Magazines and Popular Culture

Exceptional People, an Exceptional Medium

Authored by: Elizabeth Crisp Crawford

The Routledge Handbook of Magazine Research

Print publication date:  June  2015
Online publication date:  June  2015

Print ISBN: 9781138854161
eBook ISBN: 9781315722283
Adobe ISBN: 9781317524533


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“Media texts do not present messages about our culture; they are culture.” 1 In this statement Lana Rakow emphasizes the cultural significance of mediated messages. Rakow’s perspective reinforces ideas originally presented by French sociologist and philosopher Pierre Bourdieu, who argues that mediated messages serve as a powerful cultural reinforcement, generating symbolic and cultural capital that helps establish societal norms. 2 One such culture is celebrity culture, which Imogene Tyler and Bruce Bennett argue “is disseminated across such a vast range” of contemporary popular communication media that its boundaries are challenging to define. Moreover, they suggest that journalistic commentary and gossip extend the exceptional “personae” of celebrity into ordinary social exchanges and practices, 3 giving the portrayal of celebrities exceptional power over audiences and society as a whole, both nationally and internationally. Although journalistic media share a number of common characteristics, magazines are distinct from other forms of media. David Abrahamson describes magazines, unlike newspapers, broadcast media and on-line media, as having a distinct and powerful role both as a product of social and cultural movements and as a catalyst for social change—what Abrahamson calls “magazine exceptionalism.” 4

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