Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"Literally the Best Thing Ever":

I bought the Rookie yearbook a while back from an independent retailer  (ok what). Reading it is terrific, it's kind of a time capsule of the website's first year.
I can't even be sheepish about reading it at my elderly age because truly it is 'literally the best thing ever'. And it got me ruminating on my own version of Rookie, namely, of course, Sassy magazine.

And, it has to be said (maybe by me alone) that the two don't compare at all. I know every woman my age who was into Sassy seems to think it's the holy grail of teen magazines, or a beacon of sanity in a wilderness of the commercialized teenaged girl experience. But for me, the thing that doesn't make sense to me is the fact that I didn't have a "Sassy magazine" adolescence. Nor did I have a "Seventeen", a "Teen" magazine, or a "Tiger Beat" adolescence. I had a typical angst ridden period between the ages of 12-17 or so, that wasn't neatly reflected in any media enterprise. Like everyone else.
So when I read stuff like this book: How Sassy Saved My Life, from 2007, I"m kind of like, rilly? And I know Tavi Gevinson has been vocal about giving tributes to the long shadow cast by Sassy, and has been really gracious about being seen as producing an online magazine that follows in Sassy's footsteps. But I don't feel like anyone really states the fucking obvious: Rookie is WAY better than Sassy ever was!

Don't get me wrong, I loved Sassy, I subscribed, pored over every issue and compared notes with my one other girlfriend in highschool who was a believer. But the thing about Sassy that made it good (not GREAT), was that it had some relationship to real youth culture. As I learned in the book "How Sassy Saved my Life", there was a real effort and a huge struggle to produce content by YOUNG writers who actually knew something about being young. It wasn't strictly about pushing advertising and editorial content, co-opting consumers early or anything overtly cynical like that. In the years I was obsessed with Sassy, I was obsessed with many magazines. I was a magazine junky. Even more than Sassy, I loved the old Details magazine when it was published in B+W and was basically a scandal sheet of New York nightlife, and Andy Warhol's Interview magazine--those were WAY more influential on me as a suburban teen dreaming of something beyond my backyard. The options weren't "Sassy" or "Seventeen"--there was a whole world of cool stuff to read about. I never read Seventeen, so to pit Sassy against another teen magazine like that is sort of an artificial comparison. It wasn't like you HAD to read one or the other.

In my mid-thirties, after reading so much rhapsodizing about Sassy, I bought a bunch of issues on Ebay and settled into the bathtub to try to reclaim the glory of the magazine. I didn't recall it in those glorious terms, it wasn't a life raft for me as a teen; but I knew it must have been completely bomb or people wouldn't still be going on about it, right? Man, what a letdown! It's just not that progressive, radical or interesting.

But Rookie now, Rookie is truly different. Maybe as a result of being an online magazine, maybe in part because stuff like Sassy came before; maybe this Tavi is here to save us all from mediocrity--it's fucking awesome. I keep trying to get my niece to read it, to no avail. She's too busy busting into swimming pools and the Riverdale Farm in the middle of the night to read a website. I understand. I was a (bookish, nerdy, yearbook editing, day-/night-dreaming) teenager myself once. If my aunt had recommended a website I would have ignored it on principle.

I still don't really understand how Tavi can idolize Dan Clowes and Enid Coleslaw, John Waters, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan; or the site can reference stuff like Strawberry Switchblade, Nancy Spungen, Advanced Style, JT Leroy, Heathers, Bruce Springsteen, the Golden Girls, Hollywood memoirs, Francesca Lia Block and Joan Didion. It's hard for my brain to process how this team of writers has distilled the coolest of the coolest of the coolest stuff and manages to take a feminist take on everything without even using the word....? It truly gives me hope for the future. I do not know what is in this water, but if teenagers are drinking it, it's literally the best thing ever.

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