The evolution of female body image through the eyes of pop culture has seen a lot of fluctuation over the past fifty years; whether you’ve idolized the hourglass Marilyn Monroe, stick-thin Twiggy, voluptuous Farah Fawcett and Cindy Crawford or waif-like Kate Moss, it’s clear that the standard for curves literally comes in all shapes and sizes. 

However, a look at their more modern counterparts would likely generate a much different list, with a more homogenized look. Archetypes of feminine perfection now come less from the world of high fashion, and more from the queue on our DVR’s.

How has the worshipped feminine figure gone from resembling a gaunt heroin addict to a towering rack and microscopic waist? As a culture we still prize thinness, but we have become more willing to go under the knife for that biologically illusive proportion.

How Did We Get Here? A Look at Modern Influences

The wave of reality TV shows centered on plastic surgery that began at the start of the millennium undeniably contributed to the fixation with large breasts by proving how a body desired by many could be accessible to anyone.

Whether women absentmindedly caught an episode or two or devoutly watched the entire season, many tuned in to watch others just like them achieve the "ideal." Some of the most successful reality shows in this genre included ABC’s Extreme Makeover, E!’s Dr. 90210, FOX’s The Swan or even MTV’s I Want A Famous Face. Though plastic surgery had been accepted before these shows aired, it was embraced afterwards, causing a direct surge in cosmetic procedures, especially breast enhancement.

In July of 2007, the Yale University School of Medicine published a study surveying 42 first-time patients for their demographic, television viewing patterns and self-assessed plastic surgery knowledge, in order to discover the degree of influence from plastic surgery-related television.

The women were divided into groups based on viewing intensity; the results showed 57 percent to be high-intensity viewers, who regularly watched one or more plastic surgery reality TV show. The high-intensity viewers felt they were more knowledgeable about plastic surgery in general, as well as that what they experienced on the show was similar to real life. Of the 42 patients surveyed, four out of every five cited television viewing as an influence on their decision.

Large Breasts Prized In Current Popular Culture

Though the shows were produced, funded and aired primarily for entertainment purposes, they also existed as a source of education for women, giving them instant access to information about plastic surgery and the overall process involved.

Called “the medicalization of beauty” by Newsweek, the phenomenon is equivalently reflected in celebrity society, seen in the shared look of media synergists like Lindsay Lohan, Victoria Beckham and Dolly Parton. Are these starlets, three of the seven celebrities with the largest implants, to be credited for making breast augmentation the most popular cosmetic procedure since 2006?

Whether or not the 300,000 women who said “Yes, please” to silicone or saline enhancements can be wholly attributed to pop culture icons or reality TV stars, it is clear that the way large breasts are perpetuated and adored in society today has a strong influence on the popularity of enhancement procedures.

Maybe She’s Born With It…Maybe Not

Anyone well-versed in the beauty enhancement market knows that at the crux of every woman’s self-esteem is how she feels she “measures up” to a standard—and for this particular standard, women are inundated with celebrity and media culture with a shared love for large breasts.

The result is that many women have concluded that what they naturally possess simply isn’t enough. Societal pressure, coupled with the fundamental human desire to be valued and acknowledged, can validate almost any pursuit that will potentially lead to greater personal fulfillment. 

Those who seek implants due to a deep dissatisfaction with their looks often face more criticism, such as being perceived as vain for improving what they strongly feel is their biggest flaw.

As with any personal decision with long-term consequences, realistic expectations will help support, confirm and establish your choice as the right one, and enable you to love your look—regardless of what you’re seeing on the TV, newsstand at the grocery store or next summer blockbuster.