Semiotic Analysis of Teenage Magazine Front Covers

Powerful Essays
Siân Davies

In this essay I will hope to analyse the semiotic codes of the front covers of teenage magazines to demonstrate how the media constructs the image and behavioural ideology of the teenage girl. I will analyse issue 359 of More! (December 27 th 2001 - January 8th 2002) and compare it with the January 2002 edition of 19. I have chosen these specific texts as they are popular mainstream magazines that are available in most newsagents, and therefore arguably represent to the reader what constitutes the modern teenage girl. These are also the most recent issues available for analysis and therefore demonstrate an up-to-date representation of constructed femininity in our media and society.

Jonathan Bignell (1997) argues that the magazine is "just a collection a signs" (Bignell 1997: 78). These signs may include paradigmatic and syntagmatic elements such as the title of the magazine, the fonts used, the layout, the colours, the texture of the paper, the language adopted, the content of the articles and so on, and each of these signs have been chosen to generate a meaning. The magazine is therefore a complex collection of signs that can be extensively decoded and analysed by its reader - "women's magazines communicate their mythic meaning by means of signs, thus their representations of the imaginary are dependent on the symbolic, the signs which do the communicating" (Bignell 1997: 78). Signs however, consisting (according to Saussure) of two elements, a signifier and a signified, only gain meaning when "it has someone to mean to" (Williamson 1978: 40). The reader is therefore very important and will bring his/her own interpretations to the texts by drawing on their own cultural values and perceptual codes. As Daniel Chandler argues, "'decoding' involves not simply basic recognition and comprehension of what a text 'says' but also the interpretation and evaluation of its meaning with reference to relevant codes" (Chandler, web source: Semiotics for



Bibliography: * Butler, Judith (1990), Gender Trouble - Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. London: Routledge * Curran, James et al * McLoughlin, Linda (2000), The Language of Magazines. London: Routledge * McRobbie, Angela (1995), Feminism and Youth Culture (2nd edition) * Vestergaard, Torben & Kim Schrøder (1992), The Language of Advertising. Oxford, Blackwell Publishers * Williamson, Judith (1978), Decoding Advertisements; Ideology and Meaning in Advertising

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