“FHM’s “high street honeys” have helped the lad’s mag back to success after two years of disappointing circulation figures in the men’s monthly magazine market… it shows the right formula – in this case putting scantily clad girls-next-door on the cover – can still work its magic in the men’s market” MediaGuardian. co.uk FHM is published every month by EMAP Elan Ltd.
Its target audience is heterosexual males aged between 18 – 25 but younger males also purchase it.
It’s circulation figures have risen in the past two years, but not as many s in 1999’s peak of 775. 000. It has rose by 8.7% since 2001, between July and December 2002 it sold 620,191 copies on average. In contrast Loaded had decreased sales by 6% during the same period to 290,214. “Loaded… was down to 290,214 copies… despite sharing a similar philosophy to FHM – showing it is still difficult to define what makes readers choose one title over another” MediaGuardian.co.uk. Other mens lifestyle magazines varied in circulation figures, but none came close to FHM’s which is by far the most popular.
The uses and gratification model can be applied to FHM readers. Individual consumer of any media text do so to fulfil their own needs and interests.
Mcquail, Blumer and Brown cited four categories of needs gratification, of which three can be applied to the readers of mens magazines; diversion, personal relationships and personal identity or individual psychology. They want an escape from routine problems, and it gives them an emotional release. The audience use the magazine as value reinforcement or reassurance, as a way of self understanding.
They see themselves as part of a certain group by buying a mens magazine. “Buying Loaded magazine might reinforce the buyers perception that he is one of the lads” Angela Bell
These readers also consume the text for voyeurism, which is the practice of gaining pleasure from looking at other people whilst remaining anonymous. In relation to FHM, it is men deriving sexual pleasure from looking at a women. The layout of the front cover of FHM is very similar with each edition. The main image of the September 1999 edition is of Shania Twain, dressed to appeal to the heterosexual young male audience. The image covers part of the title, but as FHM is already so recognised, its audience will know its FHM from the visible part of the title.
The main flash relates to the image, “World Exclusive – Shania Twain – Hark! It’s the Planet’s raunchiest Songbird! “. The producers have used a celebrity to attract the audience, with “World Exclusive” implying that Shania Twain is exclusive to FHM. The colour of the title is the same as “Shania Twain” in the main flash, relating Shania Twain to FHM. The plugs on the front cover contradicts the view that the men represented are “Good in bed, happy in relationships, witty, considerate, skilled in all things” They, as David Gauntlett says, “…
don’t address a super-macho man who feels he can do everything. Instead, they are always giving advice on how men can live their lives, have fun, not upset women, be reasonably healthy, and be able to look after themselves”. One plugs an article about not upsetting women, “‘I get it – you’ve got the decorators in! ‘ The things you should never say to a lady”. This shows men should be considerate to females, also shown by the use of ‘lady’. Another plugs being healthy, “‘Let me off the lard express! ” Nine man-friendly diet cheats”. Both of these are set in a laddish style and tone.
Another plug is a fashion special, in the largest font apart from the main flash, showing the need for a man to look good. By using words such as ‘you’ it identifies with the audience. The attention grabbing headlines such as “Sex Mad! ” makes the reader want to read. Whether set in an ironic style or having a particularly laddish or even sexist tone, pages of men’s magazine are filled with advice on how to do things better, or how to improve oneself, implying that men are not perfect. Men are represented as traditionally masculine but sensitive at the same time. Content Analysis
There are many advertisements in FHM, in the April 2003 there are 75 pages. These advertisements include GAP, Tommy Hilfiger, Philips, Top Man, Becks, Calvin Klein, Jack daniels and Seiko. Nearly all of them advertise clothing or alcohol. The advertisements provide a representation of the product and what it stands for, which ties in for what the ideology of the magazine stands for. Many of the adverts features a young male model, and project the same masculine traits projected within the magazine. The males in the advertisements are portrayed as the ideal role model for the heterosexual male.
The adverts and magazine are mutually dependant, as the audience may judge the advertisement within its context, the magazine, and the audience will also relate the magazine to its adverts. The ideology of the adverts reflect the ideology of the magazine. Many males are portrayed with some of the following attributes; physical activity, danger, appearing rugged, fearless, athletic, confident and handsome. All the adverts featured in FHM April 2003 display these qualities. Other images and articles featuring men also display these.
Men undertaking physical and possibly dangerous activities include snowboarding champs, and men tackling ‘man eating crocodiles’. One article interviews Rio Ferdinand, a successful, and popular, footballer. There is also an interview with Leonardo DiCaprio, a famous film star, who, along with Rio Ferdinand can be seen as an icon and possibly as a role model to a majority of the audience. Representations of men in FHM, and similar magazines, focus on the following: Strength – physical and intellectual, power, sexual attractiveness, physique and independence of thought and action.
The features on Ferdinand and DiCaprio highlights the facts and gives the view that they are in control of their lifestyle, and they are role models to aspire to. They show they have the lifestyle of what the audience wants and what the audience thinks these celebrities have, the images in the magazine also represent this. The image next to DiCaprio portrays mostly women apparently screaming for DiCaprio. One is holding a large poster of him, and another holding a sign saying ‘I love you leo’. This reinforces the idea that they are role models for men to aspire too.
Textual Analysis Consumers of any lifestyle magazine use them to reinforce a view of their own personal identity. They look at roles and ideas presented in the magazine and compare them with their own identity. For example the “bloke test” on p41 April 2003. FHM describe it as “where two fine male specimens go head to head to decide who is least like a big girl”. The two males in question are Grant Nicholas “Hard rocking front man of top UK rock combo Feeder”, and Romeo, “So Solid rapper and solo love-machine type”.
The aim of the “bloke test” is find out which of them is most like a “bloke”, with questions such as “Ever punched someone spark out? “, “Ever fired a machine gun? “, and “Ever slept with more than one woman in a night? “. Another example is “The great FHM Man test! “. This is plugged on the front cover. This feature also questions what it is to be seen as a real man, according to FHM and its ideology. The more points, the more of a man you are. Examples include the amount of women slept with, measuring sporting prowess, how many pints can be drunk, and the most reckless thing ever done.
In FHM September 1999 there is an interview with Pierce Brosnan, alongside a page sized image of him. Pierce Brosnan is best known for playing James bond, perhaps the most famous role model for men. The image shows Brosnan in front of a dark background, starring at the camera and wearing a dark shirt. He looks confident and assured, This can also be said for Rio Ferdinand and Leonardo DiCaprio in the later edition of FHM. FHM uses stereotypes to attract its audience, if the audience encounters someone who fits into a stereotype then they feel reassured and comfortable in consuming that media text.
The modern men’s magazine is about sports and cars as well as sex, fashion, women, and anything else which their editors feel might be even mildly interesting. This may partly explain the very large reader base that magazines such as Loaded and market leader FHM (500,000+ copies sold each month) enjoy. It also allows for a wide range of advertisers to take advantage of a wider range of readers. By catering to this wider audience, the new breed of men’s magazine is able to cash in on as diverse an audience as possible’ Joseph Sharples Stuart Hall put forward a model on audience reception.
Any audience can read or interpret text in three different ways. They can accept the preferred reading, in which they agree with the dominant values presented, a negotiated reading in which they agree with some of the preferred reading, or an oppositional view, where the reader completely disagrees with the dominant values presented. The reading in which the audience chooses to take depends on their own social position, gender, age, ethnicity, occupation, experience and beliefs. The audience of any media are individuals who read heir own meaning of a text.
These magazines are primarily for entertainment, and it can be argued that the stereotypes portrayed and sexist images within it are for the readers enjoyment but unlikely to change their attitudes. It can be further argued that men aren’t changing their views because of these magazines, but the magazines are a result of changing attitudes within men. A long term effect theory is the Inoculation model. This theory suggests that prolonged exposure to repeated media messages and its ideology would make the audience immune to it, the audience would come to recognise it as normal.
This can be applied to magazines, such as FHM, where the reader would come to believe that the ideology presented, about representations of gender, is the correct and accepted one. Those who take representations and comments about both men and women in these publications at face value will think it is normal behaviour and will adopt these views.
‘These lifestyle publications were perpetually concerned with how to treat women, have a good relationship, and live an enjoyable life. ‘ David Gauntlett It is blatantly clear then stereotypical representations of both men and women appear in magazines for young men.
Women are portrayed as objects for mens contemplation and enjoyment, whilst men are generally depicted with a ‘laddish’ masculinity, they are fearless, competitive, perhaps un-sensitive and un-emotional. But, as David Gauntlett argues, they address not the superman who thinks he can achieve whatever he wants, but rather these give advice on how to treat women properly, live a good life, advice on how to look good and have fun. The portrayal of masculinity in lads mags encourages its readers to be conscious of how they look i. e. focuses on articles on clothes.
Because of mens magazines or ‘lad’s mags’, then the dominant ideology presented will become stronger. Social learning theory accounts for how sex roles are appropriated and internalised; men and women imitate others of the same sex (which can be seen as role models) and are consequently rewarded by society for their sex-appropriate acts, thus encouraging them to repeat this behaviour. The men represented and the view of masculinity presented in magazines like FHM and Loaded give the reader a ‘role model’, which offer values or images to aspire to.
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