Saturday, January 26, 2013

Goodbye, Jane

Goodbye, Jane
One of my favorite magazines has died, and I've been surprised by the amount of press about it.

Many readers came to know Jane as former Sassy readers (they both share a founder in Jane Pratt), but I came to love it fairly organically. I distinctly remember being in my local Superfresh with my mom, and seeing a new women's magazine on the shelf. It was the premiere issue, so it was 1997 and I was probably 13. It was the age to become interested in women's magazines, and something about this new Jane appealed to me more than the content of Cosmo or Vogue or Elle. It made me feel intelligent and involved and cultured, but didn't target a teen audience. It was aspirational for me as an adolescent, much as Vogue is for adult women, but for some reason, it seemed healthier to aspire to be a free-thinking, sarcastic, with admitted occasional narcissism blended with consumerism. While some rightly noted its flaws early on (see Bitch magazine's "Ten Thing to Hate About Jane," circa '98), polarized readers tended to either appreciate Jane's seeming duplicity (acknowledging and critiquing the fluff and market-driven drivel of mainstream women's mags while still playing the game with women's product and clothing companies both in ads and editorial content) or scoff at it.

After that first issue with Drew Barrymore on the cover (right), I was hooked. Before long, I was a subscriber, and remained one until Monday, apparently, despite the magazine's many changes precipitated by its transfer to Conde Nast (from Fairchild) and its loss of Pratt as Editor in Chief (in favor of perhaps more advertising-savvy Brandon Holly).

When I got to Smith and changed my extracurricular focus to journalism, I was pleased to meet Katy McColl, a fellow Smithie and now former Senior Editor at Jane, at an alums in media event. On a different occasion, I went with a group of Smithies interested in journalism to Manhattan for a short conference, during which I was able to visit the Jane offices, meet Holly and offer my opinions on some new features with which the magazine was experimenting at the time. I decided not to pursue journalism, but if I had, Jane would have been one of the places I would have loved to work. While I will always turn to the Times or NPR or Newsweek for urgent, hard-hitting news, I would've loved to have been a part of such an intelligent, youthful, quirky, respectful group of (mostly) women writing about "girly" things right next to exposes on topless dancers in Vegas and the trend of rape in certain study abroad locations. I will miss Jane.

The New York Times' piece was written by the authors of recent book, How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time, Kara Jesella and Marisa Meltzer, who offer a good, basic breakdown of the publication's history. And they seem to "get" what made Jane different from traditional women's mags, while aspects of it remained familiarly linked:

Jane was the first mainstream magazine to usher in a new kind of feminine persona for the Mary Tyler Moores of the 21st century. This was a woman—actually, she would have called herself a girl—who maxed out her credit card on clothes from American Apparel and H & M. She ate doughnuts and drank beer. She had one-night stands. And the magazine told her not to worry about it.

The timing was right. Jane’s ethos of young women doing what they wanted without apology was in vogue (even if it wasn’t in Vogue). It celebrated countercultural tastes, but in a glossy package. It was a women’s magazine that made fun of mainstream women’s magazines; but with reviews of cellulite cream and $500 Armani jackets. It was a women’s magazine, nonetheless.

Also, back in practical-young-New Yorker mode, will I be refunded for the remainder of my subscription?