come on Cleo Magazine, you can do better.

I want to start by saying I read a lot of magazines. It’s my guilty pleasure, the antithesis of my job writing community news. I love to flick through NW on the treadmill, or Who on my lunch break and I totally accept these publications for what they are – light-hearted escapism.cleo.jpg

That being said, I was reading Cleo Magazine this morning at the gym and it made me angry. Like smoke coming out of my ears, had to throw the magazine away, vowed never to buy it again angry. I’m not a regular Cleo reader, but it’s my understanding that since the new editor came on board at the end of last year, the magazine has been touting itself as a new, more dynamic read for its target audience (which is professional 20-somethings like myself). As part of the relaunch in April it was announced there would no longer be any big ‘sex sells’ cover lines, so it gave the impression the magazine was angling towards a smarter, more well-rounded reader.

This month’s cover has the flashy headline ‘Sexism exposed!’, which seems like a pretty decent concept to explore. But the article I took issue with was the interview with Girls creator Lena Dunham. I’m no die-hard Dunham fan, but I know she’s an educated, articulate woman with a progressive agenda challenging the status quo of how women are presented in the media. She would be in my top 3 entertainers I would love to interview and I can think of dozens of things I would want to ask her and write about her.girls

I always take note of how writers put together a celebrity profile – sometimes they lead with a description of the interview setting, what the subject is wearing, what their demeanor is like. Or if it’s not a face-to-face interview, writers often try to sum up all the milestones or recent achievements of said talent. Now, think for a minute of all the ways you could sum up Lena Dunham and what she has achieved in the past couple of years. Got it?

Now here’s the actual intro:
“You’ve probably seen Lena Dunham naked as many times as you’ve seen your boyfriend in the buff.”

Really? That’s the most newsworthy thing this writer has taken from two seasons of Girls? That she gets naked a bit? Cool.

And just in case you think I’m taking one line out of context, here’s the second line:
”In hit TV show Girls, the 27-year-old writer, creator and actor flaunts her tummy wobbles in a way most actresses would never dare.”
Yeah…. The show isn’t about a flagrant nudist running around the streets of New York flashing her ‘tummy wobbles’. It’s about the uncertainty of graduating in a recession and trying to figure your shit out in your early twenties. Dunham is naked the same amount of time normal people are naked in their normal lives.

It doesn’t get any better.

Here are some of the questions asked of Ms Dunham.

-Don’t you think we should all be having better sex because there is so much information and discussion out there? This question isn’t obnoxious, but it definitely misses the mark. If every girl was an extroverted, confident exhibitionist, perhaps everyone would be having great sex. But people are self conscious, and awkward, and shy and sometimes sad. I think Girls shows sex in a very real way.

-What is the difference between this generation and the Carrie Bradshaw one? I understand the whole ‘group of women in New York’ context will always draw SATC comparisons, but in reality the two shows are polar opposites.

-Do you think a lot of women identify with Hannah because she’s so messed up? Maybe I’m messed up, but I don’t actually think Hannah is that messed up. Most young people are navigating the kinds of problems depicted in the show – flaky friends, experimentation, struggling to make ends meet, bad relationships, mental illness…

-You’ve been very willing to expose yourself in front of the cameras. Why was that important? Again with the nudity! The line of questioning is almost saying ‘you’re not a skinny model-type, why are you getting naked on tv?’

-Would you describe yourself as a feminist? Such an inane question. Is the pope a Catholic? Is Obama a Democrat? I’ve said it before, every girl should describe themself as a feminist, it’s a non-issue. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!

-The nudity scenes are very out there. Is that because you feel super comfortable or is that something you force yourself into for the show? I can’t even…

-What’s the mood on the set when you’re doing those scenes? I mean, some of them are really embarrassing to watch. And some body shaming thrown in just to wrap it all up. Excellent.

To me, it seems as though the writer has watched the show, but kind of missed the whole point. It’s as if they were so shocked and appalled that a normal-looking girl dared to get naked on our screens it’s all they can talk about.

Here’s some topics I believe would have been more interesting to read about: toxic friendships, OCD, how Dunham met Judd Apatow and how he came to produce her show, being happy with yourself before you can be happy with someone else, sexuality, the grey area surrounding that ‘was it rape?’ scene with Adam, whether this generation is more narcissistic than those prior, what she plans to write next….

I am not trying to single out anyone in particular, but I just find that offensive to readers, like they are too dumb to think beyond this vacuous article and silly line of questioning.


2 thoughts on “come on Cleo Magazine, you can do better.

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