The ‘Lad Mag’ and Its Continual Existence

I’ve just watched the BBC’s ‘Blurred Lines: The New Battle of the Sexes’ which was admittedly well executed and absolutely infuriating. I’ll have to be careful how I express myself within this in order to not simply rant about what I believe to be the state of the world and a reason for everyone to stop breeding, end of.

One thing that really winds me up and has done forever is the existence of the ‘Lad Mag’. I think you can play the empowering to women card as much as you like but, let’s face it, it’s not exactly very convincing. FHM’s tagline is ‘It’s Great to Be a Man’, which completely marginalises women and is intent on distinguishing the two sexes. I’m sure it is great to be a man, but in this context it’s implied it’s ‘great to be a man’ as as a man you get to gawp at all these scantily clad women this magazine makes it so easy for you to access.

Keeping the focus on FHM, they’re not even remotely subtle about what it is they are in fact doing, which is quite simply objectifying women. A title or headline from their website at the moment is “3 Amazing Girls You Can’t Afford to Miss this Month”, which almost sounds like you’re food shopping. This use of language objectifies women, places certain women above others and makes the sex sound disposable. This is this month but next month those three girls will be completely different, don’t worry, when you’re done we don’t mind being thrown away.

However I suppose in some ridiculous sense they can also be the source of entertainment for us girls. One thing I read today did in fact make me feel a little bit “aw bless” for all the blokes out there. “Someone’s finally realised that putting Georgia Salpa in undies to sell undies is a brilliant idea” apparently, and no darling, they’re knickers, not undies. Admittedly this made me giggle slightly but still the underlying misogyny is there. Lingerie adverts aren’t really created for blokes are they? They’re meant to sell women their bras and knickers yet a bi-product of this appears to be a slight sense of sexual satisfaction for blokes, which is now being included in Lad Mags. Here women’s own space is being invaded upon by men for their own personal pleasure and they’re getting it completely wrong in the process.

The thing I find whenever I write something like this is that I’ll get branded as a Feminist, which is fine, I class myself as one. However, that has negative connotations, something that still needs addressing. I enjoy looking nice, I worry about my appearance like I’m sure many other girls do. It’s no wonder really, with the fashion and beauty industry alongside culture such as Lad Mags portraying women in unrealistic manners I’m surprised more people don’t freak out on a regular basis. Unfortunately though, most of us are real and photo-shop doesn’t exist in real life.

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Autobiographies Don’t Work Unless You’re Interesting.

“I dreamed of having a book of my own, of writing one that I could put on a shelf”

– Patti Smith

I haven’t read many autobiographies. In terms of reading about people I’ve read more biographies, but even that’s a slim selection. I read Heavier than Heaven when I was thirteen and obsessed with Nirvana. I wanted to follow it up with Courtney Love’s biography but my mum said I was too young. “You can listen to her music, that’s fine, but her personal life is inappropriate.” Plus, apparently it’s really trashy.

Generally I don’t really trust biographies and I’m also pretty disinterested in people’s personal lives, unless they’re severely troubled and consequently vaguely interesting in a ‘I shouldn’t be enjoying this as much as I am’ kind of way. However Charles R. Cross had written Heavier than Heaven and as a music journalist and biographer he has my respect and consequently trust (although that may just be due to BBC Four featuring him in various music documentaries). The same applies to Victor Brockis, biographer of Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Blondie, William S. Burroughs and Andy Warhol just to name an impressive select few. Maybe I just find him easy to trust because he has a massively decent music taste and worked at Andy Warhol’s infamous ‘Factory’, what is there to question?

That’s another biography I sped through with keen obsession, Brockis’ Patti Smith. I enjoyed it, it was interesting but perhaps that’s because she’s an astonishing subject. It was full of interviews and lots of things Patti Smith had actually said, so maybe that’s what made it so good, she has a particular way with words. However, I had already read Just Kids, Patti Smith’s autobiography and consequently didn’t really learn anything new from Brockis. I think I was just attempting to fuel my obsession further.

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Just Kids took me a day to read. That may have been something to do with reading it whilst on holiday and having nothing else to do but I don’t think that’s the case. This is my first example of a really successful autobiography. I was incapable of putting it to rest or focus my mind on anything else, even in the slightly unbearable heat of the Turkish sun.

      “Just Kids begins as a love story and ends as an elegy. It serves as a salute to New York City during the late sixties and seventies, and to its rich and poor, its hustlers and hellions. A true fable, it is a portrait of two young artists’ ascent, a prelude to fame.”

– ‘Just Kids’, 2010

I may be biased here, due to my complete adoration for Patti Smith, but the blurb seems to hold a complete extent of emotion; “Just Kids begins as a love story and ends as an elegy”. It’s true, it really does. I won’t give it away, as I highly recommend reading it, even if you haven’t heard of Patti Smith, but the amount of emotion you experience on each page really does demonstrate the amount of love she had for this guy, which is extended into the elegy. The book does not simply focus on New York and the sixties and seventies but also on Smith’s early life; pre New York, pre Robert Mapplethorpe. Just Kids is written as a story, I think that’s partly why it works so well. Smith tells the story of her own life as opposed to just relaying the facts and ‘what happened.’ There is an elegance to her writing, just as there is an elegance to her poetry. Perhaps that’s why this story is so successful, the author is just that, an author. She has spent her life writing poems and producing art, surrounded by creativity. She understands how it is words work and what they’re capable of producing and is in herself well read and cultured. This is not someone who doesn’t know how to write thinking they can write a book (think most celebrity autobiographies).

Plus she has something to say. Published in 2010, Smith was sixty four and has arguably lived a life. This book has substance, sixty four years worth to be precise. It’s not some absolute nonsense spewed about by a member of One Direction, who let’s face it even put together have less life experience than a dead cat, it is a documentation of a life well lived. The content is interesting, Smith met and stayed with some of the most outrageous, intelligent and creative people to grace New York and particularly the Chelsea Hotel in the seventies, think Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan. It tells of her trips to Paris, sleeping rough in Central Park and eventually her rise (and disappearance) from fame. It is a really good story, made even better by the fact it’s true.

This week I have read Jeanette Winterson’s Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? This is the second autobiography I have managed to fully read and again, finished it in a day. Jeanette Winterson is a prize winning author so it’s no real surprise that her autobiography would be a success in my eyes. I remember reading Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit two years ago and I was unable to put it down; finished in a day. Oranges is semi autobiographical in that the main character is based on herself as is the family situation and it is a book about adoption. However it is fiction meaning there is an allowance for exaggeration and grandeur, an allowance for story telling.

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Winterson writes in a very straightforward manner. The reader seems to be able to grasp the entire extent and possibility of a situation through a single sentence when reading her work and this was evident in her autobiography. Her short description of sixties, industrial Manchester provides the reader with an entire landscape of what it was like, unlike Morrissey who goes on for pages and pages and yet I’m still no closer to knowing or feeling anything other than he lived in a small terrace. Again, this is an author writing a book, it is refined, clear, intelligent and practical; it does exactly what it intends to. However it is also exciting, gripping, at times tense and (my Uncle used the word) harrowing. Again, this book has substance and a narrative, the author is telling us the story of her life. It draws you into her passions and interests, particularly her interests in literature and what it is reading and writing can achieve (which as an author she has gone on to achieve at great levels). It has a drive behind it, the narrative being based around her adoption and eventually seeking her birth mother. There is a structure and a goal and the reader is completely gripped by the concept of her achieving it.

Both these books were fascinating to me. They are both written beautifully. They even look beautiful, the way each different author has chosen to present their work on the page makes it appealing and comfortable to read. Font and layout always seem to make a massive difference. Both authors have had tantalisingly exciting lives, from start to present and they relay them in a way that mystifies it, makes it almost myth or legend.

Autobiographies always seem a bit self centred to me but the story telling in these two make the author seem humble and honest. I always feel a bit sad after finishing any book, knowing that the story’s over, but finishing these definitely left me feeling empty, I’d completely immersed myself in their worlds. I cried and cried at the end of Just Kids (with my sunglasses on so no one round the pool could see) and at the end of Why Be Normal When You Could Be Happy? I felt a strange sense of optimism that it seemed the author had possessed all the way through. These are the books I enjoy the most, the ones you don’t simply read but the ones you feel and get caught up in and remember for years and years after, until you can’t and then you read them again.

Ryan Gosling Vs. Miley Cyrus- When Disney Goes Wrong.

Child stars are often notorious for going off the rails, Britney is probably a prime example of this. However, she seems to have got her act together now and we can all just continue to appreciate her music as opposed to criticise her hairstyle and question her outfit choices and exits from vehicles. She has since paved the way for a whole new host of teen stars and Disney seem to quite simply spew them out left, right and centre. Recently it has unchained Miley Cyrus and let her loose in the big bad world of adulthood, which apparently neither that nor Billy Ray Cyrus were quite ready for.

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Ever since her departure from the loveable Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus has been heavily criticised for the way in which she has chosen to conduct her new found self. This was first unleashed at the 2013 MTV Music Awards in which her outfit choice was essentially non existence and her dance moves considered by many as supremely distasteful. Which, let’s be honest, they were. However, now it’s a thing and everyone seems to do it so I guess we can’t be too harsh if it managed to somehow catch on. However, I’m not writing this to simply criticise Miley for showing us all how to twerk and let’s be honest Robin Thicke (which let’s face it, says it all) probably had some part in making the whole thing look so unholy. No, I’m writing this with the intention of attempting to prove a point about yet another case in which the expectations of men and women are extremely different and unrealistic and how in fact, Miley Cyrus may be being treated unfairly. (This doesn’t mean I like her music though, that is never going to happen.)

There were the MTV awards and then there was ‘Wrecking Ball’. ‘Wrecking Ball’ was slated, not even musically (which I believe would be a reasonable reaction) but rather for the video. I probably don’t need to describe it, everyone is probably completely aware of what it contains but if you’ve been fortunate enough to perhaps have absolutely no knowledge I’ll provide a brief description. The most Miley is clothed in in this video is a pair of knickers and a crop top, for a lot of it she is simply wearing a pair of Cherry Red DMs and nothing else, whilst swinging around on some form of wrecking ball in a sexual manner. Yes, this is a far cry from the world of Hannah Montana, but she’s not fourteen anymore, she is now twenty one.

Miley is getting continuously slated for her public image and behaviour and I must admit although I think her music is one of the worst things to ever happen to my ears I do feel sorry for her in some respects. If you watch ‘Wrecking Ball’ to the end you will notice it says “directed by Terry Richardson” and if you know who Terry Richardson is then you can begin to question why it is Miley has presented herself like this and if it is entirely her choice. Terry Richardson is a photographer, who also appears to dabble in directing music videos but he is also notorious for photographing models in the nude, in sexually provocative positions and appears to have a reputation for possibly pushing some models too far. Therefore it seems reasonable to question how much Miley is wishing to expose herself and tell the world she isn’t a teenager anymore or how much Richardson was involved in the explicity of this particular video.

Furthmore, it could simply be considered a display of female sexuality, admittedly something people have always struggled with. The female body is often used in music videos and is often presented as something to be desired and is frequently objectified by male artists whereas this is a video in which only a woman is featured in her own video in a way she wishes to be presented.

However, how does this relate to Ryan Gosling, general heart-throb and every girls dream man? Well he was a Disney star too, starting his career at the mere age of twelve. And he too has grown up and decided to leave that past behind him yet no one seemed to react to this in the same way they reacted to Miley Cyrus. Maybe it was because when he began his career into serious acting one of the films he did was ‘The Notebook’ and maybe that was a safe bet, considering it probably rooted him as safely within the realms of loving romantic and general dream bloke. However, this isn’t all he’s done. He’s recently starred in a film called ‘Drive’, an American thriller in which Ryan Gosling plays, well a driver, who simultaneously appears to gruesomely beat people to a pulp. So, for an hour and forty minutes Ryan Gosling talks in a completely monotone voice, in a stereotypical, “void of all emotion male” style and then violently attacks and murders other characters with blunt objects. No clean kills with a gun, more extended horror and graphic cold blooded murder scenes. Why is this acceptable and Miley Cyrus being naked on a wrecking ball not?

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That question may sound ridiculous and in any other situation I would think so, but why is the promotion of violence something society deems acceptable whereas the promotion of sex is not? Miley left her star child status behind by alluding to the idea of sex, something which is frankly harmless in comparison to Ryan Gosling’s departure from his earlier days into someone who goes round repeatedly kicking peoples’ heads in. And this is why I think Miley has been treated unfairly. She hasn’t taken drugs, she hasn’t done a Britney and (completely) shaved her head, she hasn’t promoted the idea of an outdated 1950s style unemotionally available male or the idea of violence and crime rather she changed her image to something she thought would be more suitable for her age. In some ways I don’t blame her, if I’d been Hannah Montana for most of my short life I’d want to dramatically change the way I look but admittedly I probably would have tried to do it with a bit more nuance than that.

Really this is just another example of the way in which it is more often than not women rather than men who are critiqued for the way in which they portray themselves within today’s society and should surely be another massive signpost as to how we’re continuing to get it wrong. Criticising Miley Cyrus simply seems easy but really she’s just someone who’s been pushed into the limelight at a young age and is now simply growing up, like we all do. We should probably leave her alone soon though, otherwise there may be the danger of sparking a ‘leave Miley alone’ fan video, which let’s face it will be a major disappointment in comparison to the Britney one we’ve all learned to love and laugh at.

Channel Four and It’s Disgusting Decline into Tabloid Telly.

I haven’t watched all of ‘Benefits Street’, just parts of it and I have to admit it wasn’t very entertaining. However, I have seen the responses to it via the world of Facebook and Twitter and this is really what made me slightly concerned. From death threats to a broad generalisation of everyone in this country who claims benefits the general public have been successfully brainwashed by Channel Four’s poor choice in broadcasting.

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At this point it seems important to address the reasons as to why Channel Four actually exists. It began broadcasting in 1982 and was set to be an alternative to the existing BBC and ITV channels. With the station not having to worry about funding it was free to appeal to people on the fringes of society, those that it today seems to exploit, and seemed set on broadcasting more liberal, politically challenging material in the years that Thatcher dominated. It was a platform for independent film making and British Realist Cinema and appealed to a more minute audience as opposed to the mainstream. But importantly it gave a voice to those members of society who were generally otherwise silenced.

In 1993 however this was all set to change as Channel Four had to begin to find their own funding, which was mainly to come from advertising on the station. This therefore meant that it had to begin to appeal to the mainstream, in order to boost ratings, as opposed to continue it’s commitment to the marginalised and minority groups.

However, even if this is the case does it justify some of the absolute rubbish they now seem to broadcast on a regular basis? There’s a whole string of programmes, all dubbed as documentaries which seem to satisfy nothing more than the existence of something I’ve come to call ‘Tabloid Telly’. Shows such as, ‘Big Fat Gypsy Weddings’, ‘Benefits Street’, ‘Educating Essex’, ‘Educating Yorkshire’, ‘Skint’ and ‘The Undateables’ all seem to simply serve to exploit the minorities they claim they are accurately portraying and give the general public something to be apparently entertained by. This is not documentary TV, adding an omniscient narrator does not make something a documentary, rather they are seemingly bizarre or exciting stories (or so the titles suggest) that take up an hour of our precious lives to do nothing more than take advantage of the people they portray.

Something such as ‘The Undateables’, just to take one example, seems to come down to pure exploitation. I think it’s the title they’ve given the show that makes me so angry. To make a programme based around the concept of individuals with a disability starting to date and then naming it ‘The Undateables’ seems shameful. What is it about these people that make them ‘undateable’? The last time I checked having a disability doesn’t make you any less loveable than anyone else. This is Channel Four giving a sensationalised name to a programme, just as something like ‘The Sun’ gives a sensationalised headline for an article, in order to lure the general ignorant into passive viewing or reading. In the same manner as tabloid papers and how they portray their stories, this ‘Tabloid Telly’ and the way in which they name their programmes actually have little to do with the actual content that is then broadcast.

Similarly ‘Benefits Street’ doesn’t seem to have informed or educated anyone about the way in which these people are forced to live, rather has incited hatred and anger among the general public due to clever editing and the way in which Channel Four choose to portray these people. This is a far cry from what Channel Four initially existed to do. As opposed to display the circumstances that made these people the way they are and the way in which society has possibly let them down they simply choose to make entertainment out of them for people like you and me to sit at home and be disgusted at or simply amused by.

Quite simply Channel Four seem to be letting themselves down. The documentaries, and I use the term lightly, they now wish to broadcast are far from being factual and unbiased. They simply exist in order to briefly entertain a bored and unchallenged public, which seems to be reinforced by the idea that most of them only have a ‘one off special’ status. As opposed to continuing to represent people at the fringe’s of society Channel Four has taken their once loyal viewing category and turned them into what it is they use to entertain the masses. It almost seems reminiscent of freak shows, Channel Four seems to have stooped to this level, taking minority groups and displaying them in front of everyone in the mainstream for nothing more than their general amusement.  

‘Do I Wanna Know?’ – Erm, Yes Please!

So, after a fair bit of waiting around for fans the Arctic Monkeys have finally released what I can only assume to be their next single, Do I Wanna Know? The answer to this for anyone who is as much of a fan as I am has to be yes.  Yes please Alex we all desperately want to know what it is you’re going to do next.

Since their release of RU Mine? following their slightly disappointing fourth album Suck It and See it seems I’ve been sitting around forever waiting for something as tantalising as their latest track. It is reflective of RU Mine? and continues to add the spark back into their music that Suck It and See seemed to really lack. The obvious highs of these new tracks are the return to the use of an exceptionally strong guitar riff which dominates the track with both bass and vocals tending to follow its lead. The impact of this just seems to be incredible.

There’s something about their new style of writing that makes you want to listen to the tracks over and over with no indication as to when it is they’ll become tiresome, in some ways it’s reminiscent of their early stuff just with a greater musical sophistication which is to be expected. I for one am hoping that they’re on the way to releasing a new album, which is rumoured to be coming out this year and the release of Do I Wanna Know? seems to affirm this idea. I’m also hoping for an album based on these strong almost classic seventies rock style guitar riffs in order to really drive it on. They need another exciting album, one in which every song is catchy and everyone knows the words. Their first album was exactly that but from Favourite Worst Nightmare onwards it seems to have gone slowly downhill.

Hopefully this is the start of something new. Or rather, something old, a return to the classic Arctic Monkeys I fell in love with and a return to classic riffs, driving bass and ridiculous drums. Their first album was full of dancey tracks and anthems and I’m sure they’ve still got it in them to write some more.

Do I Wanna Know? – The Arctic Monkeys

Quick Trip to London: Day Three.

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So after today I’ve made the decision that in order for my life to move forward I need to move to Camden and just act as if I’m much cooler than I am in order to have endless enjoyment and fun times. As you may have gathered today consisted of visiting Camden Town and its famous markets in order to shop, eat and drink. What more could anyone want?

I’m starting to enjoy getting the tube now because after a few days it’s pretty easy to understand and today we went all the way from Canary Wharf to Camden Town, which barely took anytime at all. The whole décor of Camden looked exactly how I remembered but the stalls seemed to all be pretty different. In order to shop I would definitely recommend. Everyone has a misconception that it’s going to be really pricey but it’s not. The proof, I brought two t-shirts and a necklace today all for under twenty five pounds.

However there seems to be a lot less variety that I remember. Essentially there are five categories of stall, hippy chic, general London paraphernalia, Jamaican culture, Goth and trendy indie clothes. And then within these categories there’s no variety in what actually makes up the stall. Once you’ve seen one Goth shop, you’ve seen them all, which applies to all these individual categories. I’d personally prefer a greater sense of individuality and variety within the stalls but I suppose these kinds of things are becoming more and more hard to come by.

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There is also food and lots of it. Every type of cuisine you could wish for is catered for and it looks and smells amazing. However this is where the prices start to become a little less student friendly, I can’t personally justify spending five pounds on a small portion of Chinese food, even if it does look like it’s going to taste heavenly. However, it is still possible to eat and drink cheaply even in the centre of Camden Locks, if you know where the Wetherspoons is. Luckily we did which meant even though the bar was in a prime location we weren’t paying extortionate prices for food and drink for the first time this week.

Although really the coolest bit of the day had to be the fact that as we decided to cut down a back street in order to avoid the crowds we stumbled past Noel Fielding and his brother Matt, which was totally weird. I, being the individual I am, really didn’t play this situation cool and kind of shouted my thoughts out loud instead of keeping them in my head (which happens sometimes) and seemed to point at him and go, “Oh look, it’s actually Noel Fielding.” I don’t think that’s the best way to approach these people, he kind of smiled and waved and I walked away thinking about all the cool things I could have said instead and how much better this blog post would be if I’d done any of the cool things I’ve since thought of. Also, a picture would have been good, to prove this happened, but the guy was on the phone and it seemed impolite.

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Quick Trip to London: Day Two.

So today was truly the most touristy of days. We traded in the crowds of Bowie fans for hordes of tourists from all over the world in order to view London’s most iconic and spectacular sights.

We started the day with a cultural visit to the Tate modern in which we basically stood amongst an excess of school trips ranging from primary up to college and attempted to view Picasso’s impressive ‘Weeping Woman’ in peace. If you thought really hard this could be done and seeing artwork in real life is much more rewarding than anything else. It’s difficult to appreciate the technicality and vividness of all the colours until the real thing is experienced.

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This was followed by lunch on the Thames in the sunshine and a stroll over the millennium bridge to St. Paul’s. This is definitely something to see in order to fully appreciate its magnificence. Alongside the fact you can sing Mary Poppins whilst sitting on the steps and pretending to feed the birds the intricacy of the carvings of the saints and apostles are really interesting.

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So this was the first on our trip of major sightseeing places in London. This was followed by the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey (another massively beautiful building), Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square. I must admit once you’ve been to these places each new busy is pretty similar. Except for temporarily most of Trafalgar Square is currently inaccessible making a less exciting trip. However we did visit The Royal Gardens which features pelicans, something I know for a fact I didn’t make up but didn’t seem plausible until I saw them again!

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However we ended the day with a drink in a pub called The Sherlock Holmes in which yes, pints are still over four pounds which is really starting to burn a hole. But this is inner city living and it’s pretty much the same as drinking in the centre of Manchester.

I’m starting to really fall in love with London, which I kind of knew has always been the case and tomorrow we’re visiting Camden which I’m majorly excited for! I’m sure I’ll update and express this excitement for you tomorrow evening or maybe the day after- London’s pretty tiring!