29 years ago this month, I started 8th grade. 29 years later, Maddie started 8th grade. While she is not yet a Seventeen subscriber, the move coughed up my handful of saved Seventeen magazines from my 8th-10th-ish grade years, so I bought a current copy and decided it was high time to analyze these different 8th grade worlds.
Because whoo boy. Different worlds, different centuries, different galaxies.
Jennifer Connelly was the cover model in 1986, which would have made her around 14 or 15. Iggy Azalea is the cover model in 2015, and she is 25. I'm not sure how I feel about that. Also, there's this nagging awkwardness about putting a celebrity fresh off plastic surgery on the cover of a magazine geared at young adult women that bugs me, but maybe I'm old. OK, CLEARLY I am old.
Oh, 1980s clothes were horrifying. H O R R I F Y I N G. Why? Why? Maddie and I both found ourselves saying this with alarming regularity (like every page) as we flipped through, though I think she thought the 1986 models were trying to look like clowns (vs. achieving clown-like looks as an innocent byproduct). The stuff on the right is mostly cute.
Katy Perry does appear in the 2015 issue for a Cover Girl ad with green hair and eyelash inserts, but for the most part, the makeup ads in this issue seem to emphasize skin care and keeping it classy vs. whatever the HECK is going on on the left side of that page. Though honestly, I think I'm having a visceral reaction to the hair more than the makeup that makes that girl look like she's 45 years old (please smack me if I look like this in 2.5 years, you know what I mean, though).
Right side of a full-page spread for Gitano jeans on the left; it feels like one of those Highlight magazine games we played when we were little that made you look for all the things wrong on the page. Maddie couldn't get past "ginormous socks with sandals on beach" before she quit but I was able to identify a few other ones, so I win. The girl on the right is kind of intimidating in her coolness but at least she isn't wearing ginormous socks.
There are a lot of black and white ads and regular content pages in the 1986 issue—none in the current issue. I told Maddie to go easy on the Coca-Cola clothes because my Coca-Cola shirt (red) was beloved to me. Maddie was having difficulty processing ads by this point. It is hard to blame her—especially when the girl on the right in the Higbee's ad makes the Coca-Cola girls look totally normal. This is also about the extent of diversity in the 1986 issue; the only full-color page a black girl appears on in the entire magazine that I could see was in a Montgomery Ward ad. The magazine content itself is, by my rough estimate, 98.5 % white.
These are the ads that caused Maddie's brain to shut down completely on the 1980s. Because, well, obviously. She was flat-out concerned by the flippant use of "autumn sunset" to describe that makeup, perplexed at the perfume (just...no), and lacks complete frame of reference for Irene Cara-inspired fashion. Or words to describe what is going on there in L.A. Gear-Land. Interesting note: I counted ten perfume ads in the 1986 issue, and none in the 2015 one. Hallelujah. I am hopeful that the only smell in today's 8th grade wing is that of deodorant and possibly some light lotion. Also absent in the 2015 issue: typewriter and watch ads. There were two ads for typewriters in 1986 and three for colorful watches (interestingly, not Swatch though). Maddie was a little squinty when she asked if people wore multiple watches simultaneously in 1986. Erm. Another thing missing from today's Seventeen is the awful send-away-for-stuff ads section in the back. I'm not even going to try and address those, because, well, I can't even. They are so bad.
To be clear: I am as horrified as Maddie at much of this, maybe even more because it didn't seem weird to me at the time. But these are the two pages that possibly weirded me out the most this week when we looked through: the LeClic camera ad (why, oh why is she holding so many and cackling) and the feature article that uses comic strip characters as hair inspiration. Because, Prince Valiant. I might have nightmares.
I strongly believe kids of today should defend themselves against the 80s but that comes with a tradeoff, and that tradeoff is not being able to order 11 hot hits for a cool penny, with the chance to get 2 more FREE. Was there anything more exciting than receiving your Depeche Mode/INXS/Huey Lewis/etc. order of cassette tapes in the mail, even if you had to be vigilant not to get stuck with 100 other cassettes in the next five years? I THINK NOT. Interesting note: in 100 years, historians are going to think Madonna's a vampire, because, 1986 and 2015. And beyond, no doubt.
The 1986 issue is much thicker, and there appear to be more words, but I am convinced that those pages with more words are saying as much as the ones today. I was actually pretty impressed with the scope of articles; in addition to this featured businesswoman, there were articles about what battling cancer is really like, a feature on a recent Parsons grad who is designing fashion-forward clothing for wheelchair bound people, an actual roundup of real books to read (vs. the ad in the back to send away for the crap I read at this age (read: everything Christopher Pike ever wrote), a fairly sizeable feature about tips for college admissions prep (vs. the 1986 one that only went as far as decorating one's dorm room) and this article about the Seventeen summit:
It is clear they are making an effort to raise the bar and address some worthwhile topics.
Here's an interesting read I came across about the history of Seventeen magazine covers, if you're interested. And by all means, see if your local library has this 29 year old gem in its archives because it is well worth the time to gawk at how unbelievably far we've come in this world. Ha.
And that concludes today's contribution to #tbt.