Media Clippings: Newly ‘Real’?

By every published account, this continues to be a strenuous period for magazines and print media. And yet, you couldn't tell that by all the new magazines that have made appearances during the summer months.

I wrote about Radar several weeks ago, which just published its second issue and seems bent on reviving the cheekiness of Spy. Now comes Weekend and V Life, two entries in a crowded field of like-minded magazines.

In fact, Weekend, visually, is an almost complete rip off of Real Simple, the monthly that tries to show you how to lead, if not a stress-free life, then at least a stress-reduced life by putting together the most soothing interiors, soothing meals and soothing banquets for small crowds, all of it displayed in placid, soothing layouts.

Real Simple comes packaged in the palest of environments: Every spread looks like a hippie's dream of the perfect ashram. There is nothing bold or shocking, merely the quietest of visual whispers.

Real Simple is really the "bobos" bible – bobos being those "bourgeois bohemians" first identified by New York Times columnist David Brooks. They are the most clawing of upscale types, who never want to seem to be betraying their counter-culture affinities.

Weekend, a Hearst publication, can, of course, plead ignorance since it may have taken the exact same visual manner – down to the soft palette and hushed graphic design (no headlines scream anything around here) – and applied it to a different sort of subject matter: i.e., what to do between Friday afternoon and Monday morning.

But pleading ignorance would be disingenuous. The magazine looks like a clone of its predecessor, even though the material is meant to concentrate on a minute amount of consumers' time – that all important weekend – and not every facet of one's life as Real Simple seeks to address.

Weekend does exhort you to "Chill Out" on its first cover by coloring your house, dining on the beach, finding something entertaining to do on rainy days, concocting salads that sizzle, discovering lodges to love and shopping at the absolutely best outlet malls around.

Let's listen to what editor Susan Wyland has to say for herself: "On the weekend, life finally slows down and lets us catch our breath. We have time to spend a leisurely evening at the table, eating good food with family and friends. We have time to escape for a change of scene that refreshes and revitalizes … ."

Hmmn. Something sounds familiar. But can you sue for filching a look?

As for V Life, it's the 100-year-old Variety's attempt to raise it's hipness quotient.

The magazine is one of those large-format glossies enthralled with the celebrity ethos – Jennifer Connelly stares out lustfully from the first cover, and Halle Berry from the second – but without any depth and no new angles.

It's definitely a new look for Variety, but the turf doesn't appear too differentiated from other mags crowding the racks these days. u



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