Degree Year

2003

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

English

Keywords

Teen, Magazines, Zines, YM, Seventeen, Teenage girls

Abstract

The first half of my paper closely examines teen magazines, with three major thematic areas of focus. Because the constructed ideal is such a fundamental part of teen magazines' pleasure, I look at editors' rhetorical strategies for establishing their expectations of their audience. Teen magazines depend so heavily on advertising revenue that they must necessarily construct the ideal teen as materialistic. In my next section, I consider some effects of magazines' focus on commodities. Finally, I look at the ways in which the special discourse of teen magazines shapes the constructed ideal and affects readers' pleasure. I focus on the sexual discourse, especially relevant because these magazines are read at puberty. I concentrate on the two best-selling American teen magazines, Seventeen and YM, since they presumably reach the widest audience and have the most appeal.

In the second half of my paper, I will discuss the strategies girls use to negotiate with textual meanings and messages, and the varying degrees of success they achieve. Most critics (with some exceptions, such as Dawn Currie) do not work directly with readers, but read the negative effects of the texts off the texts themselves. To help me understand how and why girls read teen magazines, I conducted focus groups with high-school aged girls in five different communities. I focused on reading practices as illustrative of their methods of negotiation with the texts, and on preferences among and within popular magazines to try to get at pleasure. I hoped that by making them articulate why they preferred certain magazines, or certain sections of magazines, to others, I could figure out why they like teen magazines in general. I also look at teenage girls' zines as a response to magazines like Seventeen and YM in their own medium. These amateur publications, produced by girls who see themselves as outside the mainstream, reflect one creative method of negotiation with teen magazine meanings.

Teen magazines deserve most of the criticism levied at them; their negative effects have been proven. However, I intend to problematize the current critical consensus by focusing on teenage girls as active meaning makers and agents of their own pleasure.

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