Friday, June 11, 2010

"Girls are crazy-- but I love them." -Justin Bieber

If you have been following this project since the beginning, you are probably aware of the fact that one of the original stipulations of this endeavor was that I would hang up any/all magazine photos of Seventeen-approved "hot guys" in my living environment. I haven't paid much mind to this rule on the blog, but I assure you that for the past few weeks I have been living among strangers-- strangers with follicles that swoop, abs that ripple, and eyes like deep pools of money. I, er, meant eyes like deep pools of water. Veritable lakes of teenage seduction.

This month's issue of Seventeen includes a "Free Hot Guy Mag" entitled "Seventeen's Hot Guys of Summer!" This mag-within-a-mag takes the format of dishy interviews in which the guys profiled allegedly share their relationship secrets. Most of these secrets are very guy-centric. The hotties are repetitively asked about their go-to moves, their relationship habits, and their theories on romance. When Taylor Lautner is asked to describe his ideal girlfriend, three out of the four traits end up being things that glorify him, and the odd fourth is one that makes the girl in question look bad. He says, "There are a few things that are important to me in a girl. Honesty, loyalty, the ability to make fun of herself, and the ability to laugh a lot." Obviously these things are important in a relationship, but the fact that the most important things to in his ideal partner include not lying to him, not leaving him, and laughing at his jokes seems to indicate where Seventeen believe women belong in relationships.

I also found it interesting that this piece relies so heavily on the use of the term guy. Upon researching the word, I noticed that many sources were conflicted regarding who you could call a guy. Sometimes the term referred to a man. Other times it referred to a boy. Still other times, its plural form was used to address a group of people of both genders. Seventeen seemed aware of this confusion in choosing the moniker. The age range of the guys in the Hot Guy Mag was fairly wide, especially for a teen magazine. I found it especially bizarre that only two of the guys, Justin Bieber and Nick Jonas, were even in the age range for reading the magazine, ages 12 to 19. What I found weirder, though, is that the largest groups of males featured in the article fell into the two oldest age ranges. This means its possible that the oldest male hottie, Charlie Bewley, could have fathered the youngest targeted Seventeen reader, age 12, when he was 17 years old. This isn't common, but it's certainly not unheard of. I definitely think that the age range skews a little high.
I also sorted the fellows out by occupation. The majority of the guys featured were actors of some sort. A measly two were involved with music. Zero were involved with an occupation outside performance. I know that marketable teen heartthrobs aren't frequently discovered at poetry slams or gallery openings, but its an interesting thing to note.
This last one is just for fun. Must be super weird for devoted Seventeen readers when they finally follows all the tips, achieve the perfect tan and "healthy" sun-kissed glow, and then realizes that the ultimate Hot Guy of Summer is just a sexed-up, long-haired version a of pale, nocturnal Xbox gamer . I'm not saying that pale guys can't be handsome, but the juxtaposition of the two is certainly funny.
Also absent from the Hot Guy Mag is even a slight acknowledgment that some girls might not be attracted to some of these guys, or might not be attracted to guys at all. This article is yet another example of how Seventeen sells teenagers a one size fits all approach to the taste, fashion, and sexuality.

Feel free to email me if you have interest in the raw data these charts came from.


  1. How many men of color in Seventeen's "Hot Guys?"

    The group pic is of all white men. Just wondering if you noticed an absence of hot guys of color, or if they're there, but not pictured.

  2. Lautner is part Native American, as are a number of the other guys featured from Twilight.

    I'm not positive, but if I remember correctly from when I did my survey of race in the magazine, some of the guys were white from Hispanic background.

    Pretty sure that nobody featured was Black or Asian.

  3. I love your analysis of every little aspect of Seventeen : ) Your description of vampires being a "sexed-up, long-haired version a of pale, nocturnal Xbox gamer" made me laugh, but it is so true!

    They try to make the magazine for real teenagers, but the magazine doesn't contain much ABOUT real teenagers! How many people are actors or singers? Very few, yet they glorify them like normal people don't matter!

    And ew about the age range of the "Hot guys"!

  4. Great point about the age range of these guys. And I love that so many of them were associated with vampirism--guys are going to have to start getting pale (and possibly applying a whole lot of glitter to their skin) to seem attractive to these poor girls.

  5. I love this blog!-My friends and i frecuently dicuss some of the points made here, its one of the first blogs i check.
    -(lurker returns to shadows)

  6. As a proud PlayStation and PC gamer, I will attest to the fact that we are as pale, if not paler, than those XBox losers! :-P

    I'm glad you also address the hetero-centrism in Seventeen. It has always irked me, because the age range for that magazine is a period when girls are very likely to question their sexual orientation. It leads me to wonder if Seventeen has ever published any articles about LGBT sexuality or the community (besides that transphobic "My Boyfriend Turned Out to be a Girl!" article from last year). Have you seen anything in particular about sexuality in the issue you're using?

    As always, keep up the good work :-)

  7. hey jamie
    just wanted to tell you i've been following everything you've been writing and i think this project is absolutely awesome.
    keep it up! :)

  8. Again, nice graphs. I agree with Rachel C-H...some acknowledgment that not all girls are attracted to guys/boys would be good. I've seen one Seventeen article that was about "I might be gay" and I thought it was actually pretty good, but the implication was that being gay is something out of the ordinary.

    And possibly relevant:

    I also find it kind of strange that the "real guys" in Seventeen are portrayed as a "hot guy panel". Like, in the Seventeen universe there is no such thing as guys who aren't "hot" by their narrow definition.

  9. Is it just me, or does the term "guy" seem slightly tainted nowadays? Especially after discovering the "nice-guy-that-really-isn't", it seems like the only thing I think of when I hear "guy" is 1) a teenage male, or 2) a "man-child"(particularly when I see it used in articles geared towards adults - Cosmo, Glamour, god knows how many men's magazines...).

  10. oh heyyyyy infographics, get it gurl.

  11. I wonder if the use of the term guy is used due to the awkwardness of the wide target age-range, making it less creepy to profile a "hot guy" 29-year-old in a magazine read by 12 year old girls.

    Then again, I am reading this at 2AM on the other end of the couch from my boyfriend in our basement apartment, who is indeed playing xbox. I think he's pretty cute, though I'm not sure that (based on the sample) Seventeen would agree. Le Sigh.

  12. Who cares how old they are as long as they're cute?

  13. AceJournalist- it might not matter when you're 18+, but I think it does when you're 12

  14. First of all, I love your blog. But I do think you're being too harsh in this post. In that last paragraph especially, I found your criticism to be excessive-- how, exactly, should Seventeen go about acknowledging that some girls will find the girls they present unattractive? Should they add some disclaimer: "sorry if you find them ugly!"? In general, I have found that Seventeen goes for a variety of standards of attractiveness. There are blond guys, sure, but also Asian guys and African-American guys. Seventeen does make a conscious effort to be ethnically diverse.

    Also, regarding your point about sexuality-- over my years of reading Seventeen, I've found a fair number of "How do I know if I'm bi" articles, as well as articles about "real life" lesbian couples, etc. It's difficult to acknowledge a minority without losing the interest of the majority, and after all Seventeen is expected to sell copies largely to heterosexual readers, but I think they try their best to not completely alienate the GLBT community.

    Seventeen may be shallow, redundant, and materialistic, but they do make consistent, sincere (if perhaps dimwitted) attempts to acknowledge minorities.

  15. Jamie, thank you for starting this blog. I've always seen the media as just a part of life and our society's twisted expectations for teens. You've made a lot of great, intelligent points about the magazine that I'd never taken the time to notice. Your posts really make me think about the standards we set for ourselves and how we let them control us to the point that we don't even notice. Thanks you for your brilliant insight.

  16. I wish I had been as cool, smart, and articulate as you are when I was in high school.

  17. Found your blog thanks to Feministing, just wanted to say I've been really enjoying it! am Irish, but it looks like the style of magazines for teenage girls is universal..

  18. I'm going to repeat what Anonymous wrote at 6:05pm and say that I just not 30 minutes ago said to my husband that I wish I had been as smart and awesome as you when I was in high school. I said this in reference to a post in which you used the word "heteronormative."

    Your analysis here is wonderful and I identify with a lot of the things you've written. Keep up the amazing work!

  19. I am so impressed with your blog, Jamie. I'm hoping that it will be an inspiration to some of my students here in England. I'll be showing them your work in class this week. Many thanks!

  20. I love your point about how many of the men who make the list hot guys list are 24 or older, its rather creepy! I just discovered your blog and I love that you are exposing the truths about teen magazines. :)

  21. Fabulous blog. I just read through all the articles, and I'm totally lovin' it (in a non-McDonald's sort of way).

    Your analysis of "guy" amused me. I remember reading in some teen mag years ago - maybe even Seventeen - an article/quiz: "Is he a 'boy' or a 'guy'?" Apparently, for teenage males, boys are 'cute' while guys are 'hot'... etc etc.

    Although I'm not sure if I quite agree with your point about Taylor Lautner's best traits in a girl. Mostly because I think "laughing at herself" wouldn't necessarily involve the "guy", and two of my personal top qualities in a guy are honesty and loyalty. But maybe I'm hoping for a guy to glorify me. Hey, maybe me and Taylor should hang out (wait, is he one of the ones actually in the target age range?)

  22. > Most of these secrets are very [girl]-centric. The hotties are repetitively asked about their go-to moves, their relationship habits, and their theories on romance. When […] is asked to describe his ideal [boy]friend, three out of the four traits end up being things that glorify [her], and the odd fourth is one that makes the [boy] in question look bad. [She] says, "There are a few things that are important to me in a [boy]. Honesty, loyalty, the ability to make fun of [him]self, and the ability to laugh a lot." Obviously these things are important in a relationship, but the fact that the most important things to in his ideal partner include not lying to [her], not leaving [her], and laughing at [her] jokes seems to indicate where Seventeen believe [men] belong in relationships.

    That's the exact description of every relationship from a guy's point of view, from teenagers to Sex and the City fan, to eldery dating. *Every* girl, women, cougar. It's not even funny anymore.

  23. As a big gay dykey homo... I appreciate the acknowledgement in your last paragraph. =)

  24. Your blog is great. I think you are a very inspiring young woman, and I forwarded your blog onto my 16yo sister. Can't wait to read what you write after this project!

  25. I am very intrigued that the majority of Seventeen's "HOTTIES" are over 24!! For a magazine whose demographic is teenagers- early twenties, that was surprising.

  26. I love this blog and I think you're doing something really incredible here. I definitely agree with your point about age - it grosses me out more than a little that a 29-year-old man is being advertised as a "hottie" to a 12-year-old...or even a 19-year-old, because that is still a 10 year age gap. I think they definitely should have targeted people who were more in the readers' age group (and not the editors').

    However, I have to agree with Jessica and say that I think you were a little too harsh on Taylor Lautner. I'm not a huge fan of his or anything, but I think honesty and loyalty are really what anyone wants in a relationship - men and women. And he didn't specifically say not lying to him - I'm sure he wouldn't want someone who lied to everyone but him, for example. Now if he had said something like, "Being there for me whenever I want, knowing how to cook, and wanting to make my babies," I could definitely get on board with your rant. But I think he's just trying to give a media-friendly, semi-generic answer.

  27. Clare here again...

    I'm going to hazard a guess that Seventeen readers typically don't want to refer to their latest "crush" as a "boy," because 'boys' aren't dateable, they're children; ask Seventeen readers if at parties they "talk about boys," and you'll get an earth-shattering group eye-roll. Conversely, they don't want to refer to 'crushes' as "men," because that makes them sound mature, accomplished and past the stupid years- and if the 12-19 y/o Seventeen readers are dating 12-19 y/o males, they are MOST ASSUREDLY NOT past the stupid years. "Guy" is nicely vague about age- it implies dateability, unlike [little] boy or [married] man.

    Now, what irks me about this is, there's no female equivalent. In fact, 'girls' are 'girls' until they're nearly 30, or married. "College guys" and "young guys," with the occasional "frat boy," are only opposite "hot girls" or "sorority girls," "nice girls" or "party girls." When 'college women' are mentioned, it's usually in a disparaging tone about either feminism or 'hook-up culture.' That's a whole other can of worms.


  28. Just came here via B3ta...

    I think what you're doing is important in terms of pointing out that the media push an unobtainable lifestyle onto the public. But I can't help but feel some of your points in the last post are creating issues where none actually exist.

    "The hotties are repetitively asked about THEIR go-to moves, THEIR relationship habits, and THEIR theories on romance"
    Well yes, of course they are, its an interview about THEM.

    "When Taylor Lautner is asked to describe his ideal girlfriend, three out of the four traits end up being things that glorify him, and the odd fourth is one that makes the girl in question look bad."
    All relationships are inherently narcissistic, not just Taylor Lautners. Evryone wants someone who will make them feel good about themselves, why wouldn't they? Turning it around, do you think women should go for men who don't make them feel good about themselves? I also think its a little unfair to describe Taylor Lautner as wanting to be "glorified" by having a woman not lie to him, not cheat on him and find him funny. That's just the basis for a healthy relationship, not someone with a God complex. And how does being able to laugh at yourself translate into making "the girl in question look bad"?

    "....seems to indicate where Seventeen believe women belong in relationships"
    No it doesn't, not even in the slightest. Since when did what an individual says in a interview become the opinion of the magazine that publishes it?

    I also find it interesting that in your post you don't directly address the issue of the objectification of men by reducing them down to their physical attributes. Thereby creating a generation of women who will be rendered forever unable to see men as anything other than sex objects That is the standard populist feminist accusation that is thrown at young men frequently. I would have assumed you would have at least addressed this, even if only to dismiss that feminist argument as something you disagree with.

  29. I agree with xcarex about the term "guy." I run into that problem (marketing toward large age range). "Guy" makes it much easier.

    I'm married to a pale, x-box playing "guy". And he's definitely hot.

    Enjoyed this observation "I know that marketable teen heartthrobs aren't frequently discovered at poetry slams or gallery openings, but its an interesting thing to note." Very interesting indeed. Personally, I've always been attracted to artist-type (musicians were all the rage in my day).

  30. I'm in agreement with some commenters here; I think you were too harsh regarding Lautner's quote. As was mentioned, it's not as if he wants a woman who is dishonest and disloyal with her friends, but honest and loyal with him. Additionally, relationships are all about how we interact with others, so it only makes sense that someone would desire traits related to our interaction with others in those with whom they are looking to have a relationship.

    Also, it doesn't change your point about age, but just a minor point of clarification, Lautner's 18, so three of the featured "hotties" are in the same age group as the magazine's targeted readers.

    Other than that, great post. It's definitely inspired a lot of discussion.

  31. Would you date a man who would lie to you about important issues?

    I doubt it. Hence honesty must be extremely important to you.

  32. Just discovered this blog from a BoingBoing link and was very quickly hooked. You're doing some amazing stuff! I cannot comment so intelligently on the social issues as others here, but I wanted to say how much I admired the careful data collection and display of the information. You'll be an awesome social scientist, for sure.

    As another person who grew up in PA and moved to Chicago -- enjoy the pizza and Tastykakes while you can!

  33. Let's not lie. That picture of Nick Jonas is pretty hot, even if he is so young.

  34. I disagree with how you took what Taylor Lautner said about what he looks for in a girl. He was just asked about what qualities his ideal girl would have, like the ability to be loyal and honest and he doesn't say that she has to laugh at 'his jokes' but that he would like someone who laughs a lot or basically has a sense of humor. Because he says he would like for his girlfriend to do those things doesn't mean that he feels that he wouldn't have to reciprocate those qualities. If the question had been, 'how would you treat your ideal girlfriend?' and he had said 'she has to laugh at my jokes and be loyal to me and honest with me but I don't have to do that for her', then I'd agree with your take on it.

  35. Must say, I love the graphs. I'm an economics major at u of m and I love your blog! I just found it online today and I think the way that you think, and write, about these issues is 1) hilarious and 2) quite interesting!

    I love the vampire one and the correlation you draw there between tanned thin women and vampires... :)

    I do think that the magazine is a bit crazy about "guys" and I also think that the "guys" should state better qualities (like, smart, funny, an economist... what? lol etc) but that shows a character flaw on their part, not the magazine. Possibly - the magazine should find different hot guys who actually have a character! But of course, hot bodies (more specifically, those hot bodies that are on disney or mtw or whatever else 12-19 year olds watch) are what sells magazines... You've diagnosed a critical issue that reaches much farther than teen-fluff magazines.

    Anyhoo, that's just me being bored at work and, by the way, a total econ nerd and a bit of a feminist ;)

    Good luck with graduating and college - the University you are going to attend is AMAZING :) I'm jealous (not really, I love my professors here, but a little bit).

  36. I heard your interview on NPR and had to check out your blog. As a 39-year-old man who spent a few years teaching English to high school students, I'd like to join all the people here who've commended you on your thoughtful, insightful, and valuable analysis. What I always wanted most for my 15-to-18-year-olds was for them to understand that all media should be subject to scrutiny and that as readers/viewers/listeners, it's incumbent on us to ask questions about the motives and perspective of the source. Your analysis is clear and thought provoking. I'm married to a high school English teacher and keep in touch with many of my former colleagues. Your blog will be a fine example for them to share with their students.
    Thank you for sharing this with us.

    Oh, and I think many of the commenters have a point about Lautner's quote, but your questioning his meaning is still valuable. If I have a daughter someday, I hope she will be able to ask, "What does he (or she) mean when his most valued qualities in a mate are honesty, loyalty, etc.?"
    Best of luck to you and I hope you continue this kind of work!

  37. You go girl! Let's hear it for modern day feminism.

  38. Im Andre from the hot guy panel. no im not lying. honestly im not really into Seventeen. never read it before a friend suggested I apply for the panel thing. they do have a narrow definition of "hot" but a lot of us don't match that. many of us are also quite kind people.

  39. Back when I was a teenager in the earlier part of the last decade (Let's say 2000-2004), I was enamored with well-dressed older men and I always got upset that there were never any pin-ups of cute besuited guys for me!!! Just muscular dorks with bad haircuts and squinty eyes.

  40. yes, I think the guys are a bit old