movie magazines: a brief history in several parts (part 2)

[Last week… Hey, Oline, what are movie magazines?]


In 1969, the sociologist Irving Shulman published a landmark study of the movie magazines, using their Jackie Kennedy coverage as a case-study. And, yes, I use the phrase “landmark study” while readily acknowledging that its landmark status has gone largely unrecognized by most everyone in the world but me and “Celebrity Gossip, Academic Style” superstar Anne Helen Peterson, who notes that Shulman provides “The Most Sexist, Classist, Patently Offensive, and Incredibly Useful Research of All Time.”

Whether you love Jackie or movie magazines or not, Shulman’s “Jackie”: The Exploitation of a First Lady is worth reading. His assertion that the mainstream media has gone down the crapper is valid and it’s provocative that he finds the movie magazines entirely at fault. The thesis:

Fan magazines [are] considerably more than a trifling symptom of American malaise, and this symptom, could explain the American public’s conditioned acceptance of such obscenities as genocide, favorable kill ratio, nuclear fallout, murder, a geometric increase of violent felonies, starvation, slums, denigration of the human condition, fine print in consumer contracts, demagoguery, venality and stupidity in public office, and a spate of social violences which imprison juveniles in a delinquent society of adults.

Um… yeah. Any way we look at it that is an amazing assessment, never mind the way that Shulman goes about proving it.

“Jackie” is interesting because it offers a framework for analyzing the social impact of the movie magazines of yore that’s equally applicable to the celebrity magazines of today, and also because it is fantastically misogynistic.

Shulman’s argument is predicated on the notion that the movie magazines catered to their primarily female audience by offering “uterine tidbits” and a “clitoral interpretation of life,” an interpretation that, in turn, infected the entirety of the mainstream media.  So, what he’s saying is that the movie magazines (ie. “women’s magazines”) single-handedly lured the mainstream press (ie. “men’s magazines”) to drink from the tabloid trough.

He then uses the tabloids’ Jackie Kennedy coverage to illustrate the trickle-down effect.

This is interesting, yes, but it is also wrong…

[Next week… Hey, Oline, why was Schulman wrong?]

One thought on “movie magazines: a brief history in several parts (part 2)

  1. Pingback: movie magazines: a brief history in several parts (part 3) | finding jackie

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