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Hardwired to be crass

The dip in sales of men's magazines won't make high brow cool.

india Updated: Feb 19, 2012 23:00 IST

Perhaps clever is the new stupid. Just possibly, astronomical telescopes are the only erect cylindrical items these days men want to get their hands on after reading their favourite magazine — which, as you know, is the BBC's Sky at Night magazine, not Loaded, Nuts, or something even more intellectually disgusting.

Let me dream. News that lads' mag Loaded has suffered a calamitous year-on-year 30% sales drop while magazines such as Private Eye and Spectator are increasing their circulations commensurately can only make right-thinking people of my gender whimper in the way lesser mortals do when studying Pippa Middleton's bum.

But then my favourite magazine title has long been Philosophy Now. I imagine its title said urgently by someone hurrying into a library to seek shelter from this unapologetically uncultured Britain where stupid rules, and sex, even in its most commodifying and shaming form, sells. There he stands, this man I've imagined, possibly casting off his cape and deer-stalker and, no doubt, cycle clips, before shouting desperately at the assistant: "Philosophy. Pant, pant, pant. Now!"

But, of course, in the real world no one yearns for a really definitive essay on the propositional logical system of ancient Greek stoic philosopher Chrysippus of Soli, as a counterbalance to the cultural fatuities of this Cowellised realm — though they really should, especially if they have the misfortune, as I do, to be a man lumped with some of the lowest life forms in human history. By which I mean other men.

Lump, incidentally, would be a great name for the new magazine that Bauer should launch to compensate for the collapse of their other blokey titles. Lump would tell it like it is to its dullard demographic. I imagine a four-page spread in the launch issue with diagrams explaining to the man whose wife has just hoovered the sofa how to get his ass groove back on his favourite cushion so he can settle back and watch the stupefying dismalathon that is the European Champions League until the last syllable of recorded time.

It's difficult to be a man with a brain bigger than his balls in this country when the prevailing male culture is predisposed to have the inverse ratio. We look at the magazines targeting fellow men and wonder: what kind of sickness would make anyone want to emulate the washboard stomach of Men's Health's cover twit of the month? What kind of man gets his rocks off to a glum-faced model with a boob job and an expression that says "I lost my soul watching Desperate Scousewives." Who but a lobotomised follower of luxury capitalism might treat GQ or FHM as style bibles, still less buy them?

Men have been degraded by the magazines targeted at us for too long, and so the possibility that Intelligent Life (the Economist's spin-off magazine) might be supplanting the aforementioned titles in male in-trays would be wonderful. It's not going to happen. High brow will never be cool. And men will never, as a gender, become a byword for brains and fine aesthetic judgment.

The Guardian

First Published: Feb 19, 2012 22:58 IST