Saturday, June 26, 2010

On the Problem with Fashion Magazines

[Quick note: I will be gone for about a week, so I will miss Wednesday for blog-writing, but should be back to regularly scheduled bloggery next Saturday.]

Ryan looked derisively at my stack of unread magazines, a stack comprised mostly of Vogue and Elle. "Are these edifying?" he asked.

At the time, I had an idea what the word meant, but it was a very nebulous idea and I could not answer his query. Months later, I ran across it in my dictionary: edify, v.t. (-fiable). Improve morally. (Pocket Oxford Dictionary, 1940)

Oh. Well no, they don't do that, to be sure.

In fact, after picking one up yesterday for the first time in a while (and the first time since Youth Camp recalibrated my spiritual compass), I realized that they probably do the opposite. It's a subtle thing, to be sure. Fashion magazines don't generally make you think it's a good idea to shun God and kill people. The problem with fashion magazines is simply their utter selfishness.

"Does my hair look good? Is my makeup in style? I hate my wardrobe and I need more shoes." It easily focuses your attention on you. If it gets you thinking about other people, it's thoughts of "Gwyneth Paltrow is so elegant, I want to be like her! Zooey Deschanel dresses the best, I should match my outfits to hers. Jessica Alba has the best hair. I should take this picture to my hairdresser." So, it is still selfishness, with a bonus of idolatry.

They do, occasionally, point in the direction of charity. Glorious benefit dinners, celebrities going to other countries, Michelle Obama doing whatever it is Michelle Obama does...they make charity look glamorous. They also make it all from the perspective of the person doing the charity. "Oh, I feel so bad for these poor people in New Orleans, so I'm going to throw money in their direction." Vogue thinks you are awesome and will do a three-page article on you! But don't talk to Anna Wintour about actually showing the people receiving the charity, or their gratitude or their plight. That will appear in a paragraph of the spread on the person who did the charity. After all, are the people reading Elle actually interested in helping people, or are they interested in people like Jennifer Aniston who sometimes help people? Philanthropy is, to these magazines, a lovely idea and a tax write-off. I don't know how many of these people actually care about people who aren't themselves.

But, maybe some of the articles are good. Maybe some of the articles are edifying. Though, when I see an article written by a woman who dates married men, trying to justify her position, I really have to wonder.

The problem with fashion magazines is that they teach you to put yourself first. Everyone else can take a back seat, and God isn't even invited.

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