Monday, October 17, 2005

Magazines play games with history

The American Society of Magazine Editors just released their list of the"40 greatest magazine covers in the past 40 years"(http://www.magazine.org/editorial/13730.cfm). I have two reactions to it: the first is to yawn, the second is to snort at it's lameness.

I'll be fair, some of the covers are classics- who could forget the National Geographic cover of the Afghani woman from the mid 1980s? Or the Life magazine's 1969 photo of Neil Armstrong on the Moon? And I'm fishing to understand a few of them: like the Andy Warhol in a Campbell's Soup Can one (Esquire 1969), which doesn't really go anywhere or say anything. And it strikes me as very......small minded. Not in any ideological sense, but in a "do you honestly think that the people from 1980 through to present day give a flying rat's ass about the avant garde movement?" I mean, today you could ask alot of folks about Andy Warhol, and they'd just give you a blank stare. So it's historical worth is dubious on that level. And then there's Blue, Oct. 1997. I just don't get that. At all.

Otherwise, it's a yawner because it just tries to uphold the magazine editor's political ideologies as a dominant force. That kind of naked maneuvering is usually called "projectionism", basically to project your personal feelings or beliefs onto an issue in which it doesn't necessarily relate to directly.

Let's face it- the Entertainment Weekly cover of the Dixie Chicks isn't famous. No one's going to give a crap about it a few years from now. Same goes for the Ellen Degeneres "I'm Gay" Time 1997 cover (btw, she's not "gay" she's lesbian. Grammatically speaking, the cover says she's happy, not a lesbo. If Ellen was a guy, the meaning would be true, but as it is, it's not), which was really overblown back then, and in fact, got her tv show off the air simply because alot of folks started watching it to see the hubbub......and found it not to be funny. Don't get me wrong, I like Ellen's standup, her talk show's fun, and she did a GREAT job in Finding Nemo. But the cultural and historical impact of her Time cover is really limited.

Take examples like these and what are you left with? The Magazine editors wanted to portray what they thought was culturally and historically relevant, but they made the mistake of superimposing their own views of what's relevant and not upon the nomination process. No one really cares about the Dixie Chicks and Ellen. They should know this, it's not a hard thing to figure out. It's like someone asking me to list the greatest tv shows of all time- I'll include Babylon 5, Batman: The Animated Series, and Family Guy. Why? Because I like them. And that's effectively what I'm seeing here, with this list of magazine covers. They ultimately liked the Dixie Chicks, and Ellen. And we're all damned if we don't like it, as well. Because they chose it and we better accept it!

Lastly, look at the issues that dominate the list (there is some overlap):
-gun control (1 cover)
- anti-corporations/business/capitalist (3 covers)
-Vietnam (3 covers)
-Gay/Lesbian issues (1 cover)
-anti-religion (1 maybe 2 covers- if you include the Wired one)
-anti- republican (2, maybe 3 covers- if you include the Newsweek election one)
-anti- flyover country (1 cover)
-"Oh, that muslim extremist stuff is overblown, so I'll build a straw man arguement up and make it a silly farce" (1 cover)
-anti- Bush (1 cover)
-Pro Bill Clinton (1 cover)
-women (or men) in provacative poses, either clothed or unclothed (8 covers)
-women/minority rights (3 covers)
- 9/11 (3 covers)

And there you have it. If their political views weren't obvious by now, all you'd need to do is look at the "George W. Bush as Alfred E. Neuman" The Nation, 2000 cover. Firstly, The Nation is a leftist magazine which is effectively a socialist rag; at least the New Republic has pretenses towards centrality and occasional bursts of decency. But The Nation? No, I wouldn't want to touch them, unless I'm adhering to a strict political ideological line. And that's what the ASME editors are clearly doing; creating a structure of history that's devoid of Republican or moderate thought or ongoings. I mean, there's nothing referencing 1989 with Europe and the USSR. It's as though Carter, Regan, and Bush sr. never existed (gee, I wonder why- the former's an abject failure as president, and Regan's one of the greatest presidents of the 20th Century). What about Challenger or Columbia? Or the Oklahoma City Bombing? Gulf War 1, or the current Global War on Terror- I'm sure they could have found something from the Afghani War, the Fall of Baghdad, Madrid, Beslan, etc, etc. What about Newt Gingrich? Ariel Sharon? How about anything on the refugees from Vietnam?

What about any right-wing magazines? No National Review? I'm sure they had something to add. But why then, the preponderance of leftist magazines- Life, Time, Newsweek, The Nation, The Economist, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and Esquire?

I think they're just fundamentally trying to hide the real history, which they know is coming. It's going to hit them like a freight train at full bore, in the coming years. Regan's funeral was a wake up call to these guys; America came out to support a great president one last time. The media couldn't shake the belief in Regan and his ideals from the American public. That kind of public show of support is what they fear- that they will be relegated to the dustbin of history, just like their Soviet comrades. So they pretend they know what's relevant and what's not. Because if they don't try to hide the truth from us, there'll be hell to pay. We're only now just waking up to the realities of Vietnam and the 1960's, and the real legacy both have left us. And we're not happy.

Btw, it's a safe bet 20 years from now that there'll be a statue of George W. Bush in Baghdad, praising him and America's committment to Iraqi freedom. And ASME? The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley( 1792-1822) says it best, about how the future will view ASME and their ilk:

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

2 Comments:

Blogger Katsvenland said...

I sure don't give a rat's ass about Andy Warhol, but I know a lot of people I used to work with, my sister included, who worship the man. It goes along with the whole liberal notion that anything can be art. In Warhol's case it's not avant garde but Popism I think is the term to describe his movement. I never understood why iron printing Monroe's face in black and white can be conceived as a masterpiece.

3:34 AM  
Blogger Fafhrd1 said...

The idea of Popism basically is that if everything's art, then nothing is.

And really, outside of a few enclaves on the East and West Coasts, do you think anyone is going to even remember Warhol? I doubt it. His influence in this country is long forgotten.

3:27 PM  

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