March 17, 2005

Teeny Bop Magazines


A magazine rack is like my Encyclopedia Britannica. It stems from being deposited in front of them at grocery stores while my mother did her kid-free shopping, and I’ve gleaned, easily, 50% 0f my knowledge from this life-long habit. I also use magazines as comfort food; if I’m feeling blue, I’ll cruise through an issue of MAD magazine. A recent magazine expedition unearthed the ultimate comfort food, my macaroni and fish sticks, TIGER BEAT!!

I was shocked that it still existed, figuring it bit the dust around the same time as 16 Magazine. What’s even more shocking is that it’s still published by Laufer (1970s: The Laufer Company. 2000s: Laufer Media Inc.). Did I hold in my hand a nearly-unchanged concept, the key to a brief return to a more innocent time? I gladly paid $4 for a thrilling return to yesteryear (though I went to self-checkout, what with me being an adult buying a teen magazine and the whole Michael Jackson trial thing).

Did I overly romanticize the Tiger Beat return? Certainly.
It’s a whole new generation of pre-teen Prosti-Tots, and magazines wanting their abundant allowance money have to keep pace. On first read-through, the difference between today and yesterday issues is much like Victrola vs. iPod.

DIFFERENCES
The only punctuation mark used in the Old TB was the exclamation point. In these more somber times, the New TB uses them sparingly.

Old TB strived to help you connect with your favorite, with details on where to find him, how to dress and act to get his attention. New TB has put the kibosh on such tips due to stalking, celebrity murders and illegal underage sex issues.

Vital statistics (including neck, in-seam and shoe sizes) and questionnaires (What’s Your Favorite Cereal?) with handwritten answers were the backbone of the Old TB. The New TB would court lawsuits with questions like “What habit would you like to break?” and thus avoid it completely.

Old TB had few paid advertisements proper, and all other ads were for items directly related to the stars within (posters, paperbacks, pillows, fan clubs, etc.). New TB has just a few more paid advertisements, but obviously gets revenue from copious product placement within stories, a la In Style magazine.

Old TB offered endless contests that let the winner meet her favorite (“Fly To Hollywood & Kiss David Cassidy!”). New TB? See “illegal underage sex issues.” Now contains lots of “quiz-o-ramas,” personality tests and Jesse McCartney palm readings.

2 to 3 pages worth of wordy articles on the most popular favorites filled out every issue of Old TB. The New TB follows the short-attention-span format of lots of pictures with extended cutlines. Articles consist of very large pictures and up to 5 paragraphs of text.


SIMILARITIES
Tragedy befalling our hero remains a pre-teen staple.

Be it Susan Dey or Hillary Duff, all past and present female teen stars hate something about their physical appearance, yet persevere.

No matter the decade, teen stars with no musical background or talent continue to make records.

No matter the decade, all faves are assigned elaborate and poetic quotes that never once sprung from their lips.

Generic snail mail addresses are listed, and as always, the letters go directly into the dumpster behind the building it was sent to.

2-sided centerfold posters, pin-ups and a plethora of photos.

And posters would be the only reason these types of magazines still exist in today’s instant-access world. All major teen stars have elaborate web sites. DSL and satellite beams in any song, show or movie they want at the time they want it. But the typical 8 year old’s need for a large quantity of Ryan Cabrera photos on her bedroom wall cannot be met by Dad’s $75 HP printer. Tiger Beat, J-14, Bop, etc. are still the only way to create the perfect photo collage on your closet door.

The teen magazine publishers and editors know this, and thus, have let the rest of the content fall to sub-tabloid levels. Not to say that “Bobby Sherman – The Loneliest Day of His Life” was worthy of The New Yorker, but it was a lengthy, meaty article, giving a girl something to contemplate. Today, teen magazines provide only G-rated, watered-down rehashes of what Star and The National Enquirer reported 2 months ago. And what other choice do they have? When your media-savvy 7 year old discusses Tara Reid’s terrifying nip slip with her friends, J-14 is really not out of line printing a safe version of such. Child-like innocence is such an antiquated concept that thumbing through the old teen magazines is now akin to reading ancient fairy tales. It was once easy to keep the sordid reality of Leif Garrett and Andy Gibb off the pages of SuperTeen. But when your kids already know about Mary-Kate Olsen and Lindsay Lohan’s barely-disguised substance abuse, should teeny-bop editors blatantly ignore that information for the sake of childhood innocence? No, because they are money-making publishers, not parents. The current teen magazine industry can rest easy in knowing it has no power to set trends, only follow them.

Though, there is one grand tradition still in play, and perfected, for the 21st Century. The trick of the completely fabricated personality and talent that was once the exclusive rights of the rarified world of teen magazines is now a profitable multi-media concept.

Yesterday: Only after Leif Garrett had cemented his grassroots appeal did he earn the right to make records full of massive pitch control and compression. He was a real boy whose natural charisma allowed him to live a lie. Today: Ashlee Simpson is a lie that bought the right for the media to manufacture some charisma for her. Yep, seems even the creation of a falsehood was more organic in the old days.

1 comment:

Joe said...

When I skimmed this piece and saw Old TB and New TB, I thought I may have inadvertantly clicked on a medical journal.

;-)