Sunday, November 12, 2006

Why I Should Try Really Really Hard not to Hate On Playboy

Because way too many people hate on fabulous publications like Marie-Claire that should in fact be lauded for making essential knowledge and hard-hitting journalism accessible to normal people. (I’m not suggesting that people who read, say, The Economist exclusively aren’t normal, but I wouldn’t want to go bar-hopping with them, would you?)

It’s important – nay, critical – to learn how to deliver a message to your target audience in such a way that said audience will give you the time of day. Lots of people like to complain about the garbage that Hollywood spews out on a regular basis, but when was the last time any of you sat through a whole episode on Meet the Press. Seriously? (Do you even know what I’m talking about?)

It’s not your fault. I can’t sit through that crap even though I care so much about politics I go into an epileptic seizure when an unsuspecting bystander makes the mistake of asking me my opinion on the subject. I’ve always thought that getting informed is crucial to civilized life, but man can it be boring and so damned dry sometimes!

Here’s the thing though: it really doesn’t have to be. Enter Marie-Claire (and yes, sigh, Playboy, which is known for serving respected journalism and literature as a side to its main offering of boobs and butts. Sorry)

Enter, also, authors. There’s a common thread I’ve identified among all the great books I can remember reading lately: Dirty Girls’ Social Club, Ishmael, A Short Story of Nearly Everything. They’ve taught me something. Painlessly.

The first book in this list is a popular women’s fiction novel that tells in very entertaining fashion, the story of six very different American Latinas. It sneaks Knowledge into your unsuspecting brain like Flinstones vitamins into kids’ welcoming mouths. You didn’t ask for knowledge. You asked for a sexy, raunchy, fashion-label-filled story about young(ish) contemporary women, dammit. Instead you learned that Latinas come in many more shades and economic backgrounds than you see on the evening news, that there is such a thing as a Cuban Jew, that Mexican politics are about as relevant to the Dominicans and Puerto Ricans of Boston as Manchester United’s latest victory over Arsenal is to you (i.e. not in the least). And you were completely unsuspecting of this learning until the next time you saw a Latina and caught yourself wondering if she was a Puerto Rican with citizenship rights, a Dominican with none, a Cuban who fled Cuba before Castro had a chance to nationalize her family’s sugar plantation or one whose family was poor and got a house and health care out of the Revolution.

In other words, you became sensitive to the world’s many textures, and it didn’t hurt one bit.

Now, I know that not every magazine needs to be a Marie-Claire. Sometimes you really just want to know what those eleven best-kept sex secrets are (even though you have a sneaky suspicion they highly resemble last month’s six best ways to keep your man happy, but whatever) instead of why women are being hunted and killed in Darfur. And sometimes the latest Kate Husdon blockbuster does more to sooth the soul than a debate about the rise of religious fundamentalism on BBC America.

So, dear readers, when you think to yourself you should really try to get a grasp on the campaign contributions reform bill but can’t get through the boring, jargon-riddled article in The Economist and then feel guilty, pick up a Marie-Claire instead, and be thankful that you can catch up on those pesky human-interest issues Fox News doesn’t like to talk about AND get your fashion fix at the same time.

Or, if you’re a guy, I guess you can pick up a Playboy. It’s better than giving up on the whole getting informed thing.

And for you authors, think about how immortality can be achieved through truth. You don’t have to be writing about Darfur to write true. Just pick up Alisa’s Dirty Girls’ Social Club and you’ll see.


Dona Sarkar-Mishra said...

The Dirty Girls Social Club was the first book that opened my eyes to the whole multi-character ethnic women's fiction genre. I love Alisa and her writing.

Wasnt it supposed to be made into a movie starring J.Lo?

Anonymous said...

Seems like ages ago that I saw Alisa getting interviewed on Today or Good Morning America and ran out to buy The Dirty Girls Social Club. When I was reading your blog, Nadine, it totally hit home. I didn't know much about the ethnicities that she captured in her characters and even though it's fiction, I felt like I had learned something. I love fiction like that! Entertaining AND educational.

Wendy Toliver