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Angela McRobbie’s Analysis of Jackie Essay

This essay will be exploring Angela McRobbie’s analysis of Jackie and why the magazine has seen a new found popularity in recent years. Jackie was a popular British weekly teenage girls’ magazine published by Scottish company D.C. Thomson which was published from 1964 up until 1993. It was named after the children’s author Jacqueline Wilson who worked for D.C. Thomson at the time. The magazine was most popular with girls in the age range of 10 to 14. Before Jackie made its debut, magazines aimed at teenaged girls were normally romance orientated comic strips such as Mirabelle, Romeo and Valentine. Although Jackie did indeed feature romantic stories, they were not the main focus of the magazine. Features that had normally previously featured only in women’s magazines such as problem pages, fashion pages, reader’s true life stories, and hair and beauty advice were now introduced to a teenage population. Indeed Jackie was written by the women’s magazine department of D.C.

Thomson rather than the one focused on children’s comics such as The Beano and The Dandy. Taking all this into consideration, it could be argued that Jackie provided the blue print for the modern teenage girl’s magazines. In her analysis, McRobbie says she feels that Jackie tapped into the biological nature of teenage girls, when they start to become more curious about their changing bodies and start to show an interest in the opposite sex. The Cathy and Claire problem pages were a popular feature with readers of the magazine, and many problems readers wrote in with mainly focused on boys and other common problems that come hand in hand with growing up. McRobbie believes that one purpose of the magazine was to prepare girls for the “brief flowering” period that many young working class women in that time had before marriage – but after they had just left school and started work – and so had freedom and a disposable income to go out with their friends to pubs and dances and buy adult items such as clothes and make-up.

Richard Hoggart discusses this period in his analysis of working class teenage girls in his book The Uses of Literacy. One feature Jackie was famous for was its photo stories that provided a stepping stone to fame for celebrities such as Fiona Bruce and Hugh Grant, which were usually of a romantic nature, in the style thought to appeal to the young women of the target audience. These provided girls with a romantic ideal which McRobbie discusses in her analysis of the magazine, McRobbie believes that young girls are conditioned to seek romantic based relationships instead of sexual ones and that romantic stories like the ones that featured in Jackie and other magazines aimed at teenaged girls at the time helped to reinforce this. Again, these can seem comically clichéd and dated by the standards of today.

In fact, one of the reasons that Jackie may have regained popularity is that this style of article, although probably reasonable at the time written, seem almost laughable and maybe also politically incorrect by today’s standards (for example one article featured in The Best of Jackie Annual on ways how to attract boys suggests that a girl should try sitting on a park bench “looking tearful”, and a fashion feature refers to plus sized girls as “fatties” and very slim girls as being “stick like”). To many people in 2012, these almost seem like satire. Indeed, on the popular bookselling website Amazon, The Best of Jackie Annual and it’s spinoffs such as Dear Cathy and Claire – The Best of Your Favourite Problem Page can be found under the sub-category “Humour”.

A feature that can be found in The Best of Jackie Annual, which had previously been published as a part of an actual Jackie Christmas annual, on how to survive Christmas parties advises the readers to be wary of drunken bosses and uncles making passes at them. This is disturbingly mentioned in a casual and almost light hearted fashion, like it is a common occurrence to be expected, and perhaps even tolerated. The idea of a girl so young being put in a vulnerable position with a much older man, especially one who is in a position of authority or a relative, would be unlikely to be treated in this fashion today. This article may appear humorous to some people in a dark way, simply because it is so shocking and highly inappropriate by today’s standards. Another reason why Jackie may have seen a new increase in popularity is because older women, who would have been readers of Jackie in the past, may want to look back at their youth and remember a much simpler time before they had children to worry over, bills to pay, jobs (or lack of them) and mortgages.

Looking back on the past is something which has always been very popular with people and becomes more common during times of economic recession, like the one Britain (and Europe in general) has been struggling with in recent years. There are numerous discussions on the internet in forums with older women talking fondly about their experiences and memories of reading Jackie. When Jackie stopped being published in 1993, D.C. Thomson realised a new magazine aimed at teenaged girls called Shout, which could possibly be seen by some people as a rebranding of Jackie. Shout is still being published today and I compared a recent copy of Shout from May 2012 to a copy of Jackie from June 1981. Both magazines feature a celebrity on the front cover, with Shout having Cheryl Cole and Jackie having Adam Ant, and both also have tampon adverts on the back covers. A similar layout to that which Jackie used, and which McRobbie discusses in Jackie: An Ideology of Adolescent Femininity, is used in Shout.

Problem pages, fashion pages, celebrity gossip, hair and beauty advice, “pin-ups” of attractive male celebrities, horoscopes and reader’s true-life stories all feature in both magazines, although there are clear generational differences in these articles between the two magazines. Advice given in the problem pages of Shout is more concerned with more serious issues such as sex and alcohol abuse and also offers career advice. In the days of Jackie’s popularity girls were not often encouraged to stay on to do further education after the compulsory school leaving age and usually got married at an age which would be considered very young today, whereas today many girls go on to go to college and university and choose to put off marriage and having children to a later stage in life, if they opt to at all.

Jackie also contained sewing and knitting patterns, which are things which are no longer common hobbies with teenaged girls today. This is likely due to fashionable clothing being sold cheaply in supermarkets and high-street stores such as Primark and Asda. The popularity of teenage magazines is currently on the decline, with many once popular magazines no longer being published. This is possibly due to the fact that the features of teenage magazines such as celebrity gossip, hair and beauty tips and updates on the latest fashions are readily available on the internet. Even if a young girl finds herself in need of advice there are now websites such as Yahoo Answers, Girls Ask Guys and Answerbag where she will be able to get (possibly dubious) responses to her question quickly from a variety of people across the world and there is also websites set up by charities offering advice on more serious matters such as abuse, bullying, drugs and sexual health.

It is also worth having a brief look at the context of the magazine’s existence, with the early-mid 1960s being a reasonable period of progress in Britain. In the nation of Labour leader Harold Wilson’s “white heat” ” (Sandbrook, 2005:737) – a nation still getting over the war, but proudly (if cautiously) advancing in what historian Dominic Sandbrook called “a new era of creativity and progress” (Sandbrook, 2005:737)– it is only natural that Britain’s young women would have a need for their own entertainment and place for advice. While it is true that this is not the intended focus of the essay, such a background should not be ignored, and may go some way towards explaining the magazine’s eventual demise(arguably, rebranding) in the very different world of the 1990s.


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