The Influence of Popular Culture on Society's Self-Perception

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The Influence of Popular Culture on Society's Self-Perception

Popular culture has an undeniable influence on how society perceives itself. When examining mass culture, one must keep in mind the equilibrium between how much we, as a society, affect the way popular culture is constructed and to what extent popular culture influences the way we view ourselves and shapes our ideologies. An aspect of popular culture that may serve to greatly exemplify this theory of society as both the affecter and the affected is the genre of magazines targeted at young women. Though these publications are targeted as the representation of our society’s adolescent females, they actually have a great influence over the ways in which teens view and construct certain social ideologies. This essay will shed light on the influences these publications have in shaping, regulating, and defining young women’s perceptions of femininity, sexuality, and romance. Consequently, it will also reveal an irony in the fact that “women’s magazines”, written for (and mostly by) women actually mold their beliefs and actions into those that reinforce female subordination through the traditional standards of a patriarchal society.

For the purpose of analysis, I will focus on three publications for women, each with a slightly different audience according to the age and class brackets targeted and the subjects offered. In her analysis of one of Britain’s women’s magazines called Jackie, McRobbie identifies four codes that form the content of these publications: those of fashion and beauty, romance, personal and domestic life, and pop music (Christian-Smith,8). The magazines I will examine all exemplify the four factors of McRobbie’s codes.

The first publication is a magazine called Twist. From the content, one may infer that the main target of this magazine is a high school age bracket. The cover stories include “Make-him-Melt Prom Hair and Makeup”, “Is it Love or Lust”, “Real Guys Reveal What Their Mixed Messages Really Mean”, “New Zit Zappers”, and “Celeb’s Happiness Secrets”. Inside, the reader finds pop music icons, advice on how to act and look to find a member of the opposite sex, advertisements targeted at younger consumers of cheaper goods, and pictures of stereotypically attractive teenagers.

The second magazine I will be discussing is Complete Woman. This magazine is aimed at a ...

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...logies? A broader representation of other forms of society would be necessary to dissolve the stereotypes that mass culture has come to represent.


1. Twist Magazine, May 2000. Heinrich Bauer Publishing, L.P.

2. Complete Woman Magazine, June/July 2000. James L. Herlock, Publisher.

3. Marie Claire Magazine, May 2000. Hearst Communications.

4. Christian-Smith, Linda. Becoming a Woman Through Romance. Routledge, Inc. 1990.

5. Modleski, Tania. Feminism Without Women. Routledge, Inc. 1991.

6. Lewin, Ellen. “Writing Lesbian Ethnography” reprinted in Women Writing Culture. University of California Press. 1995.

7. Craik, Jennifer. “I Must Put My Face On” 1989. reprinted in Feminist Cultural Studies I. Edward Elgar Publishing. 1995

8. Winship, Janice. “Handling Sex” 1981. reprinted in Feminist Cultural Studies I. Edward Elgar Publishing. 1995

9. Lutz, Catherine. “The Gender Of Theory” reprinted in Women Writing Culture. Univ. of California Press. 1995

10. Coward, Ruth. Female Desire. Palladin Books. 1984.

11. Schlesinger, Philip. “From Production to Propaganda?” reprinted in Culture and Power. Sage Publications. 1992
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