Despite spectacles, simulation and simulacra being complex and quite intangible concepts, they become a bit more discernible when we think about magazines. Putting in more basic terms, Baudrillard and Debord’s ideas refer to media creating a different world, an alternative phenomenon not connected to the one we are actually living in – a hyper-reality. The idea sounds a bit too ‘conspiracy theory’ to me but it does have its applications to media practice, in special magazine productions.
A great part of the creation of a magazine is developing visual contents and putting them all together. This content is a very powerful marketing tool, it needs to be appealing to the audience you are trying to reach and it is a necessary strategy to guarantee revenue from readers and advertisers. The downside is that it often happens that magazines are actually deceiving readers into seeing the portrayed image as a real one. Appealing content is often unrealistic: models that look incredibly beautiful, houses that are expensively decorated, trips to exotic and overpriced places.
Celebrities gossip magazines – Hello, OK, Celebs Now, etc – have a talent for portraying –and selling – a reality where we, the audience, are inferior and less important that famous personalities. The main purpose of this type of magazine is exactly to entertain and distract the reader. They can be very successful at times. If you read through Hello! magazine, it is nearly impossible not to feel intimidated by the lifestyle they are portraying. Expensive dresses, crazy diets, lack of privacy in public, affairs. Their audience is somehow placed in a lower level of reality, where people need to work five days a week, in not-so-glamorous jobs, anxiously waiting for the weekend so we can spend it binge watching series on Netflix. It is easy to feel envious of the world celebrities live in because it feels like it is unreal, we cannot connect to it.
Other examples are also ‘women’ magazines, such as Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire. They are literal examples of spectacles. For years, these magazines had been illustrating women with unattainable bodies and faces and hair. As well as giving advises on how to be a good mother, girlfriend, wife, etc. The real world women have eye bags, greasy hair and loads of them are single and independent. And yet, we do not see them on magazine covers.
The reality we see on some magazines (may I exclude here news and current affairs magazines, for example) do not represent their readers’ everyday life. They are primarly instruments for admiration and entertainment – and of course, profits.
ps.: The coming of social media, on the other hand, enabled some campaigns against ‘the perfect body’. Those are attempts to show women how they truly are and fight against unrealistic beauty standards dictated in magazines.