Monday, February 13, 2012

Perceptions of Cover Girl's (1959 vs. Today)

Chapter 60 was a study done by George Gerbner about confession magazine covers in 1959.  Gerbners study analyzed the influence of the cover girl image combined with the influence of her position in the verbal context.  This study showed that when the participants were exposed to JUST the verbal content on the cover of the magazine, they perceived the image of the missing cover girl model very negatively.  When participants looked at just the cover girl model by herself, she was perceived more positively.  However, the participants perceived the cover girl model in the MOST positive light when the cover was viewed in its original format, with both the negative, surrounding verbal text and the cover girl's image placed among it.  I am attaching two images of "confession-style" magazine covers, one from 1959 and a more current magazine cover.

In the summary section of Gerbner's study he believes these results indicate that, the dominant cover girl image appeals to society as a representative heroine who overcomes the surrounding negative verbal context that shares her cover space which is one way that sales are influenced.

I think that the cover girl's transition from images of models to famous celebrities produces a potentially more positive or negative effect on the viewer without the sole influence of the surrounding verbal context of the cover.  We live in an age of information where celebrities lives are highly publicized and usually, it's the scandals or illegal activity that surround these celebrities lives that boost sales.  There's more than just the verbal context of the cover surrounding the "typical" cover girl today because of how extensively mass media and its messages have permeated society.



  1. I think this reading – and Gerbner’s study -- can be tied quite interestingly to Katz and Lazarsfeld’s reading (#52: Between Media and Mass). They argue that one of the greatest impacts on short-term influence of mass media is interpersonal relationships and an individual’s social environment. This is demonstrated in Rebekah’s argument that sales are so heavily impacted by the proliferation of celebrity scandal.

    Think about a couple different factors:

    1. Celebrity news today is everywhere. With 24 hour news cycles, instant updates on the Web and gossip magazines with sales of millions or more each year, it is nearly impossible to get away from the stories. We feel like we “know” these individuals personally – making them a part of our interpersonal relationships. We look to celebrity magazines to keep us up-to-date. We feel a strange familiarity with celebrities. I didn’t see or read any of the Twilight movies or books, but there were even “Team Edward” and “Team Jacob” groups that emerged. I would presume there were actually no teenage girls who personally knew these characters yet magazine sales were phenomenal when they featured either actor on the cover.

    2. As in high school, we have learned it is better to “be talking about” that to “be talked about.” A clique mentality exists and we flock to gossip magazines to ensure we are in the “in crowd” instead of being an outsider.

    Just a few thoughts.

  2. The renewed interest in celebrities is one of the more interesting perspectives on mass media communication. It's an interesting shift from the heroine who overcomes adversity to the more scandal the better in today's media.

    There was an interesting segment on the passing of Whitney Houston this weekend on CBS Sunday Morning. It was a tribute to her life and the great talent that she was. The anchor delivering the story also asked for America to remember her in that way and not for the scandal that many other news outlets will begin to report in the upcoming weeks. It's just another reminder that we as a society are not satisfied with just mourning a great talent. We are demanding more detailed personal information of her life. More information on the details of her death, her drug abuse, what happened in the last hours before her passing. Those details often overshadow other highlights of her life.

    Are news outlets giving us what we as consumers demand or are they just feeding into the celebrity-obsessed news cycle and forcing that information on us?