Friday, May 21, 2010

"I'm buying this for research..."

Even from a young age, I've always been a fan of magazines. They promise this sort of life changing power that, if you're willing to suspend disbelief for the length of time it takes you to read the magazine, always seems to get you pretty (if falsely) excited for life.

This is incredibly bleak. I know.

Anyhow, I got to thinking about the role of beauty/fashion magazines in society, and the industry's intentions. Obviously, teen magazines are not intended to serve as manuals for better living. An informal poll of my friends indicated that roughly 0% of the girls I associate with actually apply the advice they get from magazines to their daily life. Save for the occasional "My-Ear-Got-Deformed-From-A-Cartilage-Piercing" horror story, however, these magazines offer little more than exhaustive lists of how to become cuter/hotter/thinner/fitter/healthier/more popular/etc. So if nobody is applying these supposedly life-changing tips, why are people still buying these magazines? (Cue inevitable: "They're not... print media is dead!") Are we really entertained by lists of makeup tips and pictures of girls in intensely-layered ensembles that we aren't likely to wear? (Guilty pleasure answer: Yes?)

More importantly though, what would happen if an actual teenager were to apply all of these "tips and tricks" to her life? Would it actually improve? Would she actually become cuter/hotter/thinner/fitter/healthier/more popular? Do embodying these traits even make one's life more fulfilling?

This is what I will set out to explore. The goal of this project is to simply explore a dying aspect of teenage culture. I will live my life according to the tips provided by the June/July issue of Seventeen magazine and from today until the weekend of my high school graduation (June 21). Conveniently, this project will also span the Most Important and Magical Night of My Teenage Life (i.e. senior prom). I will use this blog to record my findings, and to provide commentary on teenage life/the adolescent experience.

Here are the rules of the project:
  1. I will read the entire June/July issue of Seventeen magazine from cover to cover.
  2. Every day I will utilize at least one "beauty tip" (hair/makeup/skincare/whathaveyou) and one fashion tip.
  3. I will follow all diet and exercise tips provided in the issue to a T.
  4. I will participate in every activity recommended by the magazine (i.e. host a fright night, score your hottest summer hookup ever, be confident in a bikini, etc.)
  5. I will apply for every single "freebie" offered by the magazine, every day.
  6. I will consume all media recommended by the magazine at least once. (books/movies/music)
  7. I will hang all provided pictures/posters of "hot guys" in my living environment.
Hopefully in following these rules I will be given the opportunity to shed some light on the modern teenage experience. On this blog, I will document my project, as well as offer commentary on media and teenage culture.

Full disclosure, I am probably far too self aware for this project to draw any sort of credible conclusion on the effects of teen magazines on teen girls. An initial "picture walk" of this month's issue seems to point to the idea that sarcasm/cynicism/self-awareness doesn't exist in the sub-21 world. Nonetheless, I am excited to see where this takes me.


  1. I will follow you on this venture!

  2. Jamie - this is SO cool, and such an awesome idea. I seriously admire your creativity, and completely get what you mean about these kind of magazines, and it doesn't go away with 'young adult' type magazines either (Glamour, Marie Claire, etc.) - I love reading them, because they put me in such a cheery mood, but I'm fully aware that each issue really just recycles the same 'tips' and just changes the 'eye catching' cover blurbs. :) Anyhow, I'll totally be following this... you should share this around really actively as you're doing it (I read about someone who did a similar thing with Oprah-endorsed products, and they were on TV!) Anyway... just saying, it's pretty cool!

  3. agreed. totally awesome.

  4. Sounds like a great idea!

  5. this is caroline. and i will be following you on this! you go, this is amazing.

  6. This blog is brilliant, and I look forward to seeing how this all plays out! You are also clearly brilliant. A similar project could easily be the seed (and probably has been) of an undergrad thesis at the liberal arts college for smart kids that I went to. Color me impressed, and intrigued.

  7. love it. good luck

  8. Just followed you from Jezebel and am also excited to see where this project takes you!

  9. I love this idea and your blog so far!
    This reminds me of a story I heard on This American Life, if you scroll down it is Act 4. It sounds like Seventeen has been the go-to for makeovers for a long time.

  10. I found, as a teenager, that these magazines served to create dissatisfaction with my self and my life. Probably designed that way to get me to buy the products (not so subtly) advertised in the "10 ways to be hotter/cuter/thinner/prettier" lists.

  11. This is inspired! I wish I had thought of it...

  12. This is an amazing idea! I never found Seventeen's advice to be practical the few times I read and I always wondered if anyone ever followed it. I'm interested to see how everything turns out.

  13. Bookmarked! What a great idea, I read about this on I Heart Daily and couldn't help looking it up. Keep up the ideas and i'm sure you'll offer something great to the world!

  14. thats a great idea i read about u on iheatdaily and was super excited to check out ur blog.:) its awesome!

  15. What an awesome idea! I can't wait to follow along. :]

  16. hey! i love what you're doing, but i was wondering if you could help me! im looking for the dress on page 58 in the june/july issue the french nautical one. Its from amiclubwear but i cant find the dress! please help if you can!

  17. such a good idea! I'm passing this along to my little sister!

  18. waiting with baited breath!

    too bad you're not doing Cosmo instead--but then you'd have to wear your thong as a scrunchie

  19. This is genius. Too many teenagers follow the completely ridiculous tips in this magazine without realizing its full extremities. If this is what adolescence has come to...god help us.

  20. Do you get credit for a "Senior Project?" I had to do one at my high school... Too bad I didn't have your idea!!!

  21. Funny thing is, Seventeen is like a caricature of the teenage experience... my life is absolutely nothing like this magazine says it should be

  22. wow...what a shameless, transparent ploy to get girls to shill for Seventeen! the blatancy of first item notwithstanding, every single other item on the list involves pushing ROI for Seventeen!

    "Every day I will utilize at least one "beauty tip" (hair/makeup/skincare/whathaveyou) and one fashion tip.
    I will follow all diet and exercise tips provided in the issue to a T.
    I will participate in every activity recommended by the magazine (i.e. host a fright night, score your hottest summer hookup ever, be confident in a bikini, etc.)
    I will apply for every single "freebie" offered by the magazine, every day.
    I will consume all media recommended by the magazine at least once. (books/movies/music)"

    i knew boys were, but are teenage girls this stupid?

  23. You go girl. I'm glad there are other bright women like you out there with a pair of skepticism-shades and at least 3/4 of a brain. Good to hear you're studying economics and gender studies.

    This blog was a cool idea. :)

  24. my favorite thing is that the mag is sitting atop a copy of "Infinite Jest." :)

  25. I think this is such a great idea. It kind of reminds me of the Meg Cabot book How to be Popular.
    I'm excited to keep reading and find out how things are going.

  26. hey black olive, it looks like there are also 'Catch 22' and 'Freakonomics' in the pile. thoroughly amusing.

  27. wow i love this american life! i also love david foster wallace, and freakonomics

    i heard your interview on all things considered this afternoon and thought how cool it was that you didn't waste your time. i had some regrets about lacking documentation of my high school/teenagerness and i think this is so worthwhile.

    remember in that movie julie and julia, how after amy adams finished her blog she was offered book deals? so exciting :)

    i almost became a part of uchicago's class of 2014 but i'm going to rice instead. close one, though

    good luck! you gave an endearing interview, for sure

  28. i heard you on all things considered today and i must say i'm offended. you're opinion on this magazine results in what i believe is biased. your interview was good, yet it left me saying "are you serious?!" Seventeen is not for obsessive reading and following. it's entertainment and a way to get girls to think outside of the box in regards of fashion and beauty. reading your newer posts, i see that you have enjoyed a few articles. however, your cynicism shows you aren't going in with an open mind. plus you seem to think that all girls are boy-crazy, air-headed and frankly not up-to-date with the world. i for one, am offended. plus, fyi, you aren't supposed to use bronzer and blush at the same time. nor go out for a normal day in 5 inch heels.

  29. Some people have lost the point of the project,it's a project and the girl is 18 and has not even begun college. Take a look at her perspective and if nothing else her writing skills, she could probably surpass many others and go straight to work without college with her intellect and wit!

  30. Jamie,

    Today I heard you on All Things Considered. I had to pull my car over and write myself a note to look up your blog, hopefully through the NPR website.

    As a public educator of 34 years, for several years a middle-school principal, and as a father of four grown daughters, I am painfully aware of the damage our media culture has done to the image and expectations of women and young girls. I am hopeful when one person or a big organizations takes action for change e.g. Dove's “Campaign for Real Beauty”.

    Your project brings attention to the need for the media to be more responsible when it is working with an audience that is hyper-impressionable.

    Thank you for the excellent interview and for your project.

    Mark Peterson
    Utah State University

  31. This is wonderful! You basically have your sociology dissertation written. CONGRATS!

  32. I only use some of 17's tips, which can be helpful and they do show me clothing lines i like and never would've heard of but some things they say to do are ridiculous! Two pairs of socks with high heeled sandals look cool on the runway but in real life it just doesnt apply.

  33. This is SO cool. Such a good idea!

  34. Hey Jamie,

    I am your grandmother Phylis's friend. I am 70 years young and I think what you are doing is totally awesome! For many years I have been concerned about how the media impacts the self image of so many young girls. They get them when they are five going on 17. And...I wonder what happens to the dear ones who do not have the resources to follow the "trends" and seem doomed to be the wall flowers never able to realize thier own beautiful potential. You go girl! I am with you all the way.

    Barbara DeFlavis

  35. Following you from Hong Kong!
    Great choice in project!

  36. Following you from Mozambique!!!:D:D:D

  37. hahahahhahahhaha what an interesting project!

  38. Hi Jamie, I found out about you because Im a seventeen year old who still reads the newspaper (printed , by the way). I live in Argentina, and just felt like telling you that I had FUN reading this, because it was real and I read that magazine and I realized that you are so young and already did a contribution to change things, you are an inspiration.
    I will now procede to read everything you have posted.
    P.S. My email is in your list, write sometime.

  39. I have read your complete "Seventeen Magazine Project Blog" and I must say, I'm very impressed with the lengthy, interesting and analitical points you have made in each post. This was a great idea, and you must have really made a commitment to this project!

  40. I read this awhile ago and LOVED IT. I've never bought fashion magazines even in middle school namely because I was too self-conscious to take one to a cash register! I suppose I realized even then how silly and superficial they are. Nowadays whenever I pick one up at a friend's house it almost always makes me feel bad about myself! I really don't think these things are worth it, for so many reasons. Your blog is amazing, I'd like to try something similar myself.

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