Hillary Clinton on magazine covers

How are female political leaders depicted by the media? What does it mean for a woman to be a powerful political leader? 

  1. Work in groups. Study Texts 1-10 below or print out the A6 cards. To what extent is Hillary Clinton depicted as a strong political leader on each magazine cover? Discuss your answer to this question, considering considering layout, diction, composition, camera angle, lighting, symbols, body language and gaze. Rank each cover from 1 to 10, with 1 indicating that she looks least powerful and 10 indicating that she looks most powerful. Do not reveal the analysis of each cover until you have completed your ranking. 

  2. A6 cards: 'Hillary Clinton on Magazine covers'


    • Warm lighting suggests friendliness.

    • Showing teeth is a sign of emotion and weakness.

    • Alliteration of ‘helping’ or ‘hurting’ encourages binary thinking.

    • The use of a question questions her role in her husband’s campaign.

    • She is a ‘factor’ for her husband’s campaign.

    • The Time title is in front of her head, suggesting the magazine is more important than she is.

    • Camera is at eye-level, putting the reading on equal footing with her.

    • Her gaze into the camera engages the reader.

    • Sharp contrast of white on red feels edgy and powerful.

    • The lack of a smile or teeth adds to her position of strength.

    • ‘State’ is a pun (‘Secretary of State’ and to be in a ‘state’), suggesting that her mental position is to be in charge.

    • The small question ‘can [she] make a more peaceful world?’ questions her abilities.

    • Her gaze into the camera with her stark blue eyes is penetrating for the reader.

    • The Time title is behind her head, suggesting she is more important than the magazine.

    • Her posture is erect, suggesting strength.

    • The photograph has been stylized using editing software, making her appear like a cultural icon.

    • The lack of a smile or teeth adds to her position of strength.

    • Her collar is turned up, suggesting independence.

    • The camera is below her, making the reader look up to her literally and figuratively.

    • Her gaze is into the distant, making her seem focused on the future.

    • The language focuses on what she ‘believes’ and ‘why’ she thinks she will ‘win’, all of which are purpose-related words.

    • She’s not looking at her audience, which makes her seem distracted.

    • Her big laugh makes the reader wonder what is so funny.

    • The use of the comma after her name suggests there is more than just her.

    • ‘In between’ is a rather ambiguous phrase, which intrigues the reader.

    • The use of quotation marks around “ordinary, everyday” questions her words and her authenticity.

    • She does not seem to know what to do with her hands, making her appear less powerful.

    • She does not seem in control of her emotions, which is a sign of weakness.

    • The story about hearings on the Benghazi attacks has been trivialized by focusing on the Clinton’s marriage.

    • She is not aware of the camera, and is therefore not in control of the photograph, making the reader wonder if she is in control of anything.

    • ‘Bill’ and ‘Hillary’ are not formal ways of addressing them, which gives the newspaper a sleazy tone.

    • ‘The lady has some temper!’ is demeaning and condescending.

    • Bill Clinton’s expression is comical, which questions how seriously the reader should take her.

    • The context of the magazine is not concerned with ‘political power’, which detracts from her position of power.

    • The colours are bright and festive, not dark and business-like.

    • She is leaning into the chair, which suggests she requires support and strength.

    • The teasers distract from the focus on her, which questions her importance.

    • ‘Her health, her marriage and becoming a grandmother’ are seemingly more important that ‘the Presidency’.

    • The camera angle is low, making the reader look up to her, which adds to her level of power.

    • Her pressed lips and stern eyes make her appear strong.

    • She seems to be confronting someone, which is intimidating for the reader.

    • ‘Obama’s bad cop’ and ‘steely messenger’ suggest someone else controls her.

    • ‘Finding her footing’ implies that she is not in control.

    • Dark background, highly contrasted with her face and the blue ‘power suit’ add to her appearance of being in command.

    • ‘Ascent of a woman’ is a play on words with a ‘scent’ of a woman, which is more about physical attraction than political power.

    • Although the copy claims that she is the ‘most powerful first lady in history,’ the question that follows seems to question her power.

    • The camera shot is extremely close up, showing the reader every pore, wrinkle and hair, which feels disturbing.

    • Her gaze is distant, suggesting she is a visionary.

    • The over exposure, possibly caused by spotlight, suggests there is a lot of focus on her.

    • The photograph layer is behind the magazine title, taking away from her level of importance.

    • A full body shot is risky.

    • Crossed arms suggest closed personality and a firm stance.

    • The use of a question questions anyone who doubts her power.

    • The statement, ‘the world’s most powerful woman,’ clearly denotes power.

    • Her smirk suggests confidence.

    • Her gaze is direct and confronting for the reader.

    • The power suit is powerful.

    • The photograph layer is in front of the magazine title, suggesting she is more important.

    • The question mark questions everything about her and whether or not she should be a senator.

    • The oil on canvas technique is not typical of a current affairs magazine and makes the reader wonder why it was created.

    • She does not seem to know what to do with her hands, which makes her appear uncertain and insecure.

    • She is smiling, a sign of friendliness and affability.

    • The teaser, featuring ‘Leo’ detracts from the focus on Clinton.

    • The full body shot makes her look small in comparison with the blue background.

  3. How does your ranking of these covers compare to other groups' rankings? As a class, compare your rankings. Discuss your definition of 'political power' and how magazine covers can construct our understanding of 'political power'. 

  4. Create a similar ranking game for your classmates, by searching for and collecting a series of magazine covers that depict a familiar male politician or another female politician. 

  5. Write a Paper 1-style analysis of one of these covers, or a magazine cover of choice. Study the page on magazine covers in the text types section of this Support Site. Study the Paper 1 assessment criteria and an example of a good Paper 1 analysis in preparation for this activity. Ask your teacher for feedback on your analysis and place it in your learner portfolio.
Last modified: Tuesday, 25 February 2020, 12:48 PM