Magazine Analysis

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  • Topic: Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report, Meaning of life
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  • Published : October 12, 2008
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Maclean’s is a Canadian news magazine established in 1905 by John Bayne Maclean. Distributed weekly, it is Canada’s only national current affairs magazine; it covers such matters as politics, international affairs, social issues, business and culture. On average, the magazine circulates 366,394 issues per week and has a readership of 2,753,000. 51% of readers are men and 49% are women, with an average age of 45 years old.

On October 11th, 2007, Volume 120 Number 41, October 22nd, 2007 issue (Figure 1) was distributed nationally . It contained articles covering various current Canadian issues; such as, “The Mouse House” regarding four Toronto hospitals collaboration to create animal-research facilities, “The Defence Debate”, a discussion of how Canada’s chief of defence staff, Rick Hillier, is viewed within government. The issue also examined world issues; such as, “No Beacon of Hope”, discussing the current state of Afghanistan after the end of Taliban rule, “Head-Scarf Protests”, about Turkey’s head-scarf ban being under fire because young women of Turkey are demanding their right to attend secular universities and “Argentina’s Hillary”, discussing Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, a political wife, who is poised to take the presidency in Argentina. The magazine also covered additional articles regarding health, “Concussion Alert”, discussing research suggesting that concussions may induce psychosis later in life, and business, “Helium Dries Up”, about a global helium shortage’s far-reaching repercussions.

The cover of this issue highlighted six articles including: “Why Charlie Brown Was So Sad”, explaining that every bitter memory of author Charles Schulz’s long life made its way into “Peanuts”, “Coffee $130/LB.” introducing a new café, Manic Coffee, in Toronto that sells $15 cups of coffee, “Will Your Child’s Concussions Make Him Dangerous?”, the health article earlier discussed, “Stephen Colbert’s Secret Agenda”, reviewing the Comedy Central network’s show, The Colbert Report, “Harper to Dion: Make my Day”, about Stephen Harper issuing a “fish or cut bait” ultimatum and most prominently, “Are We Becoming a Nation of Bigots”, discussing Canada’s current level of toleration towards the multi-cultural country.

The cover of this magazine can be analyzed using different theories, including the semiotics of symbolic theory, Performance as Political Action idea and postmodern theories within cultural studies. The first theory used to analyze this magazine is the semiotic theory, developed by C.S. Peirce. This theory is used to find the meaning in signs and claims it is all in the meaning of the signs used. “A sign refers to something other than itself – the object, and is understood by somebody… it has an effect in the mind of the user” and consists of many different elements. Some of the basic elements are the signifier, the signified, icons, symbols, and syntagms. Basic Elements of a Sign

Signifier: the sign’s image as we perceive it
Signified: the mental concept to which the sign refers
Icon: resembles its object in some way (a picture is an icon) Symbol: a sign whose connection with its object is a matter of agreement (words are generally symbols) Syntagm: “an orderly combination of interacting signifiers which forms a meaningful whole”

The cover in itself is a sign to its interpretants (the readers) and one can draw meaning from the interacting images and text. This magazine cover consists of syntagmatic relation where the sign as a whole can be broken down into four different signs, and one only gets meaning from their associations with each other. To analyze the signifiers and signified of each separate sign should be known. The signifier of sign one, is the image (icon) of a woman wearing a chador, looking to the center of the page, the signifieds could be minority, oppression, observant, mother, daughter, or sister. The signifier of sign two is the image (icon) of a middle aged man in a business...
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