Growing Up Girls: Popular Culture and the Construction of Identity

By Sharon R. Mazzarella; Norma Odom Pecora | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
The "Superbowl of All Dates": Teenage Girl Magazines and the Commodification of the Perfect Prom

Sharon R. Mazzarella

Led by Angela McRobbie's groundbreaking semiotic analysis of the British teen girl magazine Jackie, recent years have yielded a multitude of quantitative and qualitative analyses of teenage girls' magazines both in the United States and Great Britain. The majority of these analyses have focused on the discourses of beauty and romance prevalent in these magazines. In her study of Seventeen magazine, for example, Kate Peirce found that the major focus of the magazine was beauty and fashion. Looking specifically at messages (including both advertising and editorial content) about nutrition and fitness, Eileen Guillen and Susan Barr found that such messages typically focus on weight loss and physical attractiveness. Similarly, Ellis Evans, Judith Rutberg, Carmela Sather and Charli Turner found that, taken together, the predominant message of Seventeen, Young Miss, and Sassy is on self-improvement as defined by "fashion dressing and physical beautification" (110). According to Margaret Duffy and J. Micheal Gotcher (32), the teen magazine YM presents "a social reality in which the only power available to young women is achieved through seduction, beauty, and fashion." Yet, as Meenakshi Durham found, Seventeen and YM often give girls conflicting messages. These magazines inform girls of the need to be beautiful and therefore sexually attractive to males, but at the same time warn them to be sexually responsible. In addition, recent studies have documented the often negative effects of such magazines on adolescent girls ( Levine, Smolak, and Hayden; Martin and Gentry; Martin and Kennedy).

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