Miley Cyrus on Cosmo Girl

Socialisation and Gender

Cosmo Girl and Miley Cyrus

With a primary target audience of teenage girls and featuring fashion shoots and interviews with celebrities, “CosmoGirl” magazine was in print circulation between 1999 and 2006 before moving online and then merging with another publication, “Seventeen”. This particular edition is from 2008, but the codes and conventions of magazine covers remain the same.

Miley Cyrus had enjoyed success with her Hannah Montana films and was preparing to release her second album. She was still considered a teen idol at this point in her career so the representation is quite different from her more recent image and branding.

Question

Analyse the “Cosmo Girl” magazine cover using the following ideas from Cultivation theory:

  • Socialisation
  • Standarisation
  • Enculturation
Cosmo girl Cover
Cosmo Girl Cover

Points to Consider

Every society has its own values, ideologies and behaviours which are deemed acceptable. Socialisation is the internalisation of these norms and describes how we grow up to simply take a wide range of cultural truths as self-evident.

Gender identity, which we often take for granted, should be the focus of your answer.

It is obvious from the cover that some of the codes are associated with femininity. For example, look at the choice of the pink font for the word “girl” and how it is reinforced in the banner and several of the titles. The “girly” connotation of pink is well-established and repeated by the media. Gerbner defined this pull towards conformity as standardisation.

You also need to comment on the celebrity’s demure body language, especially the way her hand reaches across to touch her forearm. This is quite a defensive posture typical of the passive representation of femininity. In other words, girls are expected to be shy and gentle.

Although there are elements of alternative fashion to her clothing, you should comment on their feminine qualities, such as the soft yellow of her top and the thin belt Miley Cyrus is wearing.

The stories featured on the cover help reinforce gender stereotypes. While boys are supposed to be tough, girls are expected to be “pretty”, so you should analyse “hottest look”, the “romance” angle and the competition to shop at “your favourite stores”. It is the “spring shopping issue”.

It is also important to note that the young demographic buying the product are being taught the values and norms of this gender identity. By looking at the important signifiers, you should be able to comment on the enculturation, or how the media influences our understanding of gender roles.

A final thought: has the representation of young women on the cover of magazines changed at all since 2008?

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