May 07, 2008

People. People Who Don’t Need People

... by Walter Brasch

From a pool of about seven billion, those hard-working geniuses at People magazine have managed to find the hundred most beautiful people in the whole wide world. And—get ready for the surprise—almost every one of those beautiful people are rich American celebrities.

For almost two decades, People’s editors believe they have been given the divine right to anoint who they believe to be the most beautiful people on the planet. The ethnocentric celebrity-fawning People editors are so secure in their self-imposed knowledge that they don’t even tell us what criteria they used to make their determinations. Not even an “editor’s note,” common in most magazines.

For the first few years, People etched their version of reality into our minds by attaching cutesy capsulated biographies to full page color pictures of the most beautiful. This year, the writing is minimal, the design is almost to the level that a good college journalism or graphics arts student could create and, except for a few full page and two-page spreads, most pictures are no bigger than thumbnail size.

Leading off the 69-page special section is actress Kate Hudson. Advance stories about her selection appeared in just about every American newspaper and major website, all of which think stories about celebrities are more important than stories about the recession. Also on the list are Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Ashton Kutcher, and Norah Jones. The seven member cast of TV’s “Gossip Girl” made the list. “Onscreen,” People told us, “they are gorgeous, scheming, backstabbing high schoolers.” Just what America needs. More future business executives and politicians.

The first few years, when the magazine editors could find only 50 beautiful people, there was a fairly even split between men and women. This year, about 90 percent are women. Except for six athletes (three men and three women), the rest are actors, singers, dancers, and models.

Three years after the first list came out, People recognized the elderly. Of course, the elderly were Paul Newman, Faye Dunaway, and Barbara Babcock. This year, there’s a special two-page black-and-white spread deep in the magazine on pages 174–175 for 40 celebrities, 10 in each of the categories of 20s, 30s, 40, and 50s.

People once selected size 5-foot-11 size14 model Emme as a beautiful person. It championed her as representative of the “burgeoning large-size modeling industry.” Of course, these vacuous editors have no idea that a size 14 isn’t large—it is the average size of American women. This year, the only large size models are in full page ads for Jenny Craig diets and Curvation underwear, which declared, “Style starts with the Side Shaper Underwire bra and shaping panty.”

Teachers, social workers, and medical researchers, no matter how beautiful, didn’t make this year’s cut. But, they shouldn’t worry about it. Neither did Miss America, Miss USA, Miss World, Mr. Universe, or, for that matter, Miss Crustacean, Ocean City, New Jersey’s, salty tribute to hermit crabs, and a spoof of the beauty contest that once inhabited next-door Atlantic City.

People magazine may need people to justify its $254,000 full page advertising rate. But, people, even with insatiable curiosity about celebrities, really don’t need People.

[Walter Brasch’s latest book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, available at amazon.com. Walter Brasch is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University and president of the Pennsylvania Press Club. You may contact Dr. Brasch through his website, www.walterbrasch.com, or by e-mail: brasch@bloomu.edu]

Posted by Walter Brasch at May 7, 2008 10:34 AM | Guest Writings | Technorati links |
Comments

Where do I sign up to compete for Miss Crustacean?? That would look awesome on my resume!

Posted by: kat at May 7, 2008 07:00 PM