On -isms: Teen Vogue

By | Thursday, December 17, 2015 Leave a Comment
Tini Howard has a piece over at Teen Vogue highlighting great LGBT characters in comics. It's in that stupid slideshow format that's absolutely detestable, and it doesn't go into very much depth on any of the characters -- in fact, it's barely anything more than their names and what title they appear in -- but I think it's worth pointing out. Why? Because it's Teen Vogue.

Let me put some more emphasis on this... It's Teen Vogue.

See, in case you weren't aware, Teen Vogue is not actually for teens. Any of those magazines that are ostensibly aimed at teenagers judging by their titles are actually targeted for an audience several years younger: the pre-teen and tween kids from about ages 9 to 13. The magazines are decidedly aspirational in nature; they're trying to shape the impressions of kids before they're old enough to do a lot of clothes and makeup shopping for themselves. By the time they get to actual teenagers, the teenagers are also looking aspirationally by checking out what the 20-somethings are doing in Vogue.

So Teen Vogue is catching an audience JUST as they're hitting puberty, and starting to think about gender and sexuality. So, while Howard's piece mostly focuses on titles that are deliberately just above magazine's audience (I can't imagine any ten-year-old being interested in Strangers in Paradise) there's just enough there that might interest younger readers. The write-up on Lumberjanes even says exactly that, providing a solid cue to the actual reading audience that this might be more their speed.

But what pieces like this do is normalize (well, help to normalize, at any rate) the very idea of LGBT characters. They're saying not only that it's okay to see LGBT characters in comics, but it's almost expected. That this should be something they look for in their comics, and take notice when it isn't there. And that by telling this to a young (read as: impressionable) audience, that will carry through with more weight than if you tell someone who's in their 30s or 40s and set in their opinions.

So kudos to Howard and Teen Vogue for encouraging this. As much as I generally don't like these types of magazines' approach to encouraging consumerism and the superficiality of being pretty, I will absolutely give them props for helping to steer this broader conversation in a positive direction. Especially when they do so using comics!
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