Men’s Health--Wallet’s Death
Hi Everyone! Today I want to share with you a great guest column written by my brother, Bradley Shields. Bradley is from Oxford, MS, and is a sophomore at Harding University. He enjoys playing many different sports and lifting weights. I think you will enjoy this well-written blog entry describing just how advertising and the media can shape our views about nutrition, body image, and health, for both men and women. Enjoy!
The August 2008 cover of Men’s Health features a picture of The Dark Knight movie star Aaron Eckhart. With the number one movie of the summer, Eckhart might just be the coolest guy in America. Needless to say, his image sends this month’s copy of Men’s Health flying off the shelves. Directly under Eckhart’s picture is the line, “The Dark Knight star shares his secrets to a blockbuster summer.” Now I don’t know about you, but who doesn’t want a blockbuster summer? While Men’s Health does contain some good information about general health, the majority of the articles, advertisements, and the cover attempt to show that the only barriers between you and your blockbuster summer are the many products that shape up your body, make your job less stressful, and get you lots of attention from ladies.
The cover shot of Eckhart displays him in a white v-neck tee shirt, Rolex watch, and jeans with a palm tree behind him. His messy hair and sly grin yells, “I’m cool, and I know it.” Conveniently around Eckhart are the bold titles of the feature articles. Eckhart embodies these eye-catching headlines, sealing the deal on anyone who is considering buying a copy. The headlines include “Look Better-Instantly,” “283 Health, Fitness, and Nutrition Tips,” and “Strip Away Stress.” These titles mask advertisements in the guise of informative articles. The main theme of the cover is that a few recommended products and exercise guides can transform you into a guy like the one staring at you with his hands stuffed into a thousand dollar pair of jeans. If the cover alone doesn’t make someone want to buy the recommended products, the full color, glossy advertisements will.
The advertisements in Men’s Health can be broken down into three categories. First, a large group of advertisements is devoted to products that claim to help you have “more fun.” These include various beers, sports utility vehicles, and tobacco products. In addition, there is a large section of ads that promise to improve your sex appeal. From hair gel to foot cream, there are lots of products to help you achieve health, not to mention a lighter pocket book. Finally, the largest section of advertisements is devoted to bodybuilding and nutrition supplements. This section is filled with professional bodybuilders and fitness models that are pictured standing in the ad as if they are sharing their secret to success. Energy bars, protein powders, and fat burners are the leaders in this section. Take for example a full page ad for Atro-Phex, a “fat burner.” This advertisement features a bodybuilder pulling up a cut-off workout shirt, flexing his abs. The title of the ad is “The Atro-Phex Calendar of Events.” The text of the ad has phrases like “Week 3- You can feel that conditioned look to your muscles coming on,” and “Week 4- Head to toe you may very well be more defined and cut than you thought possible.” After reading that advertisement I surely would like to go blow seventy or eighty bucks on some fat burning pills. Obviously these pills support the message that if you want to look like a healthy man, you need to buy this product.
Along with the advertisements, the articles of Men’s Health can be put into two categories. The first group of articles center on self improvement topics such as “Six Ways to Prevent being Laid Off.” These are tips about how to dress and stay up to date with the newest handheld technology. The other group of articles discusses fitness. The fitness articles are laden with products to buy that are supposed to help you achieve the goal that the title suggests like “Six Pack Abs in Ten Days.” Now I can’t tell if any of their advice is practical. The workouts seem well planned and structured; however, the articles are composed of sentences similar to the following: You’ll be feeling wiped out if you forget to fuel up with a high-protein cereal bar ($4, bulktaste.com) before this hybrid-cardio workout. I find the sentences hard to read when they are filled with so many ways to spend money. I would literally go broke if I bought half of the products the authors recommend in the “Flat-Belly Summer,” article. The message of the articles couldn’t be clearer. To look like the guys on the pages of this magazine you have got to work hard and spend harder.
Flipping through the pages of Men’s Health you’ll see many ads for high-end products promising to make you stronger, healthier, and more attractive. However, in the interview with Aaron Eckhart, which turned out to be a rather small article, he says that his formula for a blockbuster summer is, “Keeping things simple, working hard, and not taking myself too seriously.” Despite the advertisements, articles, and flashy cover, all trying to get you to buy certain products, Eckhart didn’t include any of them in his formula for a blockbuster summer.