Saturday, March 22, 2008

How Teens Learn to Buy Identity and Distinction (If They Read)

I thought this article, from Newsweek (March 17, 2008), was quite remarkable. Do we really want teenage girls to read? They could just watch t.v. to get this information.

Article to be read alongside Pierre Bourdieu's Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste.

"Branding for Beginners," by Eve Conant

Chanel Vamp Lip Gloss, Jimmy Choo heels, Gauloises cigarettes, Absolut vodka: they're the kind of brand-name products you'd expect to find in a glossy magazine. But they're popping up with astounding frequency in novels aimed at teen girls, according to a new study by Naomi Johnson, a communications studies professor at Virginia's Longwood University. Johnson looked at six best-selling novels from the "Gossip Girl," "A-List" and "Clique" series, and found that brand names appeared an average of more than once per page: 1,553 references in all. Among them were 65 allusions to brand-name alcohols, cigarettes or prescription drugs. The brand names helped drive plotlines and define characters, says Johnson, who also noticed a degree of snobbery at work: almost all 22 references to Keds served to label the girl wearing them a loser. Other lessons: don't wear Target bikinis; do wear Chanel. (A spokesperson for Alloy Entertainment, a marketing-firm subsidiary that holds the copyright for each line of books, told NEWSWEEK that it does not accept payment for product placement in any of its titles.) "The Judy Blume books I read as a kid were about life lessons and defining yourself," says Johnson. "The life lesson here is that you can buy your identity."

Symptomatic quotes:

from Dial L for Loser: "Her purple eyelet Betsey Johnson halter dress...and BCBG wedges were way more eye-catching than Alicia's...sarong."

from Gossip Girl #8: Nothing Can Keep Us Together: "A few girls lounged in leather armchairs. Jenny recognized a red-and-white patterned Marc Jacobs top on one of them."

from The A-List: "Taste testing was done...between where Skye's sheer Galliano shirt ended and her low-slung D&G camouflage pants began."

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