August 17, 2005

Dead Men Are People Too

Timenewspeople250I thought the “big two” news mag covers this week reached a new level of debasement (or ‘da basement?). 

One featured a well known talking head (and a brilliant example of necro-porn considering he is practically still warm). 

The other also opted for the personality route, and astonishingly managed to profile twenty-four more faces than the competition (among them, several babes, hunks and one guy chomping on a humongous cigar).

Of course, personalities have always helped sell papers and magazines.  But, what is so twisted about the current trend is that the personalities are now overshadowing or completely supplanting the issues. (I mean, would lung cancer have been a cover story if Peter Jennings hadn’t died or Christopher Reeve’s wife hadn’t suddenly and unnaturally contracted the disease?  And, is lung cancer — as opposed to cancer overall, or cancer research — even a justifiable lead article?  And, what in the news suddenly prompted a cover story on rich, powerful or other wise glamorous Hispanics?  … I guess the Dems and Repubs aren’t the only ones pandering for ethnic market share.)

Now, I understand it’s mid-August, and people might be looking for a little break from the hard news (netizens like us excluded).  However, this is not your typical late summer with nothing to fix on except shark attacks and blonde girls being abducted from resort islands.

I mean, what little was there for the mags to choose from this week? 

Well, there was the historic Israeli pull out from Gaza.  There was the deadline for the supposed-to-be historic Iraqi Constitution.  And, there was Cindy Sheehan taking Bush hostage in Texas.  (Okay, so Israel made the Newsweek banner, and Iraq and Cindy made the corner band of TIME.)

But obviously, not one of these stories could be identified with anyone as perversely fascinating, supposedly sexy, blandly authoritative and ultimately non-controversial as poor old Peter Jennings.

(A few deconstructive notes: 1. The Newsweek issue I bought had a weird blue spot below Jenning’s left collar.  Was this just a printing anomaly on my copy?  2.  Besides tying in Dana Reeve to raise fear among health-conscious females, Newsweek also ties-in the last sickly TV or movie star who graced the cover as newly dead.  As a simply horrible reference, the stricken Mrs. Reeves was also featured on that cover with her waxy-looking husband.  (See: A Real Cell Job.)  3.  Maybe it’s not a big point, but I counted about seven women out of the 25 TIME faces.  The three largest and most attractive female faces seemed to be closest to the middle and also equally spaced at top/middle/bottom.  4.  I didn’t investigate who he is, but the guy in the blue shirt (at the intersection of the “2” and “5”) sure has a nice placement.  5.  Does the TIME cover express a prejudice by characterizing Hispanics in the context of their numbers?  6.  Does the rising “5” have any significance — such as population growth?  7. The TIME band features an exclusive titled “How Iran Is Fueling The Iraqi Insurgency.”  Then it makes reference to Cindy Sheehan’s confrontation of Bush.  However, doesn’t the former story basically let Bush off the hook for Sheehan’s accusations?)

(Larger TIME cover here)

(Revised 8/17/05 — 8:50am PST)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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