Soooo… what’s the message for girls in 1999?

Last week I widened the gap between the teens of the 60’s who are the mothers of teens at the end of the 90’s as I shared some of the content of one of the top teen girls’ magazines in 1963.

I ventured into the magazine racks this week in search of an enlightened magazine for teenage girls in 1999. Now, before I launch into this, I think it’s important to note that the magazines being produced for today’s teen market are largely driven by the adults who were on the receiving end of the 60’s material. Got it?

My vote goes to Girls’ Life, a 90 page, full colour dynamic catalogue of enthusiasm for the 13-18 set, with emphasis on 13-15. Produced in Maryland, United States (no, there were no printed magazines of Canadian vintage), Girls’ Life straddles today and yesteryear, offering a blend of the challenges facing today’s girls with an eye to the past. This magazine stood out above a lot of teen magazines that repackaged an old message… find a guy, trap him any way you can (mostly by being thin and cagey), get married and live happily ever after, especially if you dress in name brand clothes and own hundreds of CDs. Honestly, that’s the message. But, it’s packaged in four colour, with incredibly wonderful art work, slick advertising, and very little for the head and the heart.

The editorial lineup of Girls’ Life includes discussion of anorexia in Girl Talk, the possible American Woman Presidents in Girls Rock, the exciting career of wildlife artist Suzi Winstanley, the high-tech capabilities of the new Java decoder ring which completes multiple chip-applications like unlocking security systems and storing your medical info and social insurance digits.

Wisely linked with its web version, Girls’ Life can still be read while lazing about in an easy chair and yet the online version assumes that girls are into technology enough to participate. Sure beats “stove” in my books.

Articles include the predictable “looks” features zeroing in on hair, clothes, and beauty tools. But its main feature, Girls 2000, zeroes in on issues concerning teenage girls today. “We tell you how girls will change our world forever” leads the cover line and the story delivers, capturing the ambitions on young women across the U.S. Concerns? Racism. Hate. Equality in sports. Violence. Homelessness. Animal Abuse.

The mag goes on to offer suggestions on how to accept yourself if you’re shy. Hard on its heels is a piece on living with the holiday shuffle, what to do when all your parents want you at the same time.

There is a food section not unlike the 1963 version, except the fare is definitely millenium… mesclun salad, buttermilk dressing, black sesame studded chicken strips. And a student writes about what it’s like to completely devote yourself to getting straight A’s… and what she’d do if she had it to do over again.

Of course there’s an advice section, and a horoscope. And the online edition invites participation.

And who’s advertising? Kellogg’s. Tampax. Nintendo. Parfums de Coeur. Joggers shoes. Lip Smackers. The Female Athlete, a computer software program that promises a secure journal site. Lego. Barbie. Girlpower Board Game.

So, is it better? I think so. However, I had to look long and hard for something that wasn’t just a junior version of Cosmopolitan. There should be more. So, it’s not as good as it could be, but it is much better that the fare today’s middle aged women were fed in their youth.

But right here in Canada there is an online Canadian teen magazine that offers material for teens of both genders, written by teens across Canada. This online publication isn’t any longer available in a printed form. You can’t take it to bed unless you’re lying down with your laptop plugged into your phone line… which isn’t that farfetched at all. It’s not sexy, it’s not glitz; it is solid and it raises issues that interest many teens.

In fact, one of the first articles this month is on Teen Magazines. Student Jen Hill takes a critical look at popular teen magazines. You don’t have to concern yourself with my drivel; you can check out how a teenager feels about the glut of glitz on the market.

So, there you have it!