The Big Issue is a magazine that is published so it can be sold by the homeless. It does not have a fixed fee; instead buyers are welcome to donate any sum they choose. Sold by the homeless at vendors, outside supermarkets and on the High Street, its buyers are usually young, sympathetic pedestrians, cyclists or shoppers who wish to help those who live on the street.
The magazine is aimed at a generally affluent, young adult audience and this is indicated by the reference to the popular celebrities of the time (Bros and Peter Andre), which most young adults would be aware of and interested in, and the inclusion of certain social issues, such as smoking and anorexia (applicable mainly to young adults). Also, the writer’s use of everyday language, for example “And let’s face it” and “fork out” (instead of formal language), relates to a younger audience. The informal language and light-hearted tone show that Williams expects her readers to be young and willing to read ‘lively’ articles rather than boring text. Her tone is persuasive and informal but with a serious note to her subject of ‘tanorexics’. She writes about tanorexics in a sort of sardonic way, as though implying that the typical reader is intelligent and sure to agree with her views on them.
‘Sun Vampires’ is a very strange, intriguing title. The image it evokes is quite unusual and striking as two very opposite, contrasting elements are being thrown together. The paradox is quite a clever way to attract readers and encourage them to read on, as vampires are usually associated with nighttime and the sun is fatal to them. It appeals to a young adult audience because they are usually very interested in horror and fantasy.
The sub-heading is a further ruse to attract the reader’s attention, as it does not clearly explain the subject of the article. It conjures a variety of images and makes the reader curious as to what the article may be about. “Desperate for a sun fix” makes a casual browser think of desperados looking for something to end their ‘misery’ – perhaps drugs or something similar. The word “incarcerated” brings to mind corpses, which makes the article’s subject seem even more sinister, from the first mention of “desperate for a sun fix”; this is cultivated by the use of the word “coffins”.
The play-on-words, “tanorexics”, coined by Williams herself, suggested tanners with the desperation of anorexics. This further intensifies the reader’s interest as suntanning is not usually as serious an issue as anorexia. The use of anorexia here is very adroit as it is makes the situation more serious and also dangerous, rather than if Cayte had ‘invented’ the word “tan-aholics” for example. Finally, the phrase “hi-tech coffins” is used to make us feel as though sunbeds are a new way of killing humans. This escalates the situation because it gives the feeling of death and danger.
The tone of this piece is generally light-hearted and humorous, but with a subtle mixture of seriousness and amusing expressions. The mood is cleverly set by Williams, who manages to manipulate our feelings by creating a more sombre tone for example when Jane Horwood is giving an account of her experiences with sunbed-tanning and also when the dermatologist gives us her views on the subject. The article switches between humour and gravity, but scorns sunbeds and their users throughout. This is immediately established in the first paragraph where Cayte Williams puts the reader into a sunbed and makes them feel ridiculous by using cartoon-like imagery, such as “big plastic cocoon”, “weird blue light”, “strange humming noise” and “naked and sweating”.
This is highlighted by the rhetorical question: “Have you been abducted by aliens?”. The asinine image of “walking raisins” in the final sentence of the second paragraph reinforces this also, as the second paragraph was filled with a serious gravity and then, in the final sentence, Williams changes the mood back to light-hearted and humorous with this verbal illustration. The writer makes the reader feel personally involved by using the second person and putting the reader into the situation, by making them imagine themselves in a sunbed. She also uses rhetorical devices to make the reader think about the situation as well as being involved.
Cayte Williams changes the tone again, when she refers to Jane Horwood’s experiences. Sunbed-tanning is rendered a dangerous addiction, especially with the mention of smoking and anorexia. In social circles, smoking and anorexia are probably the most ‘frowned upon’. The dangers of smoking and anorexia both are very perilous, and to be connected with ‘harmless’ suntanning ‘shocks’ readers. The words “religiously” and “obsession” also underline its severity, with the word “confesses” making it appear almost criminal. The fact that she may have lost her baby as a result of sunbed-tanning, makes the whole invention seem threatening.
People are more likely to believe someone if they are an expert or doctor on the subject of matter and are therefore easily impressed, regardless of whether all of what they say is understood. Cayte Williams uses this to her advantage with the introduction of Doctor Julia Bishop as a “consultant dermatologist at St James’ University Hospital in Leeds”. This is used to impress upon us that Williams’ subject must be taken seriously and that she has got the evidence of a not only a ‘doctor’ but also a ‘consultant dermatologist’. The effect of a lot of scientific jargon only some of which readers may understand is used to try to convince them of Williams’ point of view.
Williams refers to suntanning as an “industry”. The use of this simple word implies a lot. Firstly, that it is used to by people to make money from others gullibility (as a lot of industries do). Secondly, that it has become a very major moneymaking scheme. Inverted commas are used to express scepticism on Williams’ part of the purported “controlled tanning” and “consultation” as she thinks that these regulations are not followed and they do not prevent addiction.
Our feelings towards Victoria Williams’ addiction are developed into much more negative ones than they were towards Jane Horwood’s. Cayte Williams achieves this by first using the sentence “The Tanning Shops’ black vertical tanning booths look unnervingly like upright coffins, but tanorexics will not be put off.” Then she makes Victoria Williams’ alibi of a “skin complaint” look like an excuse because she says that Williams is hooked. She goes on to show Victoria Williams as a reckless person, by saying that she is not even worried about the latest sun-bed scare (highlighted by the use of the word “defiant”). Cayte Williams also refers to Victoria as a “shameless tanorexic”.
Williams finally seeks to deride suntanning completely in the final four paragraphs. She gives us a list of ‘famous people’ who use sunbeds, as though revealing their egotism to the public; each point is like a reinforcement of her message.
* “Models and media people pop in for a top-up on a regular basis” shows the shallowness of models and media people and is used scornfully to show us that people who use sunbeds are shallow and vain as well.
* “Who says tanning isn’t trendy?” mocks those who use sunbeds just because they can (i.e., they are wealthy) and also the media, who play an important role in promoting sunbed usage.
* “Secretive” is used to show that men who use sunbeds are embarrassed to admit to it and also sunbed users in general are aware of the dangers yet they still carry on using them, making them seem ‘underhand’ and ‘wily’.
* The way Williams writes that Paddy Ashtown’s “rugged outdoor tan was of the indoor variety” makes it seem as though he was trying to create a false image of himself and fool everyone into thinking that he led a very desirable lifestyle. She portrays the political leader as sly also and this highlights her overall ‘mission’ to ridicule suntanning and suntanners alike.
* “(Not his real name)” makes John Stevens seem overly vainglorious especially with his blush, and his remark that “there’s this unspoken idea that a ‘real man’ should get his tan doing something rugged and adventurous,” and that he would never want anyone to know that he uses a sunbed, proves Williams’ point.
* Lastly the use of the phrase “Essex Man” is the final strike which completely undermines users of sunbeds, making them seem absurd and self-centred. The description “tandoori tan” makes fun of the tan as ‘starkly red’ implying that it is very fake.
Cayte Williams makes clear her attitude towards sunbeds as unhealthy, harmful and dangerous and conveys her message by portraying tanorexics as materialistic and vain. Even the suppliers of sunbeds are disparaged by being made to seem as though they are preying on gullible customers. The bottom line is not to have anything to do with artificial tanning as it is bad for the health, addictive and makes a person foolishly self-absorbed.