The kindest cut’s the cruelest part

A while back I criticised Melbourne paper The Age for publishing content that reinforces the offensive and potentially harmful message that abounds in the media, ie, the message that ordinary, flawed, bodies and appearances are inadequate.

It seems that my special-offer 13 week subscription to The Age (complete with a free Cheap Eats guide!) served to raise my awareness of what a lot of similarly offensive articles and editorials it contains. I guess you could call that $69 well spent on my part – it certainly made up my mind about continuing on with that subscription.

A second instance of this offensive superficial focus on appearance was not targeted at women’s shape, as the previous one was, it was targeted at another dreaded natural condition – ageing. Gasp!!! 

Disclaimer: I recently attended a session on copyright where I heard that you may reproduce images/text for the purpose of review. Well please consider this a review of this magazine.

Here is the cover of the supplement, ironically entitled Prime. (I don’t think the irony is deliberate as it appears to be a weekly supplement. Prime cuts, anyone?)

The Age, Prime Magazine, 29.06.12

The chopped heading reads: Kindest cuts. The senior depicted, apparently ready to be cut, looks like Helen Mirren’s younger sister but apparently needs a few nips and tucks – either that or she is selling herself off to cannibals to pay for her children’s tertiary education.

I was so perturbed to see this cover on a “lifestyle” supplement aimed at the senior market that I opened it up, hoping and expecting to see that it was critical of plastic surgery.

Alas, here is the introduction by the editor, under a picture of another woman who looks barely a day over 50, staring with horror into a mirror at her ageing, and apparently therefore hideous, face.

The Age Prime Magazine

Aaagh! I’m real! How hideous!!! What can I do about it???

This time, as the text is too small to read, and because I really couldn’t believe the level of hypocrisy in this editorial text, I will translate it for you.

In a culture where youth and beauty are revered, it’s hard to feel good about seeing a wrinkled face and sagging body in the mirror. 

Can you believe this as an opening sentence, in a magazine for seniors? They may as well have written Ugh, you  foul old decaying things, the only reason we made this magazine was to increase your anxiety about aging and therefore hopefully increasing your spending on our sponsor products!

My translation:  Editor: I’m only 38, and have not yet experienced the horror of looking old, saggy and wrinkley, but I feel like shit anyway, because I’m not 19 any more and once you’re past 25, you’re pretty much decaying. However, I see no irony in reinforcing a culture where youth and beauty are revered, by affirming that in my opening line, in a magazine targeted at seniors.  I’ve quickly established that being ‘senior’ in this culture means that it’s  “hard to feel good”.  As for how it feels to see a wrinkled face and sagging body in the mirror, I shudder to imagine!  I am  absorbed by worrying about my own inadequacies and the fact that I’m nearly 40,  and can only hope that some kind of remedy for old age is invented f*cking quickly.

Looks matter, whatever your age.

Aha, no – we’re not going down that old path of saying that you can look dignified and beautiful at any age, oh no. Or that bullshit about personality or intelligence being more important than meeting some external idea of “beauty”. Do you think I’d be editing a magazine for seniors if I looked like Kate Moss?

Being unhappy with your appearance can result in a range of anxieties and low self-esteem – and that’s not a phenomenon peculiar to the young.

We’ve identified that there will be a huge market for cosmetics, diet pills, weight loss plans, plastic surgery etc for seniors as Baby Boomers enter that category. In order to maximise this market we need to play on their anxieties, and lower their self-esteem, through articles like this.

In an interview with The Observer magazine in the UK, Dr Nichola Rumsey, co-director of the Centre for Appearance Research, says it’s a myth that older people don’t care what they look like.

Notice that nowhere are we going to counter this line of thought. Instead we  quote Dr Nichola, just to show we’ve done research and that all you seniors are  feeling anxious about your appearance. If you’re not, you’re in the minority, so what’s wrong with you? Of course, we could have used the results of her survey as a chance to open up a discussion about why older people are worrying about their appearance, and to offer examples of older people who look and feel fantastic. We could have dedicated this issue to articles about seniors who are exceptions to this trend, if it is a trend, are happy and content with themselves and look great because of that. But that wouldn’t be useful to our advertisers.

There are many women in their 80’s still so anxious about their appearance that they allow the aesthetics to influence their treatment in hospital. Dr Rumsey believes that we’re now at a point where there’s a social stigma around the effects of the natural ageing process.

(me: Of course there will be a social stigma around the ageing process if seniors are being bombarded with “editorial” like this, which doesn’t question why this would be the case or present any other side to the case it is making.)

 Must it be so? Not according to Dr Janine Stevenson, a psychiatrist and senior lecturer at Sydney University. She believes it’s possible to coast into older age with the right attitude. She argues that we should embrace ageing as another stage of life to be experienced. It’s important to look forward, not back. Getting older can be both miserable and joyous – the choice is ours. 

(Me: Oh – wait! I take it all back! Apparently the magazine is going to take a critical stance about judging yourself by some superficial standard of “beauty” and letting the pressure to conform to that standard ruin your enjoyment of life.)

…And it’s the existence of choice that propels some people to invest in their appearance through surgery or non-invasive procedures. In this issue we explore what’s on offer and the motivations behind seeking treatment.

Brilliant! We’ve carefully established for the reader how anxiety ridden they, and everyone their age, should be about their changing appearance, we’ve cited a creditable researcher who says large numbers of older people are very anxious about their appearance, we’ve stuck in a quick paragraph that cleverly gives the impression of being empowering by saying that it is possible to coast into old age happily, and that individuals have a choice to be “miserable or joyous”, and then….da da da daaah…. in a brilliant segway, we connect that choice (to be miserable or joyous) to a choice to “invest in…appearance” through surgery or non-invasive procedures. 

(End of article and my translation.)

I was just astounded at this editorial. It masquerades as an empowering article for seniors, but the message is that you better get plastic surgery or expect to be anxiety-ridden, saggy, and generally repulsive. I don’t think Baby Boomers are as stupid as The Age seems to believe them to be.

I could say a lot more, but for the sake of length, I think I should end here.

Dear The Age, perhaps you should think about having surgery on your own name –  the word “age” in it makes it sound like it is decaying in front of my eyes. Perhaps try The Mouthpiece of Idiocy. I don’t think I’ll be renewing that subscription!

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