One Saturday morning years ago, back when certain sectors of our culture were at least a teensy bit less preachy and tiresome and insufferable than they are now, I sat at my kitchen table, idling through a fashion magazine. As a salty veteran of years of fashion-magazine consumption, I knew exactly what to expect: pages upon pages of uber-thin women towering on impossibly reedy legs, imperiously clutching things like massive diamonds and random cheetahs while posing in weird giant moon boots against carefully composed, super-serious artistic backdrops.
Behold, fashion-magazine readers, and do not turn away: There’s a busy New York street corner, complete with a bodega and a hot-dog stand and maybe even a pizza rat, paired with an ostrich purse that costs more than your car! There’s a repressed suburban grocery store, its blank-eyed and chiseled patrons pushing around puzzlingly empty carts, accessorized by hair curlers and Tom Ford and despair! There’s the zombie-strewn aftermath of a nuclear war, with the lone androgynous stilettoed survivor brought to you by someone like Helmut Lang!
On that morning, however, fresher, less jaded eyes could perceive a deeper truth. “Ooh, look, Mommy,” my then-three-year-old hollered in delight, peering over my shoulder at the scary-eyed women looking strangely disappointed in their eight-thousand-dollar coats. “Witches! Ooh! Witches!”
I laughed back then, but those were more innocent times. In hindsight, this was a mistake. This is not just because we live in an increasingly humorless age; it is also because my son was eerily prophetic. As I write, the front page of the website of W magazine — which I used to consider the “serious” fashion magazine, the one that did not mess around with a lot of non-fashion-y things — has an actual story instructing readers on how to become a witch.
“Witchcraft and covens have also proven to be a source of solace and solidarity for some in the #MeToo era,” W informs us, “following an increasing association between witches and feminism.” Along with its helpful guide on how to climb on board with “paganism” and “all things occult,” W also offers instructions on “How to Throw a Séance at Home.” In case you decide you want to dabble with the dead in your living room, here’s one particularly helpful tip: “In a lot of cultures, you never do anything without covering your head, which prevents you from getting possessed or getting messed up.”
Wow. Possessed! That would be messed up. It’s kind of like the state of fashion magazines today! Not so long ago, readers like me could hope that the year would bring just a few stray and annoying puff pieces profiling random Planned Parenthood executives or Hillary “I Shall Never Leave” Clinton. In 2018, however — like so much else in American culture — fashion magazines have morphed into a relentless and insufferable leftist acquaintance you’d quite frankly rather avoid.
Visit the website of any major fashion magazine today, and a bizarre form of whiplash awaits, with headlines shifting from frivolity to ponderous lecturing to sheer unhinged panic at the blink of an eye. Here, for instance, is a sampling of press-time offerings from Marie Claire: “Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Looked More in Love Than Ever on Their Royal Tour.” (Ooh!) “This is How Real-Life Resistance Witches Say They’re Taking Down the Patriarchy.” (Witches! Again!) “I Didn’t Plan on Buying a New Scarf, But Then I Saw These!” (BOR-ING.) “Scary Things That Could Happen If You Don’t Vote,” which includes the helpful subhead, “The Future of Earth Could Get More Bleak.” (Yikes!)
Finally, there’s my personal favorite, from the lead of a piece on abortion and the midterm elections: “Is it just me, or has everyone been experiencing this weird feeling in the pit of your stomach, just lurking there in the dark? Just me? I’m the only one screaming into the void constantly?” (Here, what can one really say?)
Let’s trot over to Vogue, where, next to a piece on a “New Soho Lipstick Bar,” one can watch the actress/model Olivia Munn “Explain ICE.” Unfortunately, ICE refers to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, not that massive diamond next to the random cheetah I mentioned before. It’s rather jarring, is it not?
“Well, I don’t know,” you might be thinking. “Isn’t it good that fashion magazines are trying to educate their readers, even though they seem to treat those readers suspiciously like easily swayed airheads who probably shouldn’t vote at all if they actually are that uniformed?”
No, it is not good. Let’s mosey next to Harper’s Bazaar, which helpfully features “Your State-by-State Guide to Women Running in the Midterms.” Out of 88 featured candidates, three are Republicans — and each of these earns a dour hard-left warning label. “Kristi Lynn Noem could be the first female governor of South Dakota,” we learn, for instance, “but that may not be much for feminists to cheer.” Ah. Right. Of course not.
I’d be remiss not to mention the grande dame and original gangster of insane fashion magazines — I’m referring, of course, to Teen Vogue. This is the same Teen Vogue that recently earned mockery for the following astoundingly clueless and viral tweet: “Can’t #endpoverty without ending capitalism!” This is the same Teen Vogue that describes itself as “The young person’s guide to conquering (and saving) the world,” which seems kind of stressful. It is also the same Teen Vogue that — amidst a maddening flotsam of headlines covering everything from lethal-injection drugs to matching your makeup to your smoothie to the imminent end of the world — recently declared that “Mental Health Among Young People is Terrible. Here’s Why.”
I don’t want to spoil the article for you, but it somehow does not mention that one of the main culprits might involve reading publications like Teen Vogue. Talk about a missed opportunity! What a shame.