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Conform to our standards or you'll be uncool . . . OH NO!

I think it's cool that they make something for teenagers to read, but why is so much of it so stupid? Of course, I speak of our friends the teen girl mags.

Teen. Seventeen. YM. I don't read them, and I don't know what's good about any of them because I don't read them. So this essay will probably come across rather biased, seeing as how I am mostly responding to what I remember of these magazines when I read them as a teenager and also to what I see on the covers of them nowadays. Here are my complaints.

  • The magazines make it seem like the point of life is to get a man. On every cover, it's "how to get HIM to notice you," "how to tell if HE likes you," "how to get the look that gets HIS attention," et cetera. There are features on the "most luscious" guys and pictures of all the "hotties," with lots of drooling over them to make you think you need to drool too. What if I am a lesbian? What if I'm just not interested in guys? I guess that makes me uncool, or at least "a little weird" and therefore unworthy of the popularity prize or something. I guess these tips are nice for girls who really are "crushing on a major hottie" or something, but I think overall they just make you feel like if you're not either lusting after some guy or already dating one, there's something wrong with you.

  • The magazines devote too much time to fashion and make-up. Oh, jeez, I know, I know . . . I know that this is what the girlies are interested in and that this is what they want to know. I sure wish that wasn't the case, though. There are so many features on how to look great, be it with these clothes, this make-up, that hairstyle . . . and of course, all these models have been attacked by professional designers who are paid to make them look stunning. Sorry to burst your bubble, girls, but you are NOT going to look like that just because you buy Noxzema face cleanser, Bongo jeans, and Revlon cosmetics. In fact, you are probably going to be frustrated because a lot of this stuff makes you look much worse than you would without make-up or designer clothes. I know that girls like to play themselves up with make-up and fancy clothes sometimes, and so some "beauty tips" are definitely advisable, but . . . why so much?

  • OHMIGOD, she's SO THIN. I've never seen a fat model. I'm sure that most people have heard this complaint many times, but why is it that the so-called "models" of our fashions don't look like most of us? They're modelling the clothes so we will see what they look like on us, right? Well, that's not going to work, since most of the people reading this magazine have an ass three times that size and legs one half that long. That's NOT what these clothes will look like on THEM. Yes, I hear you: they're not really modelling clothes so we'll see what they'll look like on us; they're modelling them so that we will see how cute they look on a "model citizen" and think they will be able to do something for us too. In other words, to SELL CLOTHES. So, conveniently, there is also an abundance of "how to lose weight" articles in these magazines. Ya gotta be thin, or, ya know, you can't get the look, so the boys won't like you, and then, girl, you know you are just screwed. No hope for you now. For the record, I don't have a weight problem and am not "just bitching because seeing thin people makes me feel bad," as I have been accused. It annoys me because it *does* make people feel bad, and gives us an unrealistic body image of what an attractive woman should look like and really doesn't do anything else but sell clothes, which isn't good for the girls who read the magazine.

  • The ads really suck. Some of them are okay and do what they're supposed to do, but especially in the back sometimes you see things that actually say "Get the look that gets the boys!" and all this weird stuff. A lot of the ads advertise products that aren't so great for you, or portray girls in ways that they don't really act, or just are really stupid and infantile. They also often clash with the magazine's articles, like there might be an article on how horrible it is to be anorexic and how your body needs its food, and then there'll be an ad for a diet on the next page or a picture of a woman who looks seriously anorexic happily modeling. Or there could be a thing on "slutty" clothes and how you don't have to be slutty to be pretty, and on the next page someone wearing extremely revealing clothes just to sell the product.

  • Dat phat lingo. They try desperately to keep up with the times and end up throwing together things that could only be described as screwed up. This is not how anyone talks. I don't think I've ever heard anyone call their zits "blemishes," nor do I hear people regularly saying: "My 'rents are out of town, let's have a bash and invite all our buds and lots of hotties." And I really hope no one would come up to me and go, "Say, are you in the know about America's most luscious superstars??" Everything from "groovy" to "def" is used with regularity to make it sound like they're down with us. It just sounds like the writers are psycho.

  • Star news and the like . . . oh yay. Some of this is fine, but I hate it when they dig up dirt on some superstar and think it's front page news when they find out someone's favorite color . . . well, okay, so THAT wouldn't be front page news, but WATCH OUT if he's got a girlfriend that nobody's heard about 'til now! Stop the press, some dude in the Backstreet Boys used his dick last night and EVERYONE KNOWS!!!! Heh. Honestly, I never cared too much about the lifestyles of the rich and famous, but I guess if they're the trendsetters then the majority is going to be interested. Weirdly, young girls fall in love with superstars all the time and get enraged when they find out he has a girlfriend or something . . . "He's MINE!" Since when, he doesn't even know you, it's not like because you went to his concert and sent him a love letter you have more dibs on him than the other three hundred thousand "biggest fans." Ehh, the whole superstar thing is just screwed up . . .

  • Is your best friend trying to steal your man? Take this quiz and FIND OUT! I hate these quizzes. They're usually not based on anything, not tested for reliability or validity (obviously, since they would fail miserably), and are easy to rig consciously or unconsciously. You get the result you want or suspect. The situations rarely have any bearing on reality and the choices to pick from never include what you really would do. What kind of b.s. is this? And how can someone at YM or whatever tell if my man really likes me when they don't even know him? How do they know that these are the signals every man gives out when he wants to break up? Do I need a quiz to find out if my ass is too large? Damn.

  • Is this poetry? Just because it rhymes doesn't mean it's a poem, girls. I guess if you wanna get technical it's a poem if the author says it is, but some of this stuff is so drippy and cliché that I can't help but roll my eyes and turn the page. It is rare that I see actual good poetry in there . . . I guess they're trying. Hopefully one day they'll tackle subjects other than love, popularity, and individuality.

  • Horoscopes. This goes back to my first complaint, the one about getting a man. Why is it that no matter what sign of the Zodiac I am, I have advice on when, how, and through what actions I should go about "getting that special someone to notice me"? What if I already have a boyfriend? Should I get someone to notice me anyway because the stars say so? Outside of teen magazine horoscopes there are plenty of other things in life besides guys, not that I plan my life around those either. It is written in the stars that every teen girl should chase men around all year long.

So, you may ask, is there anything I LIKE about these magazines?

No, not really.

I suppose it could be said that they help certain age groups gain an identity, but is that a good thing considering what they're having them identify with? It could be said that these magazines have lots of useful information; sure they do, but useful to what purpose? I suppose sometimes they have good articles; once in a while I have seen a really good one on eating disorders, compulsive shopping and how it really happened to one girl and how she got over it, stories of other girls who don't feel so popular, et cetera. But then after the page on eating disorders you see the anorexic model in Levi jeans. After the compulsive shopping article you see fourteen ads for things the manufacturers want you to buy. After the "it's okay to be yourself" ad you get the pointers on how to be cool in school. The bad outweighs the good. Check them out if you don't believe me. I guarantee they're full of how to catch your crush (assuming you have one), how to wear your make-up (assuming you want to) and how you're supposed to look (assuming you give a rat's ass).

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