Exemplar Answer for Section A: Textual Analysis (Print)
Section A: Men’s Health December 2010
1. Explain two ways in which the extract fits the genre of lifestyle magazines.
1) The magazines ‘Men’s Health’ fits the lifestyle genre because it has the conventional mix of contents; celebrity, health, fashion, sex, advice, and (specific to men’s mags) gadgets. This mix of contents is clear from the front cover; ‘Sex Tricks’, ‘Weight Loss’, ‘and ‘Man Flu Defeated’. Also from the two pages of contents; ‘Style’, The Joy of Decks’, ‘Shocking Fillers’, ‘What are you Eating?’ and ‘Your Winning Game Plan’. The best example is on the Editor’s Page, ‘The faster way to a better life’ which tells you how to navigate the magazine using ‘quick navigation icons’.
2) The magazine also fits the ‘lifestyle’ genre because it assumes the position of advisor. It uses direct address to ‘speak’ to the reader as though it holds all the answers for ‘your’ life to be a success. The coverlines clearly indicate this position, ‘LOSE YOUR GUT!’ and ‘Crush Your Hangover, Build Muscle’ are two examples here.
2. Give one example of each of the following and explain how it is used in the extract to create effect:
Layout: The front cover uses a symmetrical layout to give the page balance. It is as though the page is following the ‘rule of thirds’ where the page has three distinct columns and a line can be drawn down the centre to show a mirror image. The mirror image is not exact because the coverlines are different but a balance of colours on both sides is used to achieve the overall effect. This is effective because it is pleasing to the eye and the target audience can quickly scan the page from left to right, to get information on the contents.
The magazine uses the two font families (serif and sans serif) throughout perhaps to connote that the magazine is for a sophisticated but modern male. The majority of article titles and coverlines are sans serif and bold but the magazine title itself is serif. I think this is a key indicator of the target audience for the magazine because it does connote intelligence and sophistication in comparison to say the title for Loaded or Nuts.
Use of Language
The magazine uses a variety of language techniques to excite the reader and fit everything on the front cover. One example is the use of exclamatives and imperatives. For example there is ‘Lose your Gut! Which is an imperative because it gives the reader and order and ‘Secrets of Lean Muscle!’ which is an exclamative because it expresses surprise as though they hold a special recipe for success. STACKED LIKE STACKHOUSE! is another exclamative and it also uses alliteration to grab the attention of the audience.
Use of colour
The most significant point about colour in this magazine is what is missing. There is not a pink or pastel shade in sight. Black, red and blue are central to the colour design of the magazine and this is evident throughout. The colour red has connotations of danger and urgency in this context and of course blue connotes a sense of calm. Bold black text connotes a sense of importance and seriousness. Together they would be considered a very ‘masculine’ grouping of colours. Therefore, there is no room for doubt here, this is a ‘man’s’ magazine.
3. Discuss the ways in which men and/or masculinity are represented in this extract.
If I look at the magazine as though it is telling a story about who men are and how they live their lives, I would conclude that men are obsessed with their muscles, working out and their diet, heterosexual and like to look at women wearing only a bra and pants, owning gadgets that make their life simple and having the right clothes to look good. If I didn’t know better I might argue that this is ideally suited to what men want and need in life.
However, I do know better and I would say that this magazine presents society with an issue. In the same way that women have always been represented as being obsessed with diets, the perfect dress size, clothes, beauty and sex – men are now being represented as having similar obsessions. A criticism of this type of lifestyle magazine is that it sets up a vision of the ‘ ideal’ man and then makes audiences insecure about not being able to obtain this apparently better version of themselves. The magazine uses a photograph of a handsome slim celebrity with muscles and veins and holds this up as what men should aspire to look like. It then seems to point a finger at the reader who is no doubt already comparing his arms to the arms in the photo and demands; ‘LOSE YOUR GUT!’ in bold capitals. In the contents under ALPHA MALE it asks, ‘isn’t it time you started upping your game?’ so it sets out a problem and offers a solution. It also suggests that the reader needs to learn sex tricks and make ‘simple purchases that will drive her wild.’
The magazine has many more solutions to offer the reader for a range of problems he might have. To be honest, you might start reading the magazine thinking you were OK but by the time you’ve finished you’d have so many insecurities about how you looked you wouldn’t be feeling so confident. Maybe this is why people buy it every month? They’re now convinced they’re useless and need all the advice the magazine can throw at them!