"... there are full-course lessons in hypochondriasis. In a comic book with stories of love's frustrations there is a full-page advertisement (found in many other comic books too) with sets of photographs: "Before" and "After". The "Before" look like average girls; the "After" have noticeably protruding breasts. Accompanying these pictures are three sets of diagrams, each purporting to show profiles of women's bust lines. Any girl, of course, especially after she has been alarmed by the text, can identify herself with at least one of these diagrams and brood about the corresponding information: "SELF-CONSCIOUS ABOUT YOUR FLAT-LOOKING BUSTLINE?" (Wertham, 1954, p.201).
Wertham had quite a bit to say on this topic in Chapter 8 of Seduction of the Innocent, "Bumps and Bulges". And whereas his attempt to establish a causal relationship between comic book reading and juvenile delinquency failed to garner long term support, modern knowledge of the impact of this kind of advertising, and the associated body image presented by fashion magazines, on both females and males, leads to the conclusion that Wertham was indeed right on this topic. With its link to eating disorders, depression, and low self-esteem, and backed up as it is by incomprehensible corporate power, the ideal body image we are fed from every direction possible from the moment we are born molds us into consumers hell-bent on looking like Gisele Bundchen or Brad Pitt. Going back to 1950s romance comics, was there anything else available then to help young women compete for that ideal man? On the subject of boobs, on the inside back cover of True War Romances 1 there may be the answer:
[from the inside front cover of Lovelorn 42]
[from Young Love 31]
[from back cover of Romantic Hearts 3]Then there was candy, in case you weren't a gum chewer:
[from True Life Secrets 23]Or tablets:
[from inside back cover of Darling Romance 1]Or there were drops you could pop into your afternoon cocktail (once you'd been convinced elsewhere that regular consumption of alcohol was a prerequisite for social acceptance, happiness, self-fulfillment, and success):
[from the back cover of Great Lover Romances 13]Now just in case you already tried the gum and weren't happy with that, the inside front cover of Wedding Bells 19 presents the reader with a handy alternative, a spot massaging device:
[from Popular Teen-Agers Romances 9]Those suits must have been really unpleasant! But if none of this does the trick and that midriff bulge still threatens to marginalize the reader in her local community, it's time to resort to mechanical means to readjust the body, so that externally it appears to meet the required shape and proportions. Yes, those instruments of 1950s female bondage - foundation garments or girdles in their various forms:
[from the back cover of Dream Book of Romance 6]
[from Lovelorn 18]
[from Lovers' Lane 11]
[from Nellie the Nurse 22]
[from the back cover of Romantic Hearts 10]
[from Teen Secret Diary 2]
[from the inside back cover of Young Love 31]And finally the Abdo-Slim, from the inside back cover of Young Romance 65, and the back cover of Young Romance 78:
[from the inside front cover of True Love Pictorial 4]The regular reader availing herself of one or more of these sure-fire remedies for her unshapely excuse for a woman's body would, the ads assure, then attain the desired form over which to drape those fine clothes (remember those?)...
[from Young Love 32]... and, most importantly, with which to stimulate the required response from the male of the species:
But back in the 1950s, what if you were too skinny!!??? Well, that's the subject of a future post right here on Out Of This World!