The Vagenda

Broken and Alone in Star Magazine

I did a terrible thing this weekend: I bought Star magazine. It’s hard to tell whether it was the action-packed cover of crying women that drew me in, or the tasty offer that assured me it was the ‘best value celeb mag’ at ‘66p cheaper than Heat.’ But whatever it was, I’m ashamed to say that I created a small illusion of demand for the glossy form of a playground bully this Saturday. In my defence, it was around the same time that I decided I’d rather lie in bed stuffing Kettle Chips into my mouth and cruising the net for answers to such urgent questions as ‘can avatars have sex on Second Life?’ than stay for another minute at a trendy Dalston bar where everyone’s called Felix and a request for music with actual lyrics is looked upon as kindly as one for ‘a little bit of Eminem’ at a Catholic wedding. My judgment had been damaged by hipsters.

So: Star. What attracted me to this particular issue – as opposed to all the near-identical issues before it – was the top quality cover, which I’ve shared with you above for maximum effect. It gave a really nice idea of the spectrum of womanity that Star imagines populates the planet. Just to give you a quick run-down:

‘BROKEN AND ALONE’ is capitalised and stamped across a picture of ‘tearful Nicole’, ‘humiliated Michelle’ , and ‘cheating, desperate Kristen.’ Accompanying these rather charming monikers – that kind of make their targets sound like the Seven Dwarves of Relationships – are little quotes to summarise. “It’s so tough coping right now,” says Tearful Nicole, while Cheating Kristen begs, “Please don’t leave me” and Humiliated Michelle comments: “I don’t know if I’ll ever get over this.” The talented Star photographers have gone for a few illustrative photos as well – and Tearful Nicole look more like she’s just blinking in the face of some fierce flash photography, but whatever. These girls are far gone, you know? They’re broken and alone.

Is it all over for women everywhere, then? NO, says Star magazine, because the antidote to your brokenness is displayed helpfully above these girls. ‘MARVIN AND ROCHELLE TIE THE KNOT’ screams the headline, with the quote: “IT WAS THE BEST DAY EVER!” This juxtaposed with promises of ‘wedding diet dramas’ inside. Really, you know what I’m saying here without me actually going into detail about the colour and consistency of the projectile vomit I’m scrubbing off my bedroom wall (copyright Star wedding diet plan. Probably.)

Just in case you didn’t get how broken and alone people are when they’re not married and how happy they become when they are, inside leads us through a rollercoaster ride of tiny little Clip Art hearts (broken ones when relationships end; flying ones when people walk down the aisle.) And though you might well mistake this for a picture book introducing toddlers to the idea of human relationships, you get only as far as page 9 when you’re confronted with some very adult issues. Juxtaposed with a nice little feature on X Factor gossip is a plastic surgery ad for a company called ‘MyBreast’ (no prizes for guessing what kind of surgery it’s pushing), on the earliest page we’ve ever seen plastic surgery advertorial appear.

The ‘wedding diets’ page is packed full of excellent advice, needless to say, and mixes up just enough confusing contradictory statements about ‘looking good curvy’ to try and burrow in statements such as ‘[Cher Lloyd] now weighs around 7st’ after ‘ditching her beloved junk food’ without too much controversy. That’s right, girls – if you weigh over 7st, it’s probably because you haven’t got the will power to just THROW THAT McFLURRY AWAY. If only you could accept that microwaveable fried cheese milkshakes weren’t a substitute for a bowl of cereal in the morning, perhaps you wouldn’t have ballooned up to a practically obese 9st 5, you slovenly, sugar-saturated pig.

So the rest of the magazine, just FYI, follows its already established pattern while creating insecurities and then marketing them back to you. A few curve balls include a feature where sex is exclusively referred to as ‘slap n tickle’, a la your pervy great uncle, and a fashion page where recommendations include a pair of bright pink leopard-spotted leggings, tastefully decorated with a chain attached to a faux fur raccoon tail. Only a page later, they ‘rate or slate’ celebrities for their own choice of clothing, which seems a little rich, but it’s 2012 and what do I know about the youth nowadays.

At 66p cheaper than Heat, would I recommend Star magazine to anyone? I have to say that this time round, it’s fallen rather short. For 66p, you could invest in any number of disposable pieces of crap that float around the newsagent nowadays – and most of them won’t even insult you after you buy them.

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