Tesco Catalogue and the Cultivation Theory

Tesco Catalogue

Tesco remains one of the largest retailers in the UK and, in terms of revenue, one of the most successful supermarkets in the world. In 2006, the company created a shopping catalogue, supplying non-food products such as children’s toys and homeware. Although the catalogue is no longer published and most of its offering is now online, its division of the toy section into products for boys and girls is still common practice in the industry.

This two-page spread comes from a Christmas edition of the catalogue.


Analyse the following two-spread from Tesco’s catalogue in terms of George Gerbner’s cultivation theory.

Old Tesco Catalogue
Tesco Catalogue

Points to Consider

The cultivation theory refers to our repeated exposure to the mass media and the common messages they express. The argument is straightforward: the more we watch a certain representation or see particular ideology, the more we will believe its veracity. However, in an unseen question, you will be asked to scrutinise one or two texts. Therefore, you should focus on the depiction of values, attitudes and lifestyles and explain how they reinforce cultural myths.

The primary target audience for these toys is young boys so our analysis should focus on masculinity and how society constructs gender. For example, what do the colour codes used in the magazine traditionally connote?

You must comment on the types of toys being advertised: the robot, the vehicles, especially the big-wheeled cars and rocket ships, Bob the Builder and the construction set, and the male superhero, Batman. Even Ubercorn the unicorn is masculine in the show “Go Jetters”. Since toys should be educational, just what do these products teach children? The term enculturation should be used here to describe this social learning.

Describe the reaction of the two boys, especially their facial expressions and gestures. You should also consider other aspects of their representation.

Further Reading

Thanks for reading!