Monday, August 31, 2009

Adrian Mole's Vogue

Needless to say, I'm not a reader of Vogue. I'm the kind of person who reads about Vogue and similar magazines online and checks out their covers on Photoshop Disasters. At the same time I will stand by my one-time confession that I love women's magazines.

Why do I love them? They make me nostalgic after Communism. Of course, in a Good-bye, Lenin kind of way, because it's a fragmentary, deluded vision of Communism. (But still.)

The issues of Pani, Twój Styl, and Zwierciadło with which I stuff my suitcase after a visit in Poland are very different from Western glossies. Unlike the magazines Naomi Wolf describes in The Beauty Myth, the Polish ones did not result from a deal between plastic surgeons and fashion moguls. When they took off, the economic landscape was a lot like the first seconds of this excerpt from The IT Crowd.

In light of this paucity of beautification options, magazine makers assumed that women can read. Which is why until this day, despite the increasing amount of advertisements filling their pages, those mags still contain a considerable amount of text. So you get actual articles on politics, pains of modern society here and far away, interviews with writers and theater directors, painters, fabulous short essays -- all before you hit against the fashion spread and descriptions of cosmetics that cost at least half of your salary.

Maybe because I've been spoiled by these mags championing the assertion that women can process information and -- like the people in the reportage pieces -- may sometimes be poor and not dine in Manhattan or go to movie premieres, I can't take Vogue.

I got to this piece via Jezebel, probably something like a year after its publication, but as amazed as if it were hot off the press. Like the editor who covered this article on Jezebel I have absolutely no idea what the hairdo it's supposed to describe looks like, even though I think I've seen it in pictures.

The most fascinating thing about this piece though is that it sounds like it was written by Sue Townsend: it's like a scene from a yet non-existent new Adrian Mole volume, in which Adrian gets a job at a women's magazine and, trying hard to figure out a topic fit for ladies, he ends up writing nonsense about hair.

In the book Adrian would get fired for this kind of crap, but in the real world Vogue this runs smoothly and this does not come across as an insult to intellect. How strange.

My naive thought, from which I was cured when I read up more on the writer on Jezebel, was that it really was Sue Townsend writing under a pseudonym. Or at least a major fan of British satirical novels.

Wouldn't it be wonderfully postmodern if Plum Sykes consciously parodied herself in a Sue Townsend style?!

Unfortunately, Sykes has probably never heard of Townsend, probably has no sense of humor, And on top of it all I would not be able to find her piece in an actual issue of Vogue among all the photoshopped adverts of perfume, jewelry, and nose jobs.

I know there's yet another movie about Anna Wintour but I'd personally prefer to find out who the actual Vogue readership is and what brings them to read such inanities and not think it's a postmodern satire.


Bowleserised said...

I still love my French women's mags (just bought Vogue and um, Facebooked about how much I love it...) because they're a notch or two superior to the UK ones. They're what the UK mags used to be like, but with much better styling and photography. And fewer celebrities.
Plum Sykes... behaved obnoxiously (that word is over-used but applies here in full force) to a friend of mine who happens to be one of Plum's oldest friends, so even if she were a competent writer, I would have nothing good to say about her... The fact that she genuinely thinks she's the new Evelyn Waugh makes it worse (google for an interview she did to promote Bergdorf Blondes with the Telegraph and you'll see what I mean).

Bowleserised said...

Here's Plummy!

Misiula said...

Wow. I'm stunned. Does Wintour give her employees referrals for a lobotomy of some kind - so that their thought processes become detached from any self-criticism and sense of reality?

It's just too ridiculous.

But I loved your review of French Elle (it was Elle, wasn't it?). I don't think I have any aubergine-colored clothes, but I'm reminded of the "jamais total look aubergine" when I look in the fridge. The reason is that I almost never buy new clothes here. There's just nothing I like and it feels like there are no shops.

I like to stop by shops when something catches my attention, when I'm walking in the city center and happen to have a spare moment. I hate shopping malls and that compulsion to buy something just because you had to drag yourself all the way to the outskirts to get to the shops...

I guess I'll just have to bring an empty suitcase on my next trip to Poland.

You're not going to give up blogging for Facebook, I hope. I can understand why people quit blogging for Twitter and Facebook updates but still it makes me kind of sad. I would have never met you and never had the chance to enjoy your swimming pool reviews and pony street art if you didn't blog.

Kim said...

Kamila, I agree with the shopping and shopping malls! Ugh, it's so boring shopping here, everyone piles into a car and drives to the mall or shopping centre, it's insane!! I miss wandering around and popping into shops, here people don't wander and it just sucks. Blah.

Misiula said...

I second your "blah," Kim ;-)

When I was teaching this summer, I never met any of the students downtown. However, the one time I went to the mall, I ran into half of the class. Apparently, they were spending their weekends at the mall -- on the boring outskirts of this pretty town, which has several gorges and waterfalls in town, some on the campus, some just a step away from it, no bus rides needed... It's just beyond me why they would do it.

Bowleserised said...

Not going to give up blogging for Facebook, never fear!

I'm trying to learn to shop in places other than UK high street regulars. It really does involve getting out of a comfort zone. The trouble is, I'm about three different dress sizes simultaneously AND just under six feet tall, so it's hard to find things that really fit. Am planning a post of some things that I found though, as soon as I get new batteries for my camera.

Misiula said...

Bowleserised: yes, yes, and yes.

I'm glad (relieved) that you're not getting tired of blogging. Bowleserised keeps my Berlin dreams alive and it's just good, funny writing that I'd really miss.

I know the comfort zone all too well. My most serious shopping experience in the U.S. was buying two blouses at a sale in H&M. I mostly shop in Poland. In an odd way I can't really think about buying clothes and enjoying the process elsewhere. Uncanny.

Do post pictures. I tend to agree with a lot of your opinions on fashion, which is a bit surprising because I'm 5'4" -- which this book calls "unconventional," while I just call it "rather short." I'm too sizes simultaneously, unless it's one of those times when I put on weight.