Someone in my household bought the latest GQ to read the feature on Vladimir Putin, so naturally I took a look-see at this slick rag.
The ads in GQ were just as I remembered them from the last time I perused a copy, probably some 25 years ago: very sharp photographs of highly-chiseled models in stylish clothing against nondescript backgrounds or in plush environments, all body imperfections whisked away electronically.
What shocked me was the contrast in the sophisticated classic designs of the ads and the almost sloppy, thrown together look of most of the design of the editorial—except for a few features, most were bulletin-board arrangements of paragraphs, pull-out quotes, mini cartoons, clip art and factoids, in primitively primary colors and tiny type size, all presented with a kind of studied camp irony, as if the bulletin-board design were making fun of itself. Bite-sized and well-sugared pieces of knowledge.
To use David Riesman’s terminology from his seminal work of sociology, The Lonely Crowd, GQ readers are upscale versions of the “other directed,” always seeking to follow the crowd and changing their opinion with the crowd changes. Most of the magazine is dedicated to selling fashion and high-end consumer goods. The underlying premise is that the purchase of consumer goods will attract the opposite sex. Funny, GQ’s politics tend to be left of center and supportive of our left-of-center president, but the subtext, even of the politics, is inherently sexist. Women in GQ become another possession.
I was trying to figure out how GQ gets away with putting dozens of pages of advertising near the front of the magazine, page after page after page. In a way, GQ forces you to flip every page (and thereby see all the ads) because editorial content is so sparse until the back of the book. I suppose if the primary motivation is to understand what to buy and how to act to be cool, then you don’t mind looking at ads.