Inclusive Design

Body Representation

[Author: Bill Fischer]

Overview

I believe 'Body Type' and 'Body Image' are important to represent in a realistic and non-negatively-stereotypical way. The current media world too often leverages unrealistic body ideals to sell products and elevate celebrity stature. Body shaming is, unfortunately, pervasive in much of our culture. Mental health conditions, such as eating disorders, and depression can stem from individuals with negative body image issues. It's my view that discussions around body types should be limited to those centered on physical and mental health related topics as well as in story telling where body types are integral to the plausibility of physical actions. In media where neither of those is at play, we have the choice to employ a diversity of body types in a natural way, unrelated to other character attributes.



An example Animation

This animated gif integrates a body image issue directly into the narrative. Though this is part of a social media series that aims to distribute positive messaging about understanding implicit bias, there's no reason that this kind of interaction couldn't be written into many types of scripts. It's from the 'Be Nice" series created as part of The EPIC Project at KCAD.


A young girl calls out a young boy for body shaming a large figured swimsuit model in a magazine



An Example Poster

The photo employed in this image serendipitously captures a variety of body types, which I believe, lends it authenticity, and increases the chances of connection. Many different kinds of people may recognize versions of 'themselves' amongst the participates.


A side view of dozens of people, with many body types, walking across a bridge.



Inherent Body Types

Exercise physiologists routinely use three body types to understand how inherent physical attributes can relate to performance. I believe it can be a useful framework for media creators to think about these as base-line human forms, from which variations can be produced.

  • Ectomorphs: narrow
  • Mesomorphs: triangular
  • Endomorphs: thick

The original concept was developed by psychologist William Herbert Sheldon in the 1940s. He theorized a connection between these body types and psychological predispositions in humans (somatotypology). This application has since been debunked and even labeled racist and eugenist.


A diagram showing the 3 body types for males and females.