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Rhetorical Analysis of “Trashy Mag” Article

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  • Pages: 6
  • Word count: 1319
  • Category: Rhetoric

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Writing can invoke many different feelings in a person.  The type of writing that is most effective is when the author knows their points and sets out to prove their message.  Janelle Brown’s article “Trash Mags with Training Wheels” blatantly tells the reader that trash magazines are nothing more than mindless drivel for a mass audience.  Ultimately this topic becomes the clearest message in the whole article. As I read the opening paragraphs, it was difficult to understand what the author was attempting to prove. Another noticeable problem was the absence of a thesis statement compounded with the introduction of too many unrelated facts thrown in between paragraphs. The biggest problem was not that information was incorrect, but rather it was random and contradictory. The author has done a great job of research and interviews, but she does not present her work accordingly.

Disappointingly, the title of the article gave me the biggest clue on how she feels about Cosmogirl, Ellegirl, Teen Vogue, and all the other so-called trash magazines. The opening paragraphs are used to describe what Elle girls look and act like.  This was puzzling to me because her description fits exactly what many teenage girls across the country attempt to emulate.  These girls apparently now have a magazine to fit their lifestyle. Brown has given us her opinion as to how she thinks the Elle girls live, but proposes no point or argument why she believes this. At no point throughout the article does she offer proof for this claim, so the reader is left wondering if she is being serious about her allegations or whether she is being sarcastic in her approach.

Surprisingly, I do not know if she is praising or frowning upon the Elle girl lifestyle, because in one instance she seems to mock the lifestyle and then another sentence she is accepting of the methods of the lifestyle. The reader is stuck with the impression that the article is going to focus on Ellegirl magazine exclusively. To my surprise, the preceding paragraphs go into the marketing revenue of Cosmogirl, which again totally distracts any reader into not realizing the direction she is trying to go.

It appears Brown merely adds a few sensationalist tidbits of information that have nothing to do with what was previously said.  I believe she is going for a sensational type of article that will grab the reader’s attention, and once the reader’s attention is captured the reader is left wondering why they read the article in the first place.  I can imagine readers perusing through the article and wondering why the article is entitled, “Trash Mags with Training Wheels.”  The reader is left wondering what the “training wheels” part means, and how does it entail trashy magazines.

 Finally the article moves along from a history lesson about the teenage magazines to the actual topic at hand; the topic of trashy teenage magazines. Thankfully, something is spit out after the boring, lethargic start, and that is the new teen magazines are really ‘tween’ magazines.  Apparently Brown concocted the term ‘tween’ magazines to describe these types of trashy magazines that teenage girls usually purchase. The author follows her statement with a supporting point that the magazines are full of mixed up, hi-lo messages, and teenagers have a hard time figuring out all the confusing messages.

The current argument here is that the magazines have a multitude of items and topics in them that teenagers appreciate.  However, the problem with this aspect of the magazines is that they are mainly filled with garbage that has no positive impact on the reader. Brown then begins talking about the editors of these magazines.  She suggests that it is the editors that decide what is submitted for publication and they constantly scour the pulse of teenage girls in order to live up to expectations.  I am left wondering whether or not she is blaming the editors for the trashy magazines, society, or both.  Another possible option is that Brown could be saying it is the teenagers that produce a trashy image that the magazine is trying to exploit.  The reader is left pondering exactly what Brown’s feelings on the situation could be.

I believe the article would have struck a better cord with readers if she had expressed the problem, developed a system to possibly solve it, and in the meantime situated the blame for the problem accordingly.  She does specify how she feels about the situation, but she does not make me change my mind or give the issue a second thought. To be fair, Brown does have a lot to say, but she lacks direction and force.  It is not the message that is puzzling it is in the delivery of the message.  I would have liked to see an argument for the side of the teenager or the editor, but she never really takes a side in the issue.  She merely suggests she does not like the current problem, which no reader would disagree with.  In a sense it appears she attempts to play it safe with the article and not create too much controversy.

Despite the fact that I have seen one point made with a few weak supporting details, the entire paper as an argument is incredibly wishy-washy. Every paragraph talks about a different interview or topic, and her transitions are non-existent.  The topics change from comparing Cosmo girl and Elle girl to Teen Vogue love stories. I get a sense that she really has no damaging opinions about the magazines themselves, but mainly her point is about the messages they send.  This aspect of the article is what confuses me most.  I do not understand why the author would talk about the magazines in the title of the article and then proceed to not really condemn any party involved.  One would expect the culprits would be the magazine publishers, but I only got that sense from the title.

If I had to make an assumption I would say she favored Ellegirl because it was used in the opening paragraph and randomly she included that the magazine is not all about girl power, it is helping the reader discover themselves. A reader would still not know really where her allegiances stand when it comes to trashy magazines.  For instance, Brown states, “more disturbing…the fashion bible spin-offs are upping their ante in their teen glossy fare.” Basically she is saying that the prices are going up due to the expensive designers present in the magazines, and her argument is supported with the teen magazine companies basically peddling the products to teens.  She does negatively speak about the trashy magazines in “Trash Mags with Training Wheels,” but still fails to tell the audience they are trashy.

Between the unclear arguments, points, and random facts, Janelle Brown did not persuade or clearly inform me on the topic.  The title of the piece appears to be totally misleading, and ultimately disappointing after reading the article. I wish she would have concentrated on a few points and really tried to make us believe them. After reading the article, I am still wondering how Cosmogirl, Ellegirl, and Teen Vogue are trashy.  Janelle Brown’s writing obviously falls short of meeting the target audience who despise the trashy teen magazines and want garbage publications to end.  Introducing the article as “Trash Mags with Training Wheels” will introduce the wrong types of readers because the article falls well short in establishing the precedent set forth in the title.  The conclusion to many readers is that they were duped by a title that did not really express what drew them to read the article in the first place.

Works Cited

Brown, Janelle. “Trash Mags with Training Wheels.” Salon.com Life. 10 Sept. 2001.

Salon Media Group. 1 Dec. 2007 http://archive.salon.com/about/index.html .

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