Magazines: Dakota Fanning & Lea Michele’s Cosmo Covers—Why Are Anti-Child Sexualisation Activists Kicking Up a Stink?

 

Outrage has ensued after 17-year-old Dakota Fanning appeared on the cover of US Cosmo as their Fun, Fearless Female of the Year, which echoes the reaction to Lea Michele’s plunging neckline cover from the same time last year.

The difference is, though, that Michele is a 25-year-old and Fanning is 17. I’ve written before on letting grown women get their sexy on to their heart’s content, and I’m going to say the same thing here about Fanning.

While I do agree that her Marc Jacobs Lola perfume ad should have been banned (it was probably shot when she was younger than her 17 years, makes her look a lot younger, too, and suggestively places an oversized perfume bottle between her legs), Fanning looks no sexier on the Cosmo cover than she does on the red carpet. And did anyone see The Runaways?

As a 17-year-old young woman, she’s around the age a lot of teens start becoming sexually active. I was 15 when I started reading Cosmo (albeit the far more well-rounded Australian version) and became sexually active soon after. I’m not saying the two go hand in hand, but teens Fanning’s age are naturally sexually curious.

As some commentators have added, magazines buy images and interviews of stars from photo agencies, and very often the celebrities haven’t approved and have no idea they’re featured in certain mags. Fanning’s reps haven’t commented on the Cosmo cover, leading us to draw our own conclusions as to what she thinks of this hullabaloo.

Furthermore, Fanning’s a child star; how many fellow graduates have made a seamless transition into adulthood and being taken seriously as an adult performer? Lindsay Lohan? Britney Spears? The Coreys? Mischa Barton?

Considering Fanning’s—to my mind—tame outing on a young women’s magazine cover compared with, say, Nikki Webster’s attempt to be seen as an adult, I’d say she’s doing pretty well. No need to start panicking yet.

Related: Is Lea Michele Too Sexy?

Lea Michele Just Can’t Win.

Disturbing Behaviour: Terry Richardson Does Glee.

Images via Eonline, CocoPerez.

Magazines: Is Lea Michele Too Sexy?

 

Earlier in the year, Glee star Lea Michele, who plays the uptight perfectionist lead singer in knee-high socks of William McKinley High School’s glee club, posed for a sexy cover shoot for US Cosmopolitan.

On the cover of the March issue, Michele looks sultry in a low cut black top, but it’s nothing compared to her racy, and downright inappropriate, pictorial with fellow Glee clubbers, Diana Agron and Cory Monteith, for GQ last year. Sure, it was shot by the notorious Terry Richardson, so expectations weren’t that high to begin with. But the vacant, open-mouthed stare of Michele as she sits, legs akimbo, on a locker-room bench, or suggestively sucks on a lollypop, are confronting to say the least.

I have briefly blogged about this “disturbing” photo shoot, to which I can understand the public outcry.

However, Michele’s Cosmo shoot is tamely vanilla in comparison, but drew an almost equal uproar from parental groups:

“I think Lea Michele is sending the wrong message. She plays such a ‘good girl’ on Glee, and a lot of kids look up to her persona. Then she poses very provocatively on two magazine covers… I find it frustrating as a parent who is trying to teach right from wrong to their kids and then you have things like this happen which is showing middle schoolers things like sex sells and all that goes along with that.”

To my mind, Michele is 24 years old; an adult who seemingly has her head screwed on right and is in control of her own life. Her idea of the perfect night is a bath, Skype and a glass of wine, which is a far cry from the extracurricular activities of other starlets her age. Lindsay Lohan, anyone?

But, on the other hand, we have to ask the question: why does Michele feel the need to sex-up her image when, by her own admission, that is not the way she sees herself.

Dr. Karen Brooks explains, in relation to the GQ pictorial:

“I think they’re attempting to draw the line between their young characters and the fact they’re sexual adults and they feel that the way to this, rightly or wrongly, is by being hypersexual. It’s a graphic announcement to the public not to confuse or conflate the fiction of their onscreen persona with their real life; [they’re saying] ‘I may play a child’, but, in what’s almost an unintentional parody of the Helen Reddy feminist anthem, ‘I am woman, hear me roar’, they’re saying, ‘I am woman, see my score!’ It’s extreme, it gets attention (for the show, the character and the actor) and therefore, sadly, works.”

Ultimately it is her choice to get a bit sexy but, when I asked Erica Bartle of Girl with a Satchel for her thoughts on this topic, she wondered if maybe Michele’s just “conforming to the status quo?”:

“How much say does a star really have in how she’s portrayed?”

As Jezebel notes, “it isn’t as if Lea’s doing Playboy.” Cosmo is a magazine for women, and the cover isn’t as threatening as, say, the GQ one, or Rihanna’s Rolling Stone cover, in which her butt cheeks hung out of mesh shorts. There are a lot of magazines for women out there, like Yen, The Gentlewoman, and Brigitte, which cater to needs other than “how to please your boyfriend in bed”, and don’t require their cover star to, as Coco Chanel once said, take something off. In most cases, it’s their bra. (One argument for Michele’s down-to-there black top might be that *cue sarcasm* she really bares her heart and soul.)

But at the end of the day, it’s just a magazine cover. For mature adults like ourselves, we can make the decision to buy or not to buy into the sexy image of Michele on the cover of Cosmo, Rihanna in chain mail shorts for Rolling Stone, or the flesh-baring on the blue carpet at the Brownlows on Monday night. As educated, critical thinkers, we also realise that because Michele is dressed provocatively, it doesn’t make her any less of a singer, actor or seemingly normal 24-year-old when the makeup comes off and the spotlight goes down.

Related: Lea Michele Just Can’t Win.

Disturbing Behaviour: Terry Richardson Does Glee.

In Defence of Rachel Berry.

Rachel Berry as Feminist.

VCE Top Designs: frankie Editor Jo Walker Talks to Media Students.

Is There Really a Beauty Myth?

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Righteous Moms Just Can’t Let Lea Michele Be Sexy.

Images via Reality by Rach, Twenty2.OnSugar.

Magazines: Paper Dwarves, Digital Giants?

 

A few weeks ago, in response to ABC’s Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo, Mia Freedman wrote on MamaMia about her thoughts on the state of the (mag) nation and if magazines are still relevant and the amount of influence they wield in 2011:

“… Not that much excitement goes on in magazines anymore… [It’s a struggle to] get them [those who work on a magazine] to try and think about something that hasn’t been done before, something that will start a conversation and boost sales.”

Freedman compares pay TV’s Park Street, a The Devil Wears Prada-esque reality show about ACP’s head offices, featuring the editors of Dolly, Cleo, Cosmo, Madison and Shop Til You Drop, which received dismal ratings and poor audience response, to the critical success and brilliant take on Cleo in her influential heyday of Paper Giants. She says, “Gemma Crisp [editor of Cleo] explained the editorial process that a story undergoes from conception to publication. It takes a minimum of three months… When was the last time you waited three months for something? Life doesn’t happen in increments of months anymore. It happens in moments, in text messages, in Tweets. It’s fast and it’s relentless and if it takes you three months (or even three weeks) to get from thought to print then that’s just too long to retain the attention of your audience.”

When she puts it like that, Freedman makes me long for a simpler time, when I hung on the every word magazines published, as opposed to reading hundreds of articles a week, mostly on blogs, but also in magazines, in an attempt to stay on top of my blogging game.

Erica Bartle, creator of Girl with a Satchel and a former mag girl herself, says Freedman’s “blog-cum-website” “deals in what everyone’s talking about TODAY. It feeds off the 24-hour news cycle. And Mia’s own profile. And her opinion… It’s like a current affairs program for women online.” And now with MamaMia launching on SkyNews, Freedman’s brand is literally a current affairs program.

Not all blogs can operate this way. MamaMia has a team of bloggers, editors and techs who keep the site running smoothly which thus, as Bartle said, allows it to operate on a 24-hour news cycle.

Personally, I have a part-time paid job I go to four times a week, this means I only get to blog two or three days a week, and with so much info to process and a maximum of 15 posts per week to churn out in a small amount of time, this means I can’t always post as early and as often as I’d like.

But even for those who blog fulltime, like Bartle, it’s not always about what’s happening right NOW as it is about maintaining the blog’s integrity.“I personally operate on a different plane, because my beliefs very much inform my work. For that, I’m willing to sacrifice certain economic constraints,” she says.

Still in the blogging world, you have someone like Gala Darling, who is very much a self-made businesswoman as a result of her über-successful blog of the same name. She’s gone from strength to strength over the past few years; something she could never have done had she been a magazine editor (bar the select few, like Anna Wintour, Anna Dello Russo and yes, Freedman).

But, essentially, MamaMia has the advantage of possessing “a figurehead with credibility whose background is in traditional media. She has the gut instinct of an editor. Online you need news nous as well as technological nous and business nous.”

Another editor who has these qualities in spades is former Cleo and Girlfriend editor, Sarah Oakes, whom Bartle worked under at Girlfriend. Bartle says she invoked an atmosphere of ghosts of magazines past, creating “camaraderie, creativity and positivity, which I think she achieved. She gave you more work if she thought you could be stretched; gave you a talking to if you had crossed a line; gave you a pat on the back for a job well done.” Very Ita-like, wouldn’t you say?

Oakes is now editor of The Age & Sydney Morning Herald’s Sunday Life supplement, a title which has improved markedly since she took over. (I have also blogged here about how I think both Girlfriend and Cleo became better titles under her leadership.)

In fact, newspaper inserts are giving the glossies on the newsstand a run for their money, as they “are getting exclusives and have strong writing and design teams, as well as columnists and styling/shoots. These free weekly titles, because of the mastheads they reside within, have enviable readerships and access to celebrities. They are also respectable, well executed and FREE,” Bartle notes.

But at the end of the day, are magazines relevant?

Freedman writes:

“The internet has not only sucked up their readers, it has also gobbled up their purpose: to be a way women form tribes and communicate. Now there’s YouPorn and any other number of sites for titillation, Google for questions about sex, and any number of websites or free newspaper magazines if you’re looking for other types of content or a magazine-style experience. Women don’t want to be spoken TO anymore. They want to be part of the conversation, something which the internet allows, in fact depends on… the internet has taken the sting out of the raunch-factor for mags like Cosmo and Cleo.”

Yes, as Freedman says, there are much raunchier locales to get what would have been included in a sealed section only a few years ago. There’s also Perez Hilton, TMZ and even shows like Entertainment Tonight and E! News that monopolise celebrity content, while the fashion blogs are more of a go-to for what kids are wearing these days.

Sure, Vogue’s always going to be a premiere source for high fashion shoots from photographers the likes of Annie Leibovitz, Patrick Demarchelier and David LaChapelle, but magazines “seem to exist on a strangely distant planet where all the people look like plastic and the sole pursuit is ‘perfection’. Except that perfection doesn’t really exist,” says Freedman.

When sites like Jezebel, Cover Girl Culture and, yes, MamaMia and Girl with a Satchel are debunking photoshop myths and striving for more realistic representations of women in the media, magazines are doing this movement any favours. (Except maybe Brigitte.)

And when you can get most of a magazine’s content online anyway (I passed on a near-$20 copy of US Harper’s Bazaar in favour of accessing interviews with Kim Kardashian and Hillary Clinton on their website), are they really worth it?

Bartle doesn’t think so. “No, but they need to be distinctive from what we can get online or elsewhere if we are going to part with $5-$10 to purchase one. Premium magazines, which I have no qualms spending extra on, include The Gentlewoman and O The Oprah Magazine, because they cater to my tastes, sensibility and need for a good read on a Saturday afternoon with a cup of tea.”

I agree with Bartle’s sentiments.

While online is great for content from individuals not curated and/or watered down by magazines editors to fit the mold of their magazine, holding a truly great glossy in your hands, like the appeal of a physical book, while at the hairdressers, a café or tucked up in bed, means magazines will always hold a place in our hearts.

Right next to the Kindle and Google Reader.

Related: Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo Review.

Everything They Touch Turns To Gold.

The Evolution of the Bookshop at The Wheeler Centre.

Elsewhere: [MamaMia] Paper Giants VS. Park Street: Why Magazines Are Not What They Used to Be.

[MamaMia] MamaMia Gets a TV Show.

[Girl with a Satchel] Homepage.

[Girl with a Satchel] Mid-Week Media Musings.

[Gala Darling] Homepage.

Images via ABC, MamaMia, Teacup.

Lea Michele Just Can’t Win.

 

From “Righteous Moms Just Can’t Let Lea Michele Be Sexy” by Margaret Hartmann on Jezebel:

“Yes, some children will probably see the cover while walking past a newsstand, but it’s doubtful that this issue alone will lead to the crushing realization that sex sells. The GQ cover was tasteless and the Cosmo cover may appear a bit desperate, but it isn’t as if Lea’s doing Playboy. Ten years ago, parents were losing it because Britney Spears delivered sexed-up performances, seemingly with no regard for the little girls who idolized her. Britney summed it up well (and ridiculously) with her song ‘Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman.’ In American pop culture, this dichotomy is nothing new, Lea Michele is just our current scapegoat.”

Related: Disturbing Behaviour: Terry Richardson Does Glee.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Righteous Moms Just Can’t Let Lea Michele Be Sexy.

Images via Reality by Rach, Twenty2.OnSugar.

Magazines: Everything They Touch Turns to Gold.

 

Sometimes I look back at some of my favourite editions of magazines like Girlfriend and Cosmopolitan and think, they’re not what they used to be.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re still great mags changing the glossy face of Australia, what with Girlfriend’s Girlfriend of the Year, Think. Do. Be. Positive and I Delete Bullies and Cosmo’s Body Love campaigns.

My favourite issue ever of Girlfriend (and at almost 23, should I even be reading this magazine anymore?!) was back in November 2007, with Indiana Evans fronting the mag.

And, while I will always be a Cosmo girl, I’m struggling to get as excited about the mag as I was when I first started reading it seven years ago. I was lucky enough to get a taste of Mia Freedman’s editorial skills before she left the mag soon after, and have been a sucker for her ever since.

Only now am I starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together as to why Girlfriend, in particular, meant so much to me during that time.

Erica Bartle, creator of Girl with a Satchel and former Girlfriend staffer herself (more on that in a minute), recently blogged about current Cleo editor Sarah Oakes’ resignation and subsequent appointment as Sunday Life (Fairfax’s Sunday newspaper supplement) editor, and thank God she did!

I am now able to prepare myself to love Cleo a little less, and Sunday Life a little more. Much like falling out of love with Girlfriend around the time Oakes left, and falling fast for Cleo, especially following its recent redesign.

For my money, Oakes is the next Freedman, and I will buy anything she puts her name to.

I became familiar with her whilst she was editing the teen mag, which I began to read again at about age 18. Admittedly, I was out of the mag’s target audience age range, but the left-of-centre features, quirky crafts and “Click It” pages exposed me to a whole new internet world, comprising of Etsy stores, Gossip Girl fashions, creative projects and so much more.

Back when I was pursuing my magazine dreams, Girlfriend was a mag I wanted to internand eventually be paid to workat.

Then Oakes moved over to Cleo, and I immediately felt the shift in the quality of the content. Cleo used to be a magazine I felt I’d wasted my money on after purchasing, but it slowly surpassed all other magazines on my must-have list. I’ll be sad to see her leave, but glad that I now get my Sarah fix weekly, and for free! (Well, at the low $2 price of The Age.)

It’s no secret that the aforementioned Girl with a Satchel is a blog I frequent regularly; a blog that I have written for, and a blog that inspired me to start my own.

I think Bartle is a clever, self-deprecating and an “everywoman” writer, perhaps in the vein of Oakes and Freedman. Considering Bartle worked on Girlfriend during Oakes’ editorship, it’s hardly a surprise. (As I said, I have a soft spot for the “Click It” pages, which Bartle was responsible for compiling.) She has a knack for making the reader feel like they’re besties, or BFFs, or whatever it is the cool kids call it, and although I would merely call us sometime-collaborators/fellow bloggers, I sometimes wish we were.

Its no surprise the magazine world is a small, incestuous little family, and the same names usually pop up all over the place, from ACP to Pacific, and now, to the blogosphere. (As Bartle writes, Cosmo features editor Caelia Corse is now heading over to Women’s Health, which is edited by fellow former Cosmo girl, Felicity Harley nee Percival.) And I think it’s safe to say that the output of quality writers that readers can relate to may be due to the nurturing and mentorship of some great editors; in addition to the Oakes-Bartle dynamic, Lisa Wilkinson was the editor of Cleo when Freedman got her break, who then went on to mentor Harley and Freedman’s successor Sarah Wilson at Cosmo, and Wilson’s successor, current Cosmo editor Bronwyn McCahon. Phew!

As much as many people who write-off the magazine industry as fashion, beauty, diet and pop culture poppycock (many of my friends do, but they read this blog anyway ’cause they love me!), there’s no denying that it does attract many of Australia’s best female (and male) writers, and with the help of the seasoned and talented editors who’ve come before them, there’s certainly a bloodline of glossy (and bloggy, and newspapery) flair that is being secreted by the Australian magazine industry.

Magazines: Seeing Double.

 

This week’s cover comes courtesy of US Glamour‘s November 2009 issue (below), making a colourful reappearance on this month’s Cosmopolitan Australia.

I have to say, I think Cosmo has done a better job of complementing the flirty shot of Scarlett Johansson with the bright green background and typical busy cover.