What Society can Learn About Itself from Magazine Covers and Advertisements
Individuals today are constantly bombarded with information. This information comes from many sources, most common of which are television and the internet. Media, thus, controls many lives, in a sense, through its sharing of information and of course, various publications. Magazines and newspapers cemented their existence long ago, yet it is today that varieties have multiplied and information has become trivialized. One must recognize this when seeing the kinds of "news" that the media shares, and especially when analyzing the angle of such important information. Yet many newspapers and especially magazines have, in a way, become almost fragmented by their own biases, controlled by a need to specialize in order to sell copies. This is true of many men and women's magazines, where it is evident that certain photos and articles cater to a certain community. Thus, stories in this medium are presented in a light that is not always welcomed or beneficial. In order to further analyze these statements, one must look at some examples. Below, the essay will present four such instances, from two men's magazines and two women's magazines, in order to see how information is presented to the various genders, and for whom this information is elucidated. After this initial description, or presentation, of the magazine's front cover photos, as well as the captions, the paper will analyze various questions related to gender in the media, which will be asked and subsequently answered below.
Woody Harrelson in Men's Journal
The first photo to be analyzed is from the magazine entitled Men's Journal. The photo is of Woody Harrelson, an actor, who is shown resting on what seems like a tire swing, or a chair. Harrelson is holding a very thick rope with his left hand, and has a pleasant expression on his face, though he is not quite smiling. The headlines that encircle this photograph state, in clockwise order, from the upper right corner:
1) Golf Special: 100 Hours to a Better Game
2) The World's Greatest Ping-Pong Hustler
3) Woody Harrelson: His Failed Quest to Be the "Laziest" Bastard Ever
4) Off-Road Motorcycle Adventures
5) The Sake Boom: An Expert's Guide
6) Top Chefs: What They Cook at Home
7) 150 Miles from Hell: Inside the Bloody War on the Mexican Border
As can be seen from this rendering, the headlines encircling Harrelson's photograph are very specific, or specialized and, in many ways, very macho. Yet one cannot generalize from this particular magazine's rendering of what men should be reading, for the next to be analyzed has quite a different take.
Whereas in the Men's Journal photo shoot Harrelson appeared at ease, relaxed, with nothing to prove, wearing only a shirt and jeans and appearing in the countryside.
Jennifer Love Hewitt in Maxim
In Maxim, the second magazine to be analyzed, male readers are presented with an almost-naked photo of actress Jennifer Love Hewitt. Though the actress is wearing a flowery coat, underneath this covering she shows a bra and panties set, and her bare body. The headline accompanying this very sexy picture of the actress reads: Jennifer Love Hewitt: America's Sweetheart has a Naughty Secret! In counterclockwise order, the other headlines read:
1) Girls of the 90s: Anna Kournikova, Britney Spears, Amanda Bynes, Lacey Chabert & More! (with the initial part of the title in big black bold letters)
2) A note stating: No boring stories with stuff you don't care about!
3) Zombies vs. Ninjas: Can't we all just get along?
4) Hunting River Monsters
5) Legalize Roids: 46 Ways to Make Baseball Better
6) Best Outdoor Gear: Spank Mother Nature!
As one can see from the above titles, almost half of them have exclamation marks. Another half talk about women, sex, naughtiness, and spanking. Though the magazine is geared towards men, Maxim is a far cry from the serious sounding subjects found in Men's Journal, above, and even includes a note, rendered above, in bullet point number two, to warn readers of the non-boring, 'juicy' articles and photos to be found inside, thereby inciting the entire male population to delve further into seeing what is behind the sexy cover of Ms. Hewitt.
Megan Fox in Cosmopolitan
The next two photos are expected to be different from the above-two, mainly because they are found in women's journals. Yet both photos, in Cosmopolitan and Glamour respectively, exude sex as well as or even better than the photo in Maxim, though in a more demure fashion. In the first photo, found in Cosmopolitan magazine, the reader sees a very sensual Megan Fox on the cover, with the question: Naughty or Nice? You Decide... In the next headline going clockwise, the readers can find "What He Wants to SEE During Sex," followed by the following:
1) Plus: You Voted Him the Hottest Butt in Hollywood,
2) So Weird! My Gyno Talked to My Vagina, and other Doc Shockers,
3) Spring's Sexiest Makeup,
4) You on Top: The Hard-Core New Success Secret,
5) Cosmo's 2012 Sex Survey: Thousands of Guys Reveal What Really Flips Their Switches, and
6) 25 Fun, Free Dates
It seems, after reading the magazine's cover page that the entire publication is geared towards sex and strange gynecological stories, very unlike the previous magazines presented. In this publication's case, one can see an effort, almost cult-like, being promoted to make women more aware, in tune, etc. with sex and sexual topics. Meant to advise, this topic seems quite overbearing, especially when one knows the magazine's history of including similar articles time and again.
Jennifer Lawrence in Glamour
In the fourth magazine, thing become, once again, a bit more serious. Though the actress on the cover, Jennifer Lawrence, strikes a sexy pose where her cleavage is clearly visible underneath a sequined top, the headline only promotes her latest movies, while other advise on things like clear skin, fashion, finance, hair styles and of course, sex, though this last topic only takes up a bottom corner of the cover. There is also a headline stating "It was 3 A.M. And he Had a Gun," - How One Ballsy Woman Saved Her Family, which is tucked in the bottom right corner of the publication. When compared to Cosmopolitan, Glamour seems very genuine and effortless, trying to cover many topic in which women would potentially be interested.
Patterns in Covers and their link to Advertisements
From these four magazine covers, presented above, certain patterns emerge. The headlines clearly focus on action, sports and violence in the men's magazine, with certain sexual components. Yet in the women's magazines, sex is everywhere: it is overtly displayed on the front page through photos and headlines, as well as within the magazine itself. When one compares advertisements, it seems that in the male oriented magazine the focus is on fashion, but moreso on gadgets, technology, and news, or science. In the women's magazines, advertisements glorify the female body, perfect skin, and encourage sex and spending money.
What is interesting to note, what one does not commonly see when looking at magazines is the colors that segment gender. On the men's side, the fonts are simple and streamlined and the colors are classic: red, white and black. On the covers of the women's magazines, the fonts differ, there are bold letters, many of which are pink, and there is also brown, black, white and red, but the pink truly stands out. The reason this paper has focused so much on the cover pages is because, more often than not, it is through these pages that the reader receives guidance of what is inside.
Analysis and Gender Roles
It is also important to note, after all this description, how the subjects can be analyzed to find further patterns, such as how men's advertisements differ from those found in women's magazines, and how these covers themselves promote a norm and even gender subordination. From the simple headlines delineated above, one can see that men often over-extol their manliness, whereas women's headlines offer advice on how to be more beautiful and what to do to please a man. This is, in many cases, and clearly in those analyzed above, a fact. Men's magazines focus on sex and other serious topics (such as sports and technology), whereas women must focus on sex, beauty, hair, and how to copy other beautiful women, according to these magazines.
These norms, when one looks at it this way, do not necessarily differ very much from those imposed on society, and especially on women, up to the 1960's and 1970's, when female empowerment truly came to the fore. In other words, are women truly empowered? And if so, why do they feel that they must always please men in one way or another, through sex, beauty, etc. And if not, why do these magazines show these headlines that women feel the need to copy? The reason I say 'copy' in this latter…