YS Salutes: Entertainment Weekly

December 27, 2007

In the article “The New Yorker, a Magazine or a Club?” from Nouveaux Fragments du Puzzle American, written before a time when playboyclubhef.jpgcommunities were imagined, the author comes to the conclusion that though there is no such thing as a New Yorker club, “we may say…that all The New Yorker readers…form a virtual community which is unimaginable in the case of Time, Newsweek, and New York Magazine, the other magazine with a similar name.” This virtual community is contrasted with Playboy, a magazine that actually opened clubs around the country and thus allowed its readers to occupy a physical space with real membership and privileges of membership. Few magazines would dare to open such a club today (although Hustler is giving it a go), but perhaps one should. Now is a season when popular discussion of a film is more likely to focus on its box office prospects than on its critical merits, and a time when Americans are conflicted about whether their tastes should be reactionary (e.g. 80’s revivalism, Books, Christopher Hitchens, Yesterday’s Salad, and/or Hilary Clinton) or radical (2010’s futurism, Amazon Kindle/Sony E-Reader, Notwithabangbutawhimper, the upcoming spin-off New New Salad, and/or Barry Obama Joe Biden). Only one magazine reflects this delicate balance b/w postironicsnark-ism and our latent critical sensibilities. It is a time when we all belong to the same club: Entertainment Weekly.

Lo, such is the genius of The Shaw Report! Every week EW exploits our demands for newness with its dogged pursuit of not only the new-it-thing but the new-five-minutes-ago-thing and the new-out-thing. True, some may argue that only the cyclical demands of fashion keep this from being overly dependent on binaries, but those naysayers fail to appreciate the intertextuality at play. Though billed as an innocuous go at pop-insouciance, EW recalls the Shaw Report, the British Mandate’s inquiry into the 1929 Arab Riots in Palestine with every printing. There is no justice in the world of popularity, just as there is no justice in the Levant.

EW has also been a place where struggling authors can have their work published. Not too long ago, the magazine took a chance on an upstart long-hand writer named Stephen King, and gave him a column. Sure, they stuck his feuilleton at the back of the magazine, but the fact remains they gave him a shot.

But the truth is, EW really has managed to balance pop-sensibilities with critical inquiry. They employ some of the best film critics around and regularly review smaller movies that will most likely never play in nineteen twentieths of the country. Years ago they brought me to the attention of Kippur, which for all its faults, is still one of the better Israeli movies I’ve seen. But perhaps the most impressive thing is the way they regularly report on the movies at Sundance, as well as the scene. The New York Times and Film Comment tell only one side of the story, but Entertainment Weekly manages to do the impossible thing and tell both.

It may not win any magazine awards, nor satisfy our craving for the latest in mass transit hitherings and titherings, but it does, perhaps better than any other magazine, meet our demands for criticism and celebration.

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