Teenage vs. Grandparent Magazines (as a Medium)

Side by side, a Seventeen Magazine and a GRAND Magazine are rather diverse. The audience for each of the magazines is undoubtedly different, which explains why a Seventeen magazine does not have six pages about what type of activities babies like to participate in, or where to put paintings up around the house. It also explains why grandparents won’t be spending their Sunday afternoon reading about what makeup would look best on date night. The different tastes between teenagers and grandparents become apparent through the content of the magazines that are specifically veered towards them. However, what is less apparent (but just as important) is the effect the different magazine types as a medium play on the tastes and attitudes of those it is meant for.

The way the information in magazines is portrayed to teenagers and grandparents plays a large role in what they think of the information after reading it. According to Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium is the Massage, “societies have been shaped more by the nature of the media than the content of what is actively communicated” (McLuhan 8). Specific magazines can have extreme effects on a person’s life. Magazines that are specifically made for teenagers are known for causing self-esteem and body-image issues (Zeiger). However, these problems do not come up for grandparents who read magazines. This relates to a specific portrayal of information that is not seen in magazines for grandparents. Pages in Seventeen are filled with models, many of them with certain “ideal” body types. By including solely a specific body type, the readers tend to believe that only those models look good and are happy with their lives. Also, a teenager might subconsciously compare themselves to these images sprawled throughout the magazine and feel that their bodies are too big. Many ads use people with this certain body type in order to promote their product. There are sections of content about healthy snacks and workouts that could be done, but it is due to the images that are included in the magazine that makes teenagers really use their sense of sight in comparing themselves to those in the magazine.

Good Housekeeping (one of the magazines common among older adults) also includes sections about foods to eat and exercises to do to stay healthy. However, with images of food instead of a model, the grandparents will not acquire the same self-esteem issues as the teenagers might. This is what McLuhan means when he says the nature of the media will affect society more than the content. Both magazines could potentially include phrases like, “fruits and vegetables are a part of a balanced diet” or “exercising for 30 minutes a day is healthy.” However, with one medium portraying this information along with a picture of a model, the message that the teenagers receive (being healthy is good) will become more extreme than it is for the grandparents, leading to the self-esteem issues. This shows that the different content within the magazines (focusing on celebrities in pre-teen magazines and focusing on betterment of the self in grandparent magazines) corresponds with the medium in which the information is portrayed.

When it comes to pre-teen magazines like J-14 and Girl’s Life, there are many colors and pop-ups all throughout the magazine (“Top 10 Magazines for Teens”). This can be seen just by the cover of the magazine (which is covered in words of different sizes, many colors, and images of celebrities). These extremely eye-catching features draw pre-teens towards the magazines (when looking at them in a store, for example) because of how fun they presume to be. While flipping through the magazine, there is never a dull moment because of all the things going on at once. This keeps the attention of the reader because if they aren’t interested in one piece of information on the page, there is a lot more that they can look at. This is similar in magazines for teenagers like Seventeen, though not to the same extreme. In Good Housekeeping, there are (in comparison) less colors and chaos going on in one section. The cover of this magazine also includes a lot of words popping out at the reader in order to grab their attention, though it is less hectic. There are longer articles that are informative about certain topics, because these topics cannot just be stated in one simple statement (like in pre-teen magazines when they say a fun fact about a celebrity and then move on). This organized style appeals more to grandparents because it helps them follow along better. This is same role is played by the more black-and-white text in magazines, giving the magazine an added sense of professionalism and organization.

All types of magazines allow the audience to interact with the magazine and with society, though in different ways. The possibilities for interaction within the teen magazines are nearly endless. Many pre-teen magazines contain surveys or quizzes to find out information like, “Which Celebrity are You Most Like?” allowing the reader to write in the magazine and interact with it. Other pre-teen or teen magazines will have posters that can be ripped out and shared with friends. Many teenagers will make collages with words or pictures cut out of magazines and place them in a scrapbook or on their walls. This means the information within the magazines can spread to more people (like friends who see the scrapbook, for example). There are oftentimes perfume samples within these magazines, meaning the reader can use their sense of smell to interact with the magazine. A main part of teenage magazines is an “Ask Amy” column, or a section in which readers will send in questions or comments and one of the authors responds. This creates a connection between the reader and the author of the magazine. In this sense, teenagers can interact with society and the creators of the magazines in many ways. Grandparents can also participate in writing to authors and sharing articles with friends. In this way, they become more connected to society due to magazines but not as much as teenagers might be.

Magazines, in a sense, are archives of information that can be stored for as long as the magazine is held together. Just by looking back on an issue of Seventeen from the past, a reader can see the changes in society over the years. What was trendy in 2004 is very different from what is currently “in.” Different clothes were socially acceptable at different times. Different free time activities were viewed as fun. In this way, magazines reflect the society in the time period it was published. This same idea is portrayed in magazines that are made for grandparents. Looking back at an old issue of Good Housekeeping allows someone to learn about what health tips were thought of as most reliable at the time, certain housing trends that were exceptionally stylish, or what the most popular dishes to cook were. Again, the change in the information found in these magazines reflects how society has changed over time, becoming more knowledgeable on many topics. By creating this archive that is available to people decades later, a community within the audience is created. There is a sense of understanding and closeness to those who are able to reminisce from magazines and have memories from those times. In her book, An Archive of Feeling, Ann Cvetkovich includes this idea of the importance of being able to look back on an artifact. These magazines acting as “cultural artifacts” describe culture at the time as a specific “way of life” (Cvetkovich 9). The way of life represents what information was important to share to the public at the time.

The main difference between magazines made for teenagers and those made for grandparents lies within the content. A popular celebrity is more likely to be found in a pre-teen or teen magazine, while a gardening tip is more likely to be found in a housekeeping or magazine for grandparents. Magazines for grandparents have a large focus on families, while magazines for teenagers tend to stay away from this and other important life topics like school. This means reading magazines for teenagers becomes more of a leisurely activity to get away from the stresses of daily life, while magazines for grandparents include ideas they could incorporate into their daily lives. This difference is emphasized in the distinction in the way the types of mediums are portrayed. Whether it’s due to the layout of the magazine, or the ways in which it helps the reader make a societal connection, each magazine can variously affect the emotions and lifestyle of the reader.

Works Cited

Cvetkovich, Ann. An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2003. Print.

McLuhan, Marshall, and Quentin Fiore. The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. Corte Madera, CA: Gingko, 2001. Print.

“Top 10 Magazines for Teens.” Kidzworld. N.p., 27 Jan. 2012. Web. 28 Feb. 2015.

Zeiger, Stacy. “The Media Affects a Teen’s Body Image.” LoveToKnow. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2015.

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