Encoding/Decoding Cosmopolitan Magazine
For decades, infants have represented an important target to marketers because they have their own purchasing power. They influence their parent’s buying decisions and they’re the adult consumers of the future. Children are exposed to sublimal messages and implicit images right from the very beginning of their childhood which shapes their identity and their gender. For example, when a girl baby is born, she is automatically placed into a pink world; pink clothing, pink bed sheets, pink crib etc. Pink is perceived to be a girly, feminine color.
It represents a soft, sensitive, kind and gentle image which is why it is usually associated to girls. Yet on the other hand, boys represent blue. Which is perceived to be a manly, powerful and dominant color. The cartoons that take over televisions in every family represent strong ideologies of the ideal image of femininity and masculinity, which is related to gender discrimination. The female characters such as Barbie and the Bratz Dolls implicitly influence a little girls idea of what she needs to look like. Their perfect thin bodies, their exaggerated assets, and their flawless skin all affects a kids development.
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Batman and G. I. Joe are examples of what little boys grow up with. These characters and many others, portray “the image” of what the boy must grow up to be. They are strong, attractive,muscular and heroic characters which indirectly shapes what the kids perception of what their gender should represent. Both, girls and boys, grow up with these adjectives engraved deep within their minds, and when they become adults, these ideologies follow them and they do everything in their power in order to achieve them. The media then grows up with these individuals and entirely shapes their identity.
Television shows, movies and even magazines, such as Cosmopolitan, continue on strengthening the ideal image of what a man and a woman should look like. The magazine “Cosmopolitan” is a great example of the tremendous amount of influence that a media source can have on the women and men who have been following it since the beginning. Cosmopolitan is an international magazine for women of all ages. It was first published in 1886 in the United States as a family magazine but was later transformed into a literary magazine.
Eventually, Cosmopolitan became a women’s magazine in the late 1960s which transformed it into a multi-million dollar magazine. Also known as Cosmo, its current content includes articles on relationships, sex, health, careers, self-improvement, celebrities, as well as fashion and beauty. Published by Hearst Magazines, Cosmopolitan has 63 international editions, is printed in 36 languages and is distributed in more than 100 countries. In 1999, Cosmopolitan created a spinoff magazine called CosmoGIRL! which targeted a teenage female audience. However, the lack of issues sold ended its print production in December 2008.
Cosmo also has a section called “Ask Him Anything” where male writers answer readers’ questions about men and dating. Its a very popular section which led to another called “The Men Tell All” where secrets and untold facts about men are revealed. This magazine has sold over 85 million copies worldwide, and its success persists. Aside from Cosmopolitans great success, it conforms to the stereotypes and ideologies that are a big part of our society. The magazine proves the ideology of the “ideal woman” and what her character and physical look should be like.
Everything about the magazine, whether it’s the ads, the cover stories or the interviews, all relate to how femininity is portrayed in an exaggerated matter. The cover page is a great implicit example of this situation because the women have to meet a certain criteria in which they must maintain in order to become a cover girl. Most criterias have been shown to be all about the physical beautiness. The cover is the most crucial and important part that determines the make-it or break-it factor of the issued magazine. Cosmo goes through a very detailed search in order to find the “perfect” icon to be placed on the cover.
The definition of perfect and other adjectives, all come from the standards and messages that are shown by the media. The cover girls are all powerful, influential,gorgeous, thin, sexy and confident. The look in their eyes alone, can captivate your attention and make you want to pick one up off a stand. But in order to continue attracting the attention of all the costumers that come across this magazine, the creators of Cosmo pick vibrant colors and choose extremely good-looking women, those who are considered to be sex-icons in the media, to be on the cover.
Almost every woman seen on the cover of this magazine presents very elusively what the “ideal look” of a woman should be, that we can almost start to think that this is the norm. This idea relates to the presence in absentia and how its implicit images influence the millions that follow this well-known magazine. Cosmo picks and chooses specific icons that represent a huge percentage of women, so it attracts them and lures them into buying the magazine.
It is known to have the most popular and most-spoken-about celebrities, and sometimes they go beyond expectations and come out with a cover that make headlines and attracts a different group of women. For example, Cosmo managed to turn a well-known hardcore punk rocker into a soft and feminine lady. It stripped the artist away from her regular chains and piercings and replaced them with designer accesories and revealing skin-tight clothing. It just proves that celebrities are willing to hide who they really are in order to be accepted, and/or picked as a Cosmopolitan cover girl.
This also proves that women need to be of a certain look, in order to get further in life, whether it being in their career or in everyday life. The reality that is being constructed implicitly is that there’s only one definition of attractiveness. The ideology that is being represented is the beauty myth. It keeps proving that the prettier, flawless, fit and sexy you are, the more you will have going for you. Women are constantly being reminded of how important their looks are. The pressure of the media is just getting harder to ignore and it reinforces the idea of perfection which is already an obsession for many.
The men in the magazine also conform to stereotypes that have been constructed by the media. The males found in Cosmopolitan are always good-looking, muscular bodies (along with the eight-pack, lats, traps and more), rich, and intelligent men. They always seem to have the right answers to all of the womens questions. The men are all examples of what any woman would want. The discrimination towards gender differences is very obvious because both genders have a certain look that influences and affects a readers thoughts on their appearance and how they want others to look like.
Cosmo creates a reality that is very hard to obtain because the level of beautiness achieved seems so easy, yet in real life, most people are not blessed with natural good looks. Which results in more plastic surgeries, more self-esteem issues, and higher suicide rates because enough is never enough. The readers compare themselves to the models and celebrities they see which leads to the realization that they aren’t satisfied with their looks. The images have become so imposing and influencing, that individuals are becoming strongly affected by them.