Friday, February 5th, 1999
LONDON—When I was in journalism school (and yes, I have to admit I actually went to school to be able to write these words for you), I imagined the thrill of filing a story from an exotic byline.
And, well, now I have. Gosh, it is a kick to bat words into my trusty Powerbook from the land that ice machines have still largely forgotten. The United Kingdom, where the Internet, the Simpsons, Buffy, and most other components of our pop culture survive, albeit in a strange other-side-of-the-road alternate universe.
And it’s from England’s newsstands that we get the inspiration for a new generation of "men’s lifestyle magazines," rightly skewered in a recent Newsweek. Publications like Maxim and their followers are (yes, it’s possible) even more focused on breasts and beer in their euroincarnations. The newest of these critters here: Boys Toys, which has a woman sprawled on the hood of a car, surrounded by (as I squint at the cover on the newsstand from a distance), the bold words "Sex," "Get Rich Quick," and "Win a Porsche." If you see these words above the fold on next week’s Atlanta Press, you’ll know why.
On their way to American shores is a similar horde of women’s lowest-common-denominator pubs (or their clones) that make Cosmo seem like TV Guide. Take a twentysomething gal’s magazine called uh, Minx that screams "Be a sex goddess (first turn to page 28)" next to its Jewel-clone cover model. She sits alongside a headline that says "Nose job and a double room please," for a piece about those oh-so-popular cosmetic surgery/vacation holiday combo packages. Also inside: how to be happy—stop wearing black, buy a furby, get married, and take drugs. Oh, don’t thank me for this advice—thank Minx.
Maybe it’s just truth in advertising—yet another of these glossies (I was too numbed at this point to note the name) heralds "It’s OK to Be a Slut." Say it loud.
And memo to the AJC’s feature department: every Tuesday, the London Daily Mirror now gives women Zone—a section that is not "girly, but sexy, in your face and modern." Mirror editor Tina Weaver, speaking to Britian’s Press Gazette, minces no words. "It’s not going to be a giggly, how-to-pull-a-fella type it is quite sexually explicit and we will cover every aspect of sex unblushingly." The launch issue had orgasms, lesbianism, bisexualitym and an imaginary diarist that out Bridget Jones-es the original exponentially.
Just imagine the ladies at Mary Mac’s tea room opening their afternoon AJC and finding that kind of garden of earthly delights!
No, I understand that editors have to do what they can to sell copies, but it is from the British tradition that we get an editor prattling on (and they all do, especially here) about the noble importance of their work and their indispensability to their target demographic—while ordering up new ways to feature sex—both the actual word and absolutely any variation on the idea—for their next cover. That duality, popularized perhaps in the States by Hugh "read it for the articles" Hefner, definitely has deep roots planted in the Old World.