Last week, for reasons unknown, I received a copy of Teen Vogue in the mail. At first it went into the recycling, but I pulled it out a few days later with a mix of nostalgia and professional feminist interest.
I know I’m not blowing anyone’s minds here, but it is really a terrible magazine. My favorite article was one about how to dance like Beyonce, which contained this line, “Oh, if only I could douse myself in Pulse (a sparkly blend of citrus, vanilla, jasmine, and orchid – B’s favorite flower) and have 1.7 liquid ounces of her dancing talent transfer into my beat-challenged body.” And of course there was an ad for the perfume nearby.
I don’t even know how to feel about an ad campaign about bullying sponsored by a deodorent company with the tagline, “Being Mean Stinks!” One article was not selling clothes or perfume, but actually a book (about ballerinas, but still – a book!). The only article that wasn’t a blatant advertisement was a two page one about surviving mean gossip.
Amazingly, this magazine is $10 for a 2 year subscription AND you get a free purse. So cheap! Especially compared to how outrageously expensive scientific and literary journals are these days – maybe they should have a few more perfume ads to keep costs down?
Although I subscribed to teen magazines as a teen, they surely weren’t this bad – were they? My favorite magazine as a pre-teen was 3-2-1 Contact, which featured cool science facts and a recurring story about some very good looking teenagers who traveled through time and solved mysteries (Time Team!). Wikipedia tells me this magazine went defunct in 2001. I suppose traveling through time doesn’t have enough opportunities for product placement. (“I’m a curvy girl, but this rough-spun wool smock is so totally slimming!” “This atl atl is my favorite method of spear throwing – I can’t believe I ever settled for less!”).
I got to subscribe to only one magazine a year growing up and I remember the year I painfully decided to drop 3-2-1 Contact and start getting Seventeen magazine. I know this is shocking, but selling-out my beloved science magazine did not make me cool and popular! It did, however, give me some ammunition to quietly disdain the vanity of those who were cool and popular, with a mix of derision and desperate longing.
I’m happy to say that as an adult, viewing this magazine made me feel mostly flabbergasted. And some pity, and a vague need to wash my hands and eyeballs.