Once in awhile I pick up a magazine from the rack at the store. I do so in order to see what non-critical readers are reading. This time I picked Seventeen magazine, the June/July 2016 edition. It cost me four dollars and some change.
Seventeen magazine is for teenage girls. On the cover is a picture of a boy that teenage girls are presently wild about. That a boy-celebrity is on the cover tells us a lot about what the magazine is appealing to. It is not appealing to a girl’s moral constitution, or even to a high ideal. How could it, since there is not even one actual article in the more than one hundred pages of paper! It is appealing to nothing more than instincts and emotions. Some of the girls who browse through this magazine probably know the boy on the cover better than they know their father. The main draw is an interview of this guy, wherein he answers questions like: “What is your idea of a great date?” His answer, in part: “just one-on-one time in your pajamas together.” Now there is a boy that you can trust your daughter with! Of course, most parents today would be okay with that, and almost all of them would love it if this boy made their daughter pregnant because he’s probably rich. Extracting money from a rich boy at the expense of a daughter’s happiness and virginity would suit most parents just fine.
Other features of this magazine include: awkward-moment confessions, an excerpt from a novel, and some profiles of athletes. The most positive part of the magazine is a page about dads, in honor of Father’s Day. Surprisingly, the dads are more honored than put down, contrary to what is usually done in our culture. The most disturbing feature is not the horoscope, though horoscopes are harmfully addictive, full of bad advice, and focused always on the most superficial aspects of life. After thumbing through the magazine the first time, I thought the most disturbing feature was the gender-identity profile spread. Six gender identities are spotlighted, none of which, by the way, include the only real, normal genders of boy and girl. Fourteen year old Katie is so mature that she can assure us that her bisexuality is not a phase. Being transgender, queer, bisexual, gay, asexual, and lesbian—all of this is pushed as the new normal. Being a boy or a girl is not good enough or normal enough to be allowed a spot.
As bad as the promotion of perversity is, there is something even more sinister and harmful in this magazine than the promotion of gender-confusion. Out of 109 pages, 69 pages consist of ads. That is the scariest part of Seventeen magazine. This means that sixty-three percent of the contents of Seventeen is comprised of advertising! Girls are groomed to fear shiny skin, dry skin, white skin, acne, body hair, unruly eyebrows, and even droopy lashes that can be ‘plumpified’ by the latest product. Girls are enticed to pine after useless products such as ‘voluminizing’ shampoo and cleansing water. They are fooled to think that a hair removal product is ‘nourishing.’ They are prompted to buy a certain brand of shampoo by the dishonorable declaration that it goes by the name, ‘Not Your Mother’s.’
The peddlers and their marketers are greedy predators of young girls who are easily frightened and manipulated into buying what they are told they need. For the sake of their god: Mammon, these peddlers and marketers (one of whom is Katy Perry on page 47) rob these girls of the wonderful freedom of not worrying about skin tone, nail color, and hair volume. Young girls ought to be meditating on what their role in life might be under God’s direction—on how they might cultivate the virtues that are necessary to filling a noble role in society. Instead of this, they are pressured to worry about made-up concerns that have been dreamed up by wicked people who want to make money from manufactured anxiety. Because they covet money, the makers and pushers of chemical-laden snake oil get into whatever magazines they can. Once access is gained, they use what the Bible calls ‘feigned words’ to make merchandise of people, even young, vulnerable girls who can be effortlessly weighed down with worry by an ‘expert’s’ emphasis on something as trivial, tiny, and temporary as a zit. Where does despair come from? Where do bulimia and anorexia get their start? Where are suicides born? In part—maybe in large part, these evils emerge from the pages of a magazine like Seventeen when young girls begin to magnify moles and warts into mountains. Some atheists claim that preaching sin and hell might be harmful to kids. In truth, it is evangelical preaching that can drive kids away from what can drive them to despair, like these magazines that press girls to measure up to unnatural, impossible ideals of what to look like. Evangelical preaching (if you can find it) is the message of rescue for sinners who can’t measure up to what really matters: moral, not corporeal, perfection.
Magazines are passing away, which is good, for the best of them are, at best, a waste of time. But now the internet is the hunter, and virtually every girl walks around with a tool to log into it at any hour of the day. Parental control is slipping away. Young girls are slipping into the claws of more and more trouble. Moral foundations must be gotten into our kids at a very young age, for they are drifting farther away sooner and at a faster rate than ever before. Sadly, we are losing this fight because we aren’t even waging it. We aren’t waging it because parents and teachers have no moral bearings either.
In fine print, on the very last page, right at the bottom where it is least noticeable, there is a note surrounded by a rectangle. Some of what this note contains is obviously written in compliance to a law. It says there that ‘from time to time’ the subscriber list is “made available to companies who sell goods and services by mail.” Subscribers can opt out of receiving flyers and samples, it says. But what girl is going to do that or even read that fine print rectangle? The subscriber list will be made available ‘from time to time.’ What does this mean but every time the subscriber list changes, which it is always doing?
So Seventeen makes money off girls from the sale of the magazine, then it makes money off companies by selling almost all of its space in advertising to them, then the companies who advertise make money off the girls through the products they sell, then Seventeen makes money by selling the girls’ addresses to the companies who advertise, then the companies make money off the girls by soliciting their attention by mail. And by the way it’s worded, the companies that these addresses are sent to are not limited to the ones who advertise in Seventeen. Easily swayed, impressionable girls are nothing but merchandise to Seventeen and these companies who have shady vanity products to sell. The boy on the cover, the tidbits of information about him, the gossip, the horoscopes, the celebrity photos, and the fashion advice are just snares to catch money from excitable, unwary girls. Teenage girls get money by way of allowance or part-time work, and those who make merchandise of them will get as much of that money for themselves as they can, using whatever means they can think of legally to use.
The damnation awaiting those who make merchandise of others will not slumber, the apostle Peter tells us. It is not wrong to take a healthy dose of consolation from that. “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not” (2 Peter 2.3.) This means that the payback for tricking people to pay for products they don’t need, is as good as done. From the eternal perspective of God, vengeance cometh quickly to pass.