August 2002

Sonia Pereira

magazine whore

Kids in America

First off, I must admit I had some qualms concerning the subject matter I wanted to write about this month. I guess it seemed since the last column was about Vogue, this column should most definitely be about a long journalistic piece on bio-engineering from The Atlantic (or something along those lines, you know, serious and stuff). But damn it all, I've decided to stay true to my current reading tendencies and isn't focusing on women's or girl's mags a feminist decision anyway? Why is it that women must feel shamed for indulging time reading "women's" magazines? Are they somehow less valuable than men's magazines? And what the hell is a men's magazine anyway? Is Time a men's publication? Or does it solely include sex rags or GQ?

Anyhow, I digress. That's a topic for another column. But the point is...teen girl's magazines matter. To who? Everyone. This is the stuff influencing (ie: brainwashing or pissing off) our young women who will eventually be running this country along with the guys, or just running the households, perhaps depending on what they read from the local newsstands as teens.
So with that said...like my penchant for Vogue, I have a similar fascination with teen mags. I don't mean Tigerbeat here. I mean the newbies: Cosmogirl!, Elle Girl, and the oldie but newly revamped, YM.

While at first taking a purely academic stance when perusing these periodicals, I was enamored by the loud brashness they exude. These girl mags scream (at least most of the time, we'll get to that later) of confidence and a fuck-you-'cuz-I-rock sort of sensibility. Very Ayn Rand and very appealing. They're most assuredly hip, punky yet still in tune with a preppy sort of vibe (think Michelle Branch, Alanis...), and worldly.

However, there are still annoying sore spots inside each of these mags. Like leftovers from the 80's they ooze of teenie-bopper enthusiasm. So, to differentiate from the rad and the crap, here's a look at what new teen mag sucks and which one is worth your kid sister's three bucks.
Elle is not a terrific magazine. Elle Girl on the other hand, is pretty darn close. (Not in the same way Bust is but that's like comparing Emily Dickinson to Jewel. It just doesn't happen.) If you like diy fashion and crazy haircuts but can't deal with the highly stylized pretension of Nylon, do yourself a favor and get this magazine. There's a great column called "Globetrotters" that documents different "real" teens from around the world (mostly Europe, Japan, and South America); stories about girls that surf, skateboard, and earn black belts in karate; interviews with Israeli and Palestinian girls; cool tidbits about trendy music gurus like Puffy Amiyumi; fun fashion spreads featuring affordable threads and Sassy type models (thin but relatively normal looking...ie: not anorexic); and information loaded articles on various topics including the perils of becoming a model.

Okay, that's the pretty good stuff (but do they think every girl wants to be a model?), so now here's the regrettable stuff: a column called "International Dept." that showcases cutesy looking boys (just oozes of boy worship); the fact that all their "globetrotting" girls, though cute, are never overweight, awkward looking teens with changing bodies and braces; really stupid mini interviews with teen celebrities (Justin Timberlake, I'm talking to you, dude) that we (the hip readers) don't care about 'cuz they simply suck eggs. But despite the down-points of Elle Girl, it's still quite cute. The pros outweigh the cons here, which is a lot to expect from a mag with the word "elle" in the title.

When I found out that Christina Kelly, a former editor of Sassy, took over the editorial position at YM (a famously pathetic rag), I nearly screamed from shock. My mission? Duh! To find out if Ms. Kelly sold out!

YM is a mess of fawning gushiness, a pile of "hot and hunky" boys and ludicrous articles on O-Town and Nelly. Nevertheless, and I don't say this lightly, Ms. Kelly really got it right with the mag's fashion spreads. All the models are normal looking chicks blessed with orthodontic jewelry and baby-fat (not botoxed) cheeks. Teen awkwardness in full force! I love it!

Still, other than the models, the rest of YM (surprise!) pretty much blows. After all you can't endow a single issue of a mag with three different columns on boys ("Grade the Guys," "Real Guys," and "Love Q&A") and expect to get a medal for uh...sassiness. Cough.

So go ahead...buy Elle Girl for a little dose of teenage fun whether you're only twelve or a rockin' sixty. It ain't no YM.

(And if you covet the fashion pages of YM for the "real girls" bit, buy that too. But if you're broke, just tear out the pages in some secret spot at the local B&N. And make sure no one sees you, 'cuz if you get caught, going to jail over YM has to be the lamest thing you or your friends (even Ms. Kelly) can possible think of.)