CW2 Media Audiences U0103755 Deadline 9th MayCan media texts be seen as “brands” that express identity? Discuss with reference to the following: FHM. In this essay I will firstly introduce the magazine iam discussing, and talk about ideas of representations and gender in their issues, and also how it in effect they market themselves as a brand that articulates identity.
FHM magazine stands for “For Him Magazine”; its core target audience is males 25-35. The magazine is produced monthly at the cost of 3. 40 per issue. FHM is now on global release as it publishes 27 different editions around the world in every continent, each with its own unique content.
The UK version sells approximately 600,000 copies per month making it one of the most popular magazines in the country. For their company Emap under an umbrella of 58 magazines it is the most popular. (Figures from Emap website)Its content varies inside as it is essentially seen as a lifestyle magazine. Every month it has recurring themes of reviews and articles centrally focused around the opposite sex and hobbies the magazine assumes the audience has.Order now
A way we can look at the notion of identity is through representations given through the magazine. Since the magazines are aimed at men, we can assume that the magazine has underlying issues about gender. Therefore FHM would like to express itself through masculinity to create a meaningful link to its audience. In the following I will show how different men and women magazines are completely different in content and identity. Contemporary ideas of masculinity and femininity will be different to those of previous generations. Current themes may be stereotypical but to study it using binary oppositions gives it greater meaning; men are seen as masculine, dominant, strong, aggressive, intelligent, rational, and active.
Whilst women are the opposed, they are feminine, submissive, weak, intuitive, emotional and communicative. As well as theses factors men and women are also seen to like different things, men like cars, technology, getting drunk and having casual sex with strangers whilst women like shopping, make-up, social drinking with friends, and having committed relationships. However, it is also clear that these lists are not truly representative of what men and women are really like. You all probably know a woman who likes cars and can be aggressive or a man who doesn’t drink and cries at weepy romantic comedies.
These stereotypes exist, to a certain extent, because they are easier than getting to know every man and women they would like to know. Advertisers are especially prone to using stereotypes to sell products for the same reason. They assume that all women or men are similar to make targeting audiences a simpler process. We can use advertising as a starting point when considering representations of gender in lifestyle magazines. By looking at some of the adverts it is clear to see how gender stereotypes are employed and maintained by advertisers.
Using stereotypes of men and women, men should drink beer followed by spirit chasers whilst women lightly sip on wine. Following the notion that men are hard’ and women are soft’ it can be seen that the alcohol adverts in certain lifestyle magazines use this to advertise their products. In FHM, they feature an advert for Jack Daniels whiskey with the line “the invite said bring a friend”. The image features no people, just a close up of a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and a glass of ice. The “friend” in this case is an alcoholic drink. The advert may be suggesting that men see alcohol as a replacement for real people, or that men prefer drinking to socialising.
In comparison, the women’s magazines focus on the potential for alcoholic drinks to bring people together and ease social interactions. Marie Claire feature an advert for the liqueur Disaronno which includes the tag line “share the square” and an image of an attractive man and women both holding the same glass tumbler, their fingers touching. This emphasises the idea that feminine gender roles require friendliness, closeness and the ability to communicate. A much clearer and less confused image of gender can be seen by looking at cigarette advertising in these magazines. Although women are apparently allowed to drink with the males they are certainly portrayed as not allowed smoking with them.
FHM included a Marlboro adverts with the line “Welcome to Marlboro country”. The FHM adverts featured an image of a deserted, outdated petrol station in the middle of an expansive flat landscape. Like the Jack Daniels campaign, it shows masculinity to be about solitude. In direct comparison there are no adverts for cigarettes in any of the women’s magazines I looked in. In fact, both Glamour and Cosmopolitan included adverts for Nicorette showing a woman in a bathroom attacking an oversized cigarette with her scales.
This advert is clearly intended just for the female audience and focuses upon things seen as important to the target audience, namely their weight. From the evidence above FHM magazine is clearly enforcing a lifestyle completely different from the opposite sex. In both men’s and women’s magazine it seem there is no agreed ground to which is a reasonable lifestyle, there has to be a binary position to work. Not only in the adverts do they converse about male identities, they is plenty of articles which implement the stereotypes mentioned before, mainly seeing women as sex objects.
Consistently in every issue there are features on women, some celebrities, in minimal clothing. As they also interview them as well, this always talks around the one subject. . .
of sex. Their style of questioning iam sure would not be of taste to many people as there is no substance to their literature, for example one of the many similar question asked to a “pin up” when talking about her photo shoot in the desert was, “When you weren’t in front of the camera, did you ride camels, and if so did it excite you in the same way riding ponies excites teenage girls?” There are many examples like these which revolve around sexual innuendo. FHM seems to write and create a man who seems to be very confident and successful with girls, drinks copious amounts of alcohol, fashionable, and have knowledge of all “bloke” stuff e. g. football and weapons of war.
One reason that explains why FHM and men’s magazines appeals so much is from Stuart Hall’s book Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. He talks about the subject of Psychoanalysis invented by Sigmund Freud. He explains that in the process of identification there is an unconscious relationship between an image and the consumer of the image. He carries on saying that from Freud’s ideas about the human having “sexual drivers” within them, there are two kinds of desires which arise from this; a desire to have the other person (which he calls object cathexis) and a desire to be the other person (identification). (Hall, 1997: 316-317).
In FHM we can see why both of these ideas exist. In the women featured in their loose clothing there will be a craving of them as they are portrayed as sexual objects. In there advice, tips, written columns and other articles such as “how to choose the perfect hi-fi” this constructs the want to be this person. The magazine makes us believe that in order to be their FHM man where you can be successful and have loads of women, you need to listen to them, Bible like. Another insight to why men read men’s magazines is through the book Reading Women’s Magazine by Joke Hermes.
In this book she studies why women read magazines. However in this book she also studied why men read women’s magazines, many interviews were conducted and she concluded that men would read women’s magazines if there was nothing to do or that is was easily assessed e. g. the magazines just lying about at home. They would actually consume what was written because in brief moments they become meaningful to them.
She believes that the magazine would provide unique forms of affirmation, reassurance and dreams of perfection. (1995: 62-63). Also though many of the interviews men specifically read the problem pages and true life stories. So maybe through these explanations men use magazines to different effects although both for identity building. Reading lifestyle magazines will never stop as Hermes quotes about the females she says, “Reading women’s magazines, and especially collecting recipes, knitting patterns and advice booklets, is a way of establishing and defending boundaries to one’s identity.
Identities are never stable or fixed, they need continual renewal. ” (1995: 92) They can also be said about men as everyone has an identity. I think in both genders we all draw from the same inspirations which create the same factors in identity. It just depends on what we personally perceive as what is more important than the other. In the conscious I don’t think many people would care what they read as reading magazines seem to be in everyone’s daily routine.
However if we are discussing ideas about routine, which in itself having a routine is a sense of security. Maybe men read FHM as a form of security reassuring them to be masculine. My conclusion is that in order to successfully study gender generalisations need to be made about people who are all different individuals. In the case of gender in lifestyle magazines we can conclude that magazines target their audience correctly according to gender in order to appeal to a specific audience that is still varied enough to make high sales, to carry on its continued readership and to attract certain advertisers by being able to guarantees a certain type’ of reader.
In doing this the magazines are using gender stereotypes but also perpetuating them. So are magazines creating or just merely representing identity? Recently FHM has also begun launching events where they are sponsors. A recent event took place at Oxford Circus Topman where they had a “FHM” day where they focused on getting better dressed. It was a promotional day where FHM itself confirmed their brand status. Since Topman is Europe’s biggest men’s retail store, they hired it out for the duration of a whole day.
They had many attractions as well as the clothes feature. They also had new technology testing, massaging, tasting of alcohol and everything else they magazine stands for. By doing this it influences people’s choices and decisions regarding their lifestyle, by doing so it alters people’s identity. So was this just an identity building process or did it happen because there was demand? I finish with a quote from Hermann Bausinger who talks about how the new media sphere has evolved, “Technology has long since been integrated into the everyday. Tools themselves are distinguished by the fact that they rapidly take on the character of artificial limbs” (1995: 537). Brands are now extensions of our bodies.
Sources used:FHM – January 2004 FHM – March 2005Marie Claire – January 2004Bausinger, H. (1995) “Media, Technology and Daily Life”. London: Edward Arnold. Hall, S.
(1997) “Cultural Representaions and Signifying Practices”. London: SageHermes, J. (1995) “Reading Women’s Magazines”. Cambridge: Polity Press