Much has been written about the effect of women’s magazines on body image, thanks to the wonders of photoshop. Yet, the extent we embrace fiction in women’s magazines goes beyond ‘thinspiration’. Much of the content involves words weaved around photographs of our favourite celebrities. As for the quality of some of that content? ‘Guesswork’ is perhaps a gentle way to describe it.
In the second of an ad hoc series about how women’s magazines flirt with fakery (for the first, see ‘How I lost 7kg in seconds, or can photos really lie?’), let us explore why the same celebrity can have either a disastrous or glorious evening depending on which magazine you read.
Ably assisting my research is a 26 hour international flight. I devour a veritable library of need-to-know gossip. To protect their identity, we will give these magazines generic names such as New Idea, Woman’s Day, Hello! and OK!.
How photos tell the story
Depending on the image a particular publication selects, the mood of a story can be transformed from celebratory to sour.
Our first victim: Jennifer Aniston. Now you, like me, might have wondered how things could last so long between one of the world’s most eligible bachelorettes and Justin Theroux, the dark haired actor boyfriend with a great name who rides a motorbike and wears leathers. I mean, surely he should be blonde…?
You will therefore not be surprised to read of a massive dust up between them at the Golden Globe Awards which has an ‘On the Rocks!’ headline just waiting for the next edition. What – you need proof? The good news is that you have it, courtesy of photos of Jen ‘talking with her hands’ to Justin. Yep – those hands should have stayed by her sides. It looks bad.
But wait! An hour later, I am reading a story of ‘Golden Couple’ Jen and Justin, at the same occasion. What – you need proof? The good news is that you have it, courtesy of photos of Jen standing by Justin’s side as presumably a battery of cameras level their lenses at them on the red carpet. They look good (Justin does have a lot of teeth).
WHY THE DIFFERENCE?
A range of choices will dictate how a magazine reports an event. For instance, did a representative attend the event? Does the magazine have reliable sources? Does the magazine care whether it tells the truth or not (and some do in fact consider there to be a market advantage in telling the truth)? Does it have a subconscious bargain with its readers that its stories are fictional escapism? Or is the magazine simply focused on circulation, with truth an optional extra?
For those magazines where truth may not have such a high priority, there is an enormous array of photographic images readily available which can tell a story one way or the other. No representative need attend the event in question. No sources are required.
For example, available for purchase are photos from a stock image powerhouse such as Getty Images.
Type ‘Golden Globes’ into the Getty Images search engine, and 192,558 images will be available for use. To narrow the search, try typing in ‘2015 Golden Globes’. Now you only have 22,145 results to review.
Now, let’s see what happens if we type in ‘Jennifer Aniston 2015 Golden Globes’. We have 478 images, or a story ready to happen.
Why not try this for yourself? Put yourself into the mindset of your favourite magazine’s sub-editor. We are at an after party with Jen and Justin. She appears to be talking. Clearly, they have “had words”…
Just in case you were wondering whether this was an intimate evening capable of revealing ‘truths’ about the relationships between stars and their other halves, here is what the experience really looks like.
The Golden Globes were certainly a turbulent night for Amal Alamuddin, or so the photographic story goes. One magazine displays an image of George canoodling Amal with his eyes. No wonder they ‘Stole the Show at the Golden Globes’ and are ‘More in Love than Ever!’
Yet, another magazine decided Amal was lost in the tedium of the evening. Actually, the accompanying images appear closer to reality than most (see US Weekly for similar photos). Could it be (in breathless tones) that Hollywood is not really for her?
Of course, the real news was the uproar over Amal’s decision to wear white gloves with her black evening dress. It leant towards a sinister trend of being covered up. Now, ‘the gloves’ have their own Twitter account @AmalsWhiteGlove with the Twitter handle “Make Glove Not War”. For an example of the kind of content available on that Twitter feed, see below.
To help understand the variety of content about Amal, type in ‘Amal Alamuddin Golden Globes’ into the Getty Images search engine. Reviewing the 129 available images, one gains a sense of a beautiful woman unaccustomed to the preening required at these sorts of events. Again, that need not get in the way of a ‘good story’.
This photo shows the effort which goes into that ‘natural’ red carpet moment.
This photo shows Amal with another love interest in competition with George. Oh wait. It is the bodyguard.
Ultimately, these award ceremonies are big business, in which all participants form part of a tacit bargain intended to further their careers and bank accounts. Is that then, the ‘real story’?
Working out the limits between ‘real’ and ‘fake’ can, in this context, be a hard ask.
In the next of our continuing series, perhaps we should explore Star Signs. Depending on which magazine I read, why is it that my year as a Scorpio is destined either for greatnesss or disaster?