All talk, no action?

June 13th, 2008
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They’ve really got you at the check-out counter. Candy, chocolate, gum and all the trashy pulps giving the latest news on the Bat-boy, the lost predictions of Nostradamus and the state of cellulite on the gams of various celebrities. Despite the common dearth of historical knowledge among the public, at least the average shopper will know who Nostradamus was, and Elvis.

A noticeable change at the check-out that’s occurred over the last few years though, is the increased focus on one particular topic. Competition is what it is. Once Cosmopolitan set out into soft-pornographic territory more than 30 years ago, it was inevitable that other “ladies magazines” would follow suit.

Ironically, while “men’s” magazines have been moved up and away behind the counter – far from the prying eyes of curious teens – no one seems to be concerned about the pithy covers of mags dangling at the eye level of an average four-year-old. A recent random sample is instructive. Cosmo, not surprisingly leads the way with an intriguing feature called “Taboo Sex”; it’s UK cousin having the somewhat milder, but catchy “How to be a Sex Genius”. These are just two of the half dozen or so, sub-equatorially-focused, titles on each cover; suggesting content that would make the Kama Sutra look like Mother Goose.

Other magazines that used to mostly peddle casserole recipes and cosmetics are in the game too. In Style offers “What’s Sexy Now”; Flare has “Sexy Eyes in 5 Minutes” and Glamour “101 racy little ideas”. The latter is advertised to provide creative ways to fill your time over the summer.

Most surprising to me are some of the headlines on our homegrown Chatelaine. This week focuses on Sex and the City’s Kim Catrall, last week had a screaming headline asserting “We’re not getting enough sex!” Well, that may be true, but there’s sure no shortage of headlines.

Another recent cover talked about “Taking care of men’s new sexual needs”. New needs? What about the old needs? Is there agreement that those were looked after?

Speaking of which, it’s worth remembering the famous episode of Seinfeld, “The Contest”. Yes, THAT contest. It begins with George being caught losing mastery of his domain due to a particularly enticing copy of Glamour magazine. The joke, back in 1992 anyway, was how anyone could possibly be so distracted by a copy of Glamour.

That was then, this is now. Glamour’s come a long way baby in the last 16 years. Today it seems unlikely that George would have lasted past the fifth or sixth “racy little idea”.

Speaking of which, what about this one hundred and one ideas? Sounds like that might require an intense training program. If memory serves, the spring editions of these mags used to talk about getting fit so the bikini would fit again, come summer. Now the emphasis seems to be less on the actual wearing of the bikini, but rather everything one should be doing without one.

Call me cynical, but the sheer volume of these headlines suggests to me that there’s more than a little “protesting too much” going on here. If everything described in the headlines was actually happening, there’d be no time to write the magazines, let alone read them.

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