Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Something Strange Afoot at the Circle A

I read this very interesting piece by Christopher Hanson in the Columbia Journalism Review. He critiques the magazine Men's Health. I don't know Men's Health (or men's health, really), but Hanson basically throws out a charge that could apply to many service magazines: that they're only offering up half the picture by devoting all the space to what people can control.

Hanson says:

"Imagine a Venn diagram with two circles that barely intersect. Circle A represents such health challenges as obesity, high cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. A Men’s Health reader can generally overcome these on his own with sound nutrition, diet, exercise, and other disease-prevention routines. Circle B represents systemic national health risks, which a reader acting alone can’t defeat. These threats include tainted food imports, drinking water laced with dangerous chemicals, employee health benefits slashed by corporations, and private health-insurance policies that cost more while covering less."

He goes on to say that Men's Health is almost entirely confined to Circle A, and even within Circle A, the experts promise much more than they can deliver. Mostly by promising "instant" fixes. In a larger sense, the magazine gives the illusion that an individual can fix whatever ails her or him. (To which I say, Excuse me, sir, but that's my soundbite.)

But it's interesting, I think, is that this is finally creeping in, in a noticeable way, to service magazines targeted to men. Women, and mothers in particular, have been getting it for ages. When I was picking the experts to test for Practically Perfect, the hardest part was narrowing the field down.

And you know what occurred to me later, after Brandon got a job here in town and was able to stop the insane commute and just be here more? That a lot of advice from Hanson's Circle A is really a kind of distraction. Sure, I could throw on some lipstick before my man got home, or we could sit around deciding which animal the other most resembled, but it was the Circle B stuff—the commute, the job insecurity, the long hours—that was really the issue in our marriage. Some of the other issues I looked at were equal parts from each circle (health, say), but it really struck me what an impact the less controllable parts of our lives had on our marriage.

Interesting stuff. Go ahead and have a look-see.

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