OF ALL the excuses I could have come up with for buying the new lads' mags Zoo Weekly and Nuts, 'They're not for me, they're for a review in Socialist Worker...' probably wasn't the most believable one to give to my newsagent. They are clearly both products of the same PR focus group-the two magazines look identical. The front cover layout is the same on each, both featuring brash red on black title next to a semi-naked woman, and is punctuated with the shared promise of stories about footballers, footballers' wives and, bizarrely, amputees.
For those of you who don't follow the classier aspects of modern journalism, Nuts and Zoo Weekly are the first of a new breed of weekly men's magazines. 'Nuts' presumably because for the first couple of weeks you might think it's funny to ask your newsagent where he keeps his Nuts, and 'Zoo Weekly' I'd imagine makes reference to the way in which the female models are treated like caged animals to be gawped at.
Zoo Weekly helpfully provides a brief 'Zoo Pledge' on its contents page, which is a little like a right wing version of our own 'Where We Stand' column. This tells us that you can count on Zoo to give you undoctored photos of women, sports and horrific shark-related injuries every week.
What it doesn't add is that it will also give you a dose of sexism (as could be guessed), homophobia and outright racism which would make your jaw drop if you heard it from Kilroy himself. Reactionary publication
On the 'jokes' page in Zoo, for example, is a quickly assembled 'joke' about sharks going to Morecambe to 'get a Chinese', making reference to the tragic deaths-in the same week-of Chinese immigrants forced to pick cockles for £1 a day on Morecambe Bay. Tasteless is not the word.
One interesting thing about the two glossies, however, is that they both take digs at Bush and Blair's war on Iraq. Even the most reactionary publication, if it is to find common ground with the majority of people in this country, has to acknowledge the stupidity of the war.
Of course, this is contradicted on every other page (as you may imagine, men all like weapons, war and killing as well as sharks, monkeys and monster trucks). There is also a total lack of respect for the male audience. They presume that all males are obsessed with racist jokes, boring photos of Britney Spears, shark bites (there are four shark stories in Nuts) and dead animals (Nuts featuring a highly informative two-page spread about a truckload of sheep carcasses which spilled its load into the road, while Zoo Weekly gives equal attention to the live burning of diseased chickens in Indonesia).
It's a sad fact that some men do feel that it somehow adds to their 'masculinity' to have a copy of Loaded, FHM, GQ or one of the new weeklies on their coffee table.
The simple addition of a few articles about football, monkeys with birth defects and cars with really, really, big wheels to what is, in reality, a soft porn magazine (albeit a soft porn magazine which any 15 year old can buy), really doesn't make it any better.
Magazines like this offer alienated men the opportunity to feel part of a group. All men like women. All men like funny photos of monkeys and sharks. All men like football...
And now there's a weekly journal in which this fabricated interest group can discuss these important issues before going for a pint, failing to pull, and ending up at home with only their weekly glossy to keep them company.