it's also in that curious attitude, certainly not confined to Italians, which holds that the government's leader, deplorable though he may be, is nothing to do with them and doesn't really affect the core of their lives, which is family. And so, Silvio Berlusconi, the 13th Caesar and by no means the least degenerate, merrily carries on. He seems like a national soap opera Italians are reluctant to turn off.

* The statistic of the week comes from a study carried out by the University of California at Berkeley, which found that there may, in the United States, be eight parking spaces for every car. Think about it: perhaps as many as two billion boxes, averaging 15 square metres (which includes access area etc). This works out at 11,583 square miles, an area equivalent to all of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Surrey, West Sussex, and East Sussex being concreted over and marked with white lines. The authors of the study say that parking spaces can be as environmentally harmful as the cars for which they are created, what with the making and transporting of all that asphalt, the "heat island" effect of it on cities, and the car use this staggering over-provision of parking spaces encourages.

* Among the mobsters arrested in New York on Thursday were "Jack the Whack", and Vinny Carwash. This duo now joins other evocatively named Mafiosi: Otto "Abbadabba" Berman; Tony "The Ant" Spilotro; Ronnie "Balloon Head" DeAngelis; Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso; and "Joe Jelly" Gioielli. Websites often mention the likes of "Eddie the retard" Lombardi, and "Hysterectomy Mick" Mancuso, but these, I suspect, are the inventions of fertile minds – a reminder that a good parlour game is to dream up mob-style nicknames for friends and colleagues.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Assistant

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Maintenance Assistant is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Newspaper stands have been criticised by the Child Eyes campaign  

There were more reader complaints this year – but, then again, there were more readers

Will Gore
 

People drink to shut out pain and stress. Arresting them won’t help

Deborah Coughlin
A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?