Monday, December 14, 2009

Shallow Life

A friend of mine is in love with rock singer Lauren Harris. He has actually spent quite a bit of time with her, so that's not as shallow and pathetic as most peoples' celebrity crushes (hello 'Twilight' fans). Another friend of mine attended a metal festival with me this past Summer, where she played, and so the subject of his childish infatuation came up. When I told him about the guy who loved her and how excited he'd been when I'd told him she had reportedly posed and interviewed for English lads' rag FHM he said "actually, I have that!", claiming to have bought it on a whim and promising to hand it over to be sent to the other guy.

It's now six months later and while digging through his stuff in preparation for moving home he found it and dutifully passed it on.

I can honestly say I have never "read" a magazine like FHM, and frankly I can't really understand the people who do with any regularity, but since this one has, temporarily at least, found its way into my possession, I had a flick through. Guys, if you want to look at photos of semi-naked or naked women, grow up and buy porn, otherwise grow the balls necessary to develop an interest even slightly off the mainstream and buy the specialist magazine for that.

Magazines like FHM are the glossy print equivalent of combination home electronics. Combi VHS/DVD players, men's grooming devices that claim to be able to cut every hair on your body closer than a wet shave, washer-driers, that kind of thing. Vacuum cleaners that make the tea. Several functions in one unit and no good at any of them. They make a terrible brew and leave the dirt on the floor. Everyone who just thought "like my wife/husband", no. Just no.

Most of it, when not concerned with glamorous photos of young celebrity women in their underwear, seems to be novelty stories aimed at the kind of people who think Seth Rogen movies are the height of sophisticated comedy. Or pages of trendy products no one has any use for, but buys anyway just in case all the other readers did the same thing. On this score the issue in question had one page each on: glow-in-the-dark shoes, desks, shoulder bags - seriously - sleeping bags, phones, and over-priced skincare products.

Nothing goes in to any depth whatsoever. There are token efforts at cars, technology, music, sport, interviews with E-list celebrities (including a surprisingly bulky Steve Guttenburg), computer games, films, and the usual top 10 this, that or the other nonsense. Almost all with more pictures than words on every page and more innuendo than an Alan Carr show. And just to prove it really is a magazine for Men, they seem to be doing a monthly sexual position tip, complete with diagrams. Classy.

There are even dinner recipes, pages on clothes, and diet plans (don't be so lazy and eat less unhealthy food, were the revelations revealed on those ten pages, by the way).

The particularly shocking hypocrisy of it all is, these are all the things women's glossy magazines are ridiculed for. Everything in here could be in a women's mag, except maybe the bits on computer games and cars.. Just like women's mags there isn't a single shred of value in anything printed within its pages. And there wasn't even a free gift on the cover!

And none of that "feminine side" insecurity drivel, please. There is no "feminine side". The things men consider or do that deem them to be "in touch with their feminine side" are nothing of the kind. They're just being nice, normal people. Note that last word there: people. It's just common sense half the time. Knowing which colours go together when picking paint for the lounge is not being in touch with the "feminine side". It just means they aren't entirely stupid and isn't even remotely linked to being male or female. Do stop stereotyping everything.

Diet, clothes, skincare products and so forth, despite macho bravado, are as necessary for men as they are for women. They're also as obvious. A £4 magazine is not necessary to tell us these things. And if you're really stuck, use the internet for free. Glossy magazines like this have become a multi-million pound industry because scores of people are stupid enough to buy them. They don't even have to try anymore. Just get a different celebrity of the opposite sex to pose on the front cover and they'll meet their copy quota for the month. The rest is dumbed-down, half-hearted and badly written; aimed at the simplest audience.

And then once a year they fill the whole thing with under-dressed celebrities (usually soap opera stars or pop singers - so readers can feel they're lusting after someone that's at least close to their league) and don't have to put the effort into the other stuff. Although for all the worth of the other stuff, they might just as well do this in every issue.

There is one plus point on their side though. At least they only do it once a month. Tabloid newspapers pull the same trick every day.