Smells like teen spirit: A few thoughts on Sassy 2.0, or whatever we're calling it
Well, what do you know? I was just gearing up to write a post about the Bitch library’s recent acquisition of a full set of Sassy magazines—the first issue! the Kurt ’n’ Courtney issue! All the issues!—which were a gift from the fabulous Rita Hao, forever friend of Bitch and a member of our National Advisory Board. And then the news came down the Intertubes that tiny wunderkind style blogger Tavi Gevinson will be teaming up with founding Sassy editor Jane Pratt to launch a new teen magazine at some point in the not-too-distant future. According to a somewhat vague post on Gevinson’s blog, Style Rookie:
You guys may know how I feel about Sassy. You also may know that I've been babbling about how I think our generation should get one, too. Jane Pratt, founding editor and then EIC of Sassy, also became aware, and emailed me, and we've met a couple times, and it looks like we're going to start a magazine for an audience of wallflowerly teenage girls.
(I am trying so hard to be cool and professional right now.)
(Trying. so. hard.)
Of course, it won't be Sassy (or the rebirth of Sassy, or Sassy 2.0) and nor do we want it to be. For one, you can't try to recreate something that good. For another, while I can read old issues of Sassy and relate, the world has changed a bit in the past 15 or so years, and that whole Internet thing happened, and this world calls for something different. Something that will use Sassy as a point of reference for the whole teen-magazine-that-doesn't-suck thing, and something in which Jane Pratt will take part, but something that is not trying to recreate the other something a bunch of us love and don't want to see copied.
With a paucity of facts to go on—all we know is that it’s a print magazine set to launch in Fall 2011 (with a website launching this coming spring), and that Tavi’s blog has issued an open call for submissions—it’s hard to know how to react to this news. Those familiar with Bitch Media’s origins know that two of its founders interned at Sassy, that Sassy was the chief inspiration for Bitch, and that when Pratt perpetrated the extended celebrity ass-snuggling that was Jane magazine, we kind of lost our faith in her.
As one of said founders and still a diehard magazine geek, and who furthermore is a fan of Gevinson’s smart, precocious feminist fashion blogging, I’m psyched. But at the risk of peeing in people’s Cheerios, I’m also curious: Does anyone else find Pratt’s involvement in this news a little creepy? Like, kind of vampiric, even?
Gevinson, after all, is 14 years old. Her experience of Sassy has already happened entirely in retrospect; when the magazine folded in 1995, she hadn’t yet been born. Pratt, meanwhile, left publishing after being let go from her namesake magazine shortly before it folded, and has since been doing radio. (Her weekly live Sirius show, Jane Radio, launched in 2007, was upon its launch billed as “a public therapy session for the host and her listeners”—no surprise considering Pratt's many way-too-full disclosures in Jane.) Given Pratt’s well-documented habit of exploiting her relationships with famous people (Michael Stipe, Drew Barrymore) in the course of her career, I don’t think it’s unfair to suspect that she sees in Gevinson an easy way to make herself relevant again.
I get that Tavi thinks that Sassy was awesome (it was) and that magazines for teen girls should be better (they should). But Style Rookie, with its self-aware—and often self-deprecating—musings on high-school social life and lovely, off-kilter photographs of the adorable but decidedly not-modelesque author, is already like Sassy in many ways. In fact, it’s much more like Sassy than any new teen magazine, in a mainstream format, with advertisers to please and corporate dictates to bend to, could ever be. (“Wallflowery,” as you might imagine, is not an adjective the suits want to hear when talking about an audience to whom they hope to sell eyeshadow and skinny jeans.)
Again, it’s hard to speculate with so little information, so we’ll look forward to hearing more. Meanwhile, if you’re intrigued by this whole development and want to know what Sassy was all about—or you’re a former reader who wants to take a little detour into your Juliana Hatfield–listening, babydoll dress–wearing past—well, come sit down with our new acquisition.
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