For those of you unfamiliar with Ask a Grown Man, it’s this awesome feature that has adult celebrities like John Hamm and Judd Apatow honestly answering reader-submitted questions via a home computer camera–it’s un-produced and completely genuine (and if you haven’t watched the John Hamm one watch it now). Seventeen‘s take however, plays up the celebrity angle and has the so-called “A-lister” done up in hair and makeup and filmed in the magazine’s offices.
“This is the first time that I’ve felt that something I’ve done, or Rookie has done, has been copied,” Tavi told Racked today.
“I feel like this is Seventeen‘s attempt to reach people in a certain way that Rookie succeeds at, but they kind of missed the point about why Ask A Grown Man is celebrated by making it about asking an “A-lister.” They wanted to repurpose this feature because they saw that people like it, but they missed the point of why people like it, and it’s the same quality that’s missing from the rest of their magazine, too.”
Sure, she’s right. But them’s is also the breaks. When you have a good idea and you’re successful, people will want to copy you. And in this case, it’s a poor attempt at a copy.
More compelling than Tavi’s calling out Seventeen for copying Rookie, are her thoughts about the magazine’s recent ‘body peace treaty‘–EIC Anne Shoket’s response to a teen protest demanding Seventeen change its photoshop policy and publish one un-retouched spread per issue.
“[I don't think Seventeen's response to the petition was strong enough] because I don’t know that they changed anything. They said in their ‘treaty’ that they vow to never change girls’ body or face shapes, but then say, ‘(Never have, never will.)’ To me, that sounds like they just published a self-serving statement that made them look good, but they’re not taking into account the intentions and concerns that were really behind the petition.”
She added that while limiting the use of retouching within the magazine is a step in the right direction, it by no means tackles the real problem: That Seventeen portrays a teen girl’s life as being boy and weight obsessed. And to fix that dilemma, the magazine will have to change a whole lot more than its images.
“I’m sure most people don’t think as obsessively about stuff like the wording of a headline as I do, but the effects of headlines under the ‘health’ section about your back-to-school body are still there,” she told Racked. “It took me a little bit once middle school started to realize that if I didn’t read Seventeen, I didn’t feel obligated to watch what I eat. Language is powerful, along with photos.”
Once again, Tavi proves herself to be wise beyond her years. Wonder if Seventeen will respond to this teenage girl with the same kind of ‘self-serving’ PR speak it gave Julia Bluhm and her fellow SPARK activists…