Thursday, November 21, 2013

Airbrushed Nation

I think it's supposed to be creepy?
Airbrushed Nation: the Lure and Loathing of Women's Magazines, by Jennifer Nelson

This has been my car book for a little while now--the book that lives in the car and keeps me occupied at odd moments of waiting for something.  It's perfect as a car book, because although it's supposed to be analytical, it's also written a whole lot like a magazine, with short sections and a whole lot of those annoying little pull-out boxes with quotations inside.

Jennifer Nelson has a lot of experience in the world of women's magazines, and here she takes them apart for us to inspect.  She has lots of very interesting information about issues like:
  • how the advertising is arranged, with a particular product placed right next to an article about the same thing
  • how every single image is heavily altered (images are "aspirational," not realistic)
  • why celebrities are now on every cover, every month, and how that's managed
  • how fashion is advertised
  • how a very narrow range of 'normal' is reinforced through every image, profile, and sort-of made-up quotation
  • how magazines play on your fears to sell more copies
...and all that sort of thing.  It's all very interesting, even though I don't actually read women's magazines, precisely because of some of the things she talks about.

Pretty much nothing in this book made me want to change my mind and start reading Redbook or Glamour. 

3 comments:

Ekaterina Egorova said...

Sounds interesting! I wrote a semester project a couple of years ago on the language in advertisements in women's magazines. So now I can't look at an advertisement and not analyze its techniques :) I guess it helps me not to be affected :) However, I do sometimes read magazines, either after some tough exams, when my brain is totally empty, or when I'm going shopping, for inspiration :)

Riv said...

Very interesting, I'll add it to my TBR list as well.

For me - I have sometimes this strong urge to read women's magazines, but I don't think I've finished a single one, they really just either lack any kind of depth or are not inspirational for me at all. Then I put aside the magazine and turn to the book :) But as part of culture and reading world they are interesting phenomenon to study I think.

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

Sounds interesting! I never read women's magazines except in hospital waiting rooms and like that, which I think is probably best for my peace of mind. :p

(Pull quotes in books are weird. If they are not specifically art books, then I don't accept pull quotes in books.)