Decoding Women's Magazines: From Mademoiselle to Ms.

Ellen McCracken, Author
Ellen McCracken, Author St. Martin's Press $18.95 (341p) ISBN 978-0-312-07971-0
Reviewed on: 11/02/1992
Release date: 11/01/1992
Hardcover - 341 pages - 978-0-312-07972-7
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Though somewhat dated and burdened by academic prose, this book can provide much ammunition for those seeking to analyze the complex messages embedded in women's magazines. McCracken, an associate professor of comparative literature at the University of Massachusetts, argues that such magazines help shape a happy consensus about the role of women. She examines the role of the front cover, ``the most important advertisement in any magazine,'' then shows how various promotions and articles serve as ``covert advertisements.'' A savvy look at actual ads shows how many invoke an implicitly male vision. McCracken then reports on the history and operations of several magazines, including the contradictions of ``wholesomeness and consumerism'' in Seventeen ; Glamour' s use of social issues to sell fashion and beauty; and Family Circle 's role in encouraging supermarket spending. Her analysis of new women's magazines is hampered by her focus on the early 1980s, as is her look at the problems of that decade's version of Ms. However, she does add astute comments on how magazines like Big, Beautiful Woman and Essence sell consumerism to readers outside the mainstream. Photos not seen by PW. (Dec.)
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