Semiotics of a Magazine

Studying semiotics: When we are looking at the study of semiotics it means we are to analyze the use of signs and symbols that the magazine cover uses. When studying a picture, advertisement or magazine cover you can take almost anything as a sign or symbol, anything can represent anything at the discretion of the writer or editor. It is for us to interpret what each sign or symbol is representing to the best of our knowledge. Semiotics are important in a work as they give us a better insight into the content, the ideology and what to expect within the magazine.

After a close analysis of the semiotics of a magazine we can find out more about what it is about and can understand it more. By reading the signs and symbols it gives us a better sense of the type of magazine. “In Barthian visual semiotics, the key idea is the layering of meaning. The first layer is the layer of denotation, of what, or who, is being depicted here? The second layer is the layer of connotation, of what ideas and values are expressed through what is represented, and through the way in which it is represented? ” (Van Leeuwen, 2001) The first step of the semiotic deconstruction of the cover is to “identify relevant signs and their dominant aspects” (Van Zoonen, 1994, p. 78) From a first glance at the magazine cover we can see that the masthead is in big and bold capitals as to stand out to the audience. People will look at the masthead and automatically recognize the magazine from the colours and font. The tone of orange and pink they use are colours that are represented as stereotypically girly colours. The sell lines on the left and right of the magazine are used to tell the audience what’s included in the magazine or who is in it.

It will also give an insight to the genre of the magazine by showing what kind of articles are included and what kind of artists or people they interview or talk about. They include words such as “World exclusive” to make the audience believe they are getting something that nobody else has and that it is a must have. The header on this magazine reads “Britain’s No. 1 Women’s magazine”. This is to attract attention to the magazine on the shelf for other women to buy it other the understanding that if it is popular with everyone else then you should enjoy it too.

The use of the white on the pink also stands out as the top is normally what you will see first on a magazine on the shelf in a shop. The main image used in this magazine is a picture of Angelina Jolie, who Is a popular actor and fashion icon. The image takes up nearly the whole background and is obviously being used as a big selling point of this magazine. She is not wearing any clothes from our view of the image and has her makeup done perfectly. This image is very sexualized by her facial expression and the amount of skin shown.

The use of a pull quote with “I went from Nanny to Prostitute in 24 hours” , is used to draw the audience in to the magazine are want to read why this happened and gain their interest and attention . It shows that the magazine has these kind of gossip stories that some women have great interest in reading. Having isolated the major signs and aspects of the magazine we then must “continue to examine the paradigmusicatic of signs by asking what their absent opposites are and how they relate to each other syntagmatically”. This is to say that we need to find the assumptions made by a first look at the cover and to see if they have any opposites.

The main image used in the cover is of a white western woman. This is the iconography of the western world as she is someone who would be famous throughout. If they had a darker woman of less significance on the page then you would feel that the magazine would not sell as many copies. Her hair is down and her facial expression and lack of clothing is very sexualized whereas if you were to have her uptight with hair tied up and in a formal outfit then you may think that people would not buy it as she doesn’t seem as open and laid back and less likely to be giving all her gossip in the interview.

You feel that there is a kind of ethnocentrism related to magazines such as these as they often are associated with people associated with your own western culture and not from anywhere else. We can then being to denotate what is on the magazine cover. The colour scheme used is that of pink, orange and white. This is to associate the magazine directly to women as these are stereotypical female colours. The font used is a basic one and is often in bold; it is easy to read and stands out on the page.

The cover lines feature “3 sex secrets that will change everything”, various lines about the celebrities included in the magazine and also “How to get rid of cellulite or at least hide it”, all the coverlines are related to either sex, image or celebrity lives. On a connotation level we can see that the connotations gathered by analysis of this cover they are predominantly about femininity and sexuality. Even thought his is a magazine for women we see that the main image used is a picture of, what we are made to believe, Angelina Jolie naked. She has her makeup done up and has a sexualized look in her eyes staring at the camera.

This is a confusing decision in these magazines as you would feel that if you are to judge by how male magazines are made, with semi naked pictures of women also, then you would think that they would have a semi naked man on the cover to their magazine. The 21st century has shown a change back to when women have been used as objects in magazines like this in western civilization but is just taken to be the normality in this part of the world. “The re-sexualisation of women’s bodies, often displayed in public space and in near-soft porn forms, goes comparatively unremarked – except by those from other, less ‘liberated’ cultures”. Branston, 2010) The media has a huge control on how we represent women and men in a western civilisation. From what is read and seen in magazine we get the perceptions of this is how normal people should be and act and that is completely controllable and interchangeable by what the media chooses to do. This is a high power that we should try and move away from as it will control the world and people will always be aiming to be like the celebrities and people shown in these magazines and in the media. Research on media representations of gender has focused on how women are objectified and exploited in a media context and on the gap between social reality and media constructions of femininity and masculinity”( Devereux, 2003) The idea that celebrities mean so much in our society influences on people to be like them. Celebrities are just normal people that have perhaps a talent or a different look, but once the media throws them into the spotlight then it is our turn to idolize them. Magazines such as this one are filled with advertising and fake stories and the cover shows this by showing hidden advertising for a “? 5 dress that flatters everyone”. This kind of advertising draws people in to read ‘stories’ that are actually just ads for different products. “The point of publicity and promotion is to turn advertising into news”(Turner, 2004) References: Branston, G. , & Stafford, R. (2010). The media student’s book (5th ed. ). London: Routledge. Devereux, E. (2003). Understanding the Media. London: SAGE Publications Ltd. Turner, G. (2004). Understanding Celebrity. London: SAGE Publications Ltd. Van, L. T. , ; Jewitt, C. (2001). Handbook of visual analysis. London: SAGE. Zoonen, L. (1994). Feminist media studies. London: Sage.

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