Meghan Cox Gurdon has an insightful article about the shallow vapidness of girls' magazines that should serve as a reminder to parents with daughters that they need to be aware of what their children are consuming.
Last summer a polite, articulate 11-year-old friend of my daughter's went off eagerly to a week of summer nature camp--and found herself ridiculed and ostracized for what the other children considered her peculiar manner of speech. "She was mocked," the girl's parents recounted, "for speaking in complete sentences."
I had largely forgotten this sad little anecdote until I happened on an online edition of Girls Life Magazine. "Girls Life?" thought I, all innocence. "Why, that must have something to do with the Girl Scouts." An image of wholesome do-goodery, of scrubbed cheeks and Norman Rockwell freshness, rose obediently in my mind--only to sink instantly under a deluge of inane headlines: "Too cute suits!" "Guys, Life, Friends, Body: Real Advice Just for You." "Wanna sound off about GL mag?" "Win FREE stuff! Feelin' lucky? Enter now!"
She goes on to write about how the vast majority of teen girl culture is focused on sex and sexuality.
Teen People asks, "How Sexy Are You?" and "Gotta Hottie Next Door?" Cosmo Girl hosts a "Battle of the Boys: Who's the Hottest?" and Bop magazine online offers a male-as-sex-object game called Frankenboy: "Build your dream boy and e-mail him to a friend!"
But magazines are only a part of it. Watch television aimed at the young and it is difficult to escape the disquieting sense that too much children's programming exists to--well, program children. Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel teach children through precept and relentless example how to preen, how to diss and how, if d''ark-skinned, to talk Ebonics. Virtually every girl sashays in heels, miniskirts and lipgloss; virtually every adult is an easily outsmarted villain or an eyeroll-worthy chump.
The last part there is particularly disturbing, and it's one of the reasons I enjoy the Harry Potter books more than typical children's stories. If kids grow up thinking adults are a bunch of malicious suckers they're going to have a very difficult comprehending the real world. In real life, when an 18-year-old is first faced with a 50-year-old boss at a "real job", he's probably going to nosedive if he assumes the old fogey is a clueless, hapless, know-nothing jester like the a-dolts portrayed on kids' television shows.
Finally, Mrs. Gurdon says that teen boy fare isn't so innane:
It is worth mentioning that this awfulness applies chiefly to girl-consumers. Boy's Life, the magazine for Cub and Boy Scouts (and published by the Boy Scouts of America), is fully of goofy jokes, puzzles, jazzy photos of boys swooshing on surfboards or white-water rafting--even a Bible Heroes comic strip--but there is not a girl to be seen, or alluded to, except a few little-sister-types in the ads. But then, lip gloss, hip inarticulateness and sashaying in heels don't really have male counterparts. So perhaps there is no consumer demand.
I don't know... I never could tolerate kids' magazines, even when I was a kid. Hopefully my children will grow up consuming PG-rated adult media.