“I want to live in the world that these people are in (the world of magazines). No one ever says anything in there, have you noticed? They’re all very cool. Like, they’re all really deep. It’s when people start talking that everything goes to shit.”
-Nessa Watkins, from the film Mumford (character played by Zooey Deschanel, script by Lawrence Kasdan)
When I was younger, I was a magazine junkie.
At various points in my life I’ve had subscriptions to Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, ESPN the Magazine, Premiere, Filmmaker, Entertainment Weekly, Empire, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Detour, Maxim, Rolling Stone, Men’s Heath, Men’s Journal, Esquire, and GQ. I know I’m missing several magazines on that list, but you get the point.
Most of these subscriptions were from my 20s and early 30s, and my choices clearly fit into my socioeconomic demographic. Sports, movies, music, and miscellaneous guys’ shit. I was never a person who had an unhealthy obsession with the world of magazines, though looking back, I’m not sure how good they were for me.
Movie stars, top athletes, models, and assorted millionaires. People I’ll never meet and places I’ll most likely never go. Beautiful photos, fascinating stories, and all sorts of advice from “How to Find the Perfect Watch” to “More Than You Actually Need to Know About Shaving” to “How to Break All the Rules & Make New Ones”.
Aspire to a better lifestyle and consume. All the latest styles and products for your review. The best a man can get.
Whoa . . . channeling my inner Tyler Durden a little too much there. I still actually enjoy reading these glossy periodicals on occasion, and this isn’t supposed to come off as an anti-magazine screed. There’s a lot of great journalism being done in those pages, and any kind of reading is better than none at all. But, like anything, too much of it (especially with the wrong perspective) just ain’t good for you.
While the quote that started this post is from Mumford (the movie, not the band), I referenced another film in the title. Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous is one of my favorites, and Lester Bangs (based on a real person) delivers the line when talking about the music industry. He said when it ceased to be real, it just becomes “an industry of cool”.
I see a lot of parallels to magazines in that statement. Most of what we read and see in them isn’t very real (or at least does not reflect the reality most of us live in), and what we’re getting is just an industry of cool. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, and these magazines can be very entertaining and even informative. But I think back to the 20-something version of myself, and even if it was only at a subconscious level, I’m sure I was doing what I could to be like the people in those pages.
As I gotten older I’ve renewed less and less, and the last several years the only magazine subscriptions I’ve purchased were through my nephews’ fundraising efforts for their schools. The last one of those (Esquire) expired, and now I’m only receiving my BU and Emerson alumni ones (thank you, college loans). For some reason I still get random ones in the mail (just this month I got a GQ about forgiving Justin Bieber, and the last several issues of Better Homes & Gardens have found their way to my door), and I also still buy one-offs every now and then. So I have no plans to stop reading them.
For the Minimalism Game, it wasn’t hard to find 29 magazines in my apartment that I managed to keep from the recycling bins. Going through them while making my pile to photograph, I can see why I didn’t get rid of them. I’ve probably read only about 20% of these issues. And while I’m sure I’d delight in learning about Scarlett Johansson, George Clooney, and Esquire’s take on The Meaning of Life, I know I will have opportunities to do so in other magazines in the future.