An image analysis of jumping, happy, exam-results-clutching blonde girls

I think in past years it’s become a bit of a joke to anticipate the kind of photos we see in the newspapers, and online, when exam results come around. So, I thought I’d put it under a bit more scrutiny, partly fuelled by my current work in web content analysis, but that’s another story, and all someone else’s fault.


So, it’s August 16th and A-Level results are out. I expected all the daily newspaper websites to be carrying stories laden with images of happy students, but possibly due to the downbeat nature of the news angle, with ‘Record fall in number of students achieving top grades’ (Daily Express), the coverage seemed to be quite low key. However, of those who did cary stories with images, I’ve done some image analysis: the Daily Mail, Sun, Daily Express and Daily Star. 

If you look at this Google Doc, you’ll get the idea of the kind of things I was looking at.

And now, some graphs.

In all four articles, there were more images of girls used than boys. I counted all instances of boys and girls in each article, and the following shows girl/boy ratio. The Sun used images of 24 girls and one boy. Tom Daley.


Another cliche is of blondes being used in these articles. In fact, this might not be upheld, all articles seemed to fairly show around 25% blondes, 75% other colour, looking at girls only. 


The third table I’d like to show is the most interesting, click to see it larger. I recorded each instance of various poses. Note that if someone was jumping with both arms in the air, with sheet in hand, they’d be ticked once in each box. Again, percentages shown here. There seems to be an overall obsession with showing the students clutching their bits of paper. The Daily Mail are also quite keen on various forms of arm waving, with a total of nearly 50% with one or two arms up.


There’s some other data in there, but these three graphs seemed to show the cherries. 

So, some thoughts:
  • What’s the source for these images? Some were used at least twice.
  • Why so many girls? I’m sure someone’s discussed this before. 
  • The image above is taken from the Daily Mail’s lead coverage. Interestingly, all girls in front, cursory boys behind. However, since lunchtime, when I did this analysis, they’ve changed the angle a bit, leading with ‘Boys are top of the class! Teenagers celebrate as they get A-level marks… and lads do better than girls at getting A* grades’, and the images have been shuffled around to put the boys at the top. 




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One Response to An image analysis of jumping, happy, exam-results-clutching blonde girls

  1. John Kirk says:

    Boys must not show emotion or raise their hands above the waist or they risk being uncool. The best they can manage is a sheepish grin, so photographers ignore them for the girls who wear less,jump and smile. Girls from an early age are encouraged to show emotion, boys are discouraged … except in a sporting context. There was a whole series of articles in Private Eye reporting on the use of "fruity" young women in The Daily Telegraph. The Telegraph of course looks down its nose at The Sun for that newspaper’s use of women and girls in photographs.

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