January 18, 2005

A utilitarian analysis of trashy mags does the U of C proud

People, Us Weekly, and the two-month old Life & Style Weekly are sweeping newsstands everywhere. But the question is: "Why are we eating up celebrity gossip like it's the last thing on earth to read?" Dazzled by the shiny covers, glamorous clothing, and breathtaking beauty of the people on display, it seems as though a mere $3.99 is chump change for the chance to vicariously live "the fabulous life" for 10 minutes and take a peek at celebrity misfortunes. But which of these trash mags is worth your spare cash?

To begin with, most of these magazines scream, "It's all about the pictures!" If you're into current events or foreign policy, you've definitely wandered down the wrong aisle. People provides the most substantial information with their human-interest pieces, crime/mystery section, and occasional international news article; however, by no means do they put a heavy emphasis on these stories. Also, People somehow manages to distance itself from the negative reputation of the others, while still plastering its cover and contents with juicy gossip. So if you're looking for a slightly respected celebrity magazine to read on an airplane, it's the least likely to make the cute boy sitting next to you ignore you the entire flight.

Us Weekly, on the other hand, is as gossipy as it gets. With numerous full-page pictures and ads, there are hardly any actual articles to read (the editors seem to think that short little captions suffice). Celebrity relationship drama and catching stars at their worst reign as their top two priorities for content. This week's headline—"Why Brad Said Goodbye"—even boasts of having "15 pages of new pics!" hours before Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt filed for divorce.

Us Weekly is great at degrading these celebs with sections like "Who Wore It Best," in which two actresses are caught wearing the same dress and then 100 people in Times Square are polled to decide who made the best clothes hanger. They also have a delicious section called "Stars—They're Just Like Us," where paparazzi catch celebs at their most flawed: smoking cigarettes, eating Mickey D's, coming out of the bathroom, or even taking out the trash (aren't their personal assistants paid to do that?) Mainly, Us Weekly is devoted to coming up with different titles for sexual scandal and romance in Hollywood, using such headings as "Love Lives," "Romance Report," "Hot Stuff," and in the tantalizing December 27, 2004 issue, "Nude Sensation-Strippermania!" So if you're looking for a mag that's all trash all the time, this is the mag for you (although you may want to hide it under your bed, considering that you are a U of C student).

Lastly, Life & Style Weekly is a great knock-off of Us Weekly with a refreshing emphasis on fashion and a lower price ($1.99). Since the magazine is still new, it hasn't been publicly vilified yet, meaning you can still safely leave it on your kitchen counter or coffee table. However, you may need multiple copies of this mag to cover any sort of counter top, considering this week's special "double issue" is only 90 pages long. These publishers also seem to think that writing actual articles is too strenuous, so they provide multiple pages of "hot fashion trends" and red carpet glamour photos. Surprisingly—and most likely due to poor promotion—Life & Style Weekly has very few ads. This magazine not only tells you how to dress, where to vacation, and what makeup to wear, but it also gives food and cocktail recipes in addition to horoscopes.

These magazines do have similarities, however. They all have a section where they quote celebrities' idiotic comments of the week, catch celebs on the red carpet or vacationing, and read reviews of new movies and television shows. If you're looking for something to take the edge off your midterms, Us Weekly remains the most mindless, relaxing, and gossipy, followed by newcomer Life & Style Weekly, and then People. Next time you're feeling down, don't forget that celebrities aren't perfect—and don't be afraid to see for yourself!