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Ladymags for Olds: Ladies’ Home Journal

Today, in the third post in our series about mainstream magazines for those of us not in Cosmo‘s bracket, we’re going to look at an old warhorse, Ladies’ Home Journal.  When I used to read my mom’s magazines, LHJ was my favorite.  For one reason, and one reason only.

Can This Marriage Be Saved?

When I was twelve years old, marriage seemed like a giant crock, and I owe my youthful cynicism to LHJ.  Married people, completely different than my relatively normal and, honestly, kind of boring parents, who hated each other and fought about much worse things than chores and finances like mom and dad.  There were torrid affairs! Angry words! Deep seated resentments and unresolved childhood traumas! (It was the ’80s, when lots more people could afford therapy.)

I swore right then and there, when I grew up and married Ricky Schroeder or his bad-boy best friend (Jason Bateman, not Alfonso Ribeiro.) we would have no part of these magazine marriages.

Suffice it to say, marriage advice columns are much less entertaining when you’re neither twelve nor married to Ricky Schroeder.

Anyway, LHJ is much like I remember it from long ago, with the same expected mix of advice, product pitches and the subtle undertones of fear that keep us buying. I didn’t remember it being quite so celebrity heavy back in the day, but I’ve read a lot of crap since the ’80s.

The Cover

Unlike Redbook, which we’ll be covering next, LHJ actually has stories that directly correlate with the headlines on the cover.  They’re primped up a bit, but there is a 1:1 match between each headline and an article the reader can find in the table of contents.

The cover ladies are Dana Delany, Julie Bowen and Emily Deschanel, who are going to tell us how we, too, can have real beauty at any age, which they then list as “30, 40, 50.”  One would guess those are also the ages LHJ is targeting for the magazine.

In addition to real beauty from ethereal actresses with teams of people making them look good before anyone Photoshops anything, we learn that we may need to break up with our doctor and about a new walking workout that burns fat.  Unlike those other walking workouts.

The Ads

Ladies’ Home Journal offers more ads for prescription drugs than any of the other three magazines, pitching ten drugs in 164 pages. The drugs they’re shilling don’t really mesh with the demographic, and include Cymbalta (depression), Gardisil for boys (HPV prevention), Vimovo (arthritis + stomach pain), Exelon (Alzheimer’s), Reclast (osteoporosis), Crestor (cholesterol), Celebrex (arthritis), Cimzia (arthritis), Zetia (cholesterol) and Premarin cream (restoring natural vaginal lubrication.)  The last one is my personal favorite, as it is accompanied by a full-page image of a vase full of dead flowers.   That certainly sends a message.  There’s also a full-page ad for an unnamed product to treat overactive bladder, with a call to action for the reader to call the drug company directly for more information.

The biggest group represented in the other advertisements are for beauty products, with about half explicitly stating the products will help fight aging. Two ads play into the “ladies LOVE shopping” and “ladies HATE calories” stereotypes.  The first on reminds us ladies we spend way more time finding the perfect LBD than we’d need to buy car insurance, the second tells us almond milk has 1/3 the calories of cow milk.

Other ads include one for a minivan, one for credit counseling, three cleaning products, a hideously ugly ring and figurine from The Bradford Exchange, household goods and pet products.

There are several PSAs; water.org, March of Dimes, Walk for Hope and (it exists!) the Tuna Council.

The Content

Features

There are four featured articles. One on stress relieving by restructuring what you do to find an extra hour per day.  Looks like a lot of work, so you’re probably going to need that extra hour if you follow this plan.  The second featured article is the “real beauty” piece from the cover, where three outrageously beautiful women talk about how they maintain their real beauty.  Dana is wise in her 50s, Julie is practical in her 40s, and Emily is a vegan and pregnant in her 30s.  It’s the white woman success trifecta.  I kid, but c’mon.  These women are completely unrelatable to the majority of the women reading this magazine.  They’ve all got high-paying jobs and teams of people whose job it is to make them look good, and they already looked fantastic.  The next feature was a heartbreaking essay by a mother who lost her three daughters to a drunk driver, who also happened to be her husband’s sister.  If I recall correctly, LHJ has used the tragedy of the month since the early days.  I’m not sure this type of story – as well written as it was – belongs between a celebrity fluff piece and a recipe for pink lemonade cake.  The final feature is a day-to-night fashion piece, with the standard pictures turning work clothes into play clothes.

Grade: B-.

Style

Frizzy hair solutions plus turquoise and coral jewelry.  It really is 1986 again, I thought we were still in a ’90s retrospective from last summer.

Grade: C.  The number of people who should wear turquoise and coral jewelry and the people who actually do is not in proper alignment already.

Life

Life has five articles/features.  A piece on making your own luck, which is rather trite and full of stock images of good luck charms; an advice column with pretty standard advice, and a problem I think came from a travel website TV commercial; two feel-good stories and Can This Marriage Be Saved?  Lady and Man are bored, because they’ve been married a really long time and they both work 60 hours a week. Lady flirted with a man at work, Man neglected to do his chores.  Turns out, the marriage could be saved.  Lady and Man just needed to communicate better.

Grade: B+. Like rice cakes smeared with Nutella. Not exactly good for you, but at least you’re not smearing it on poundcake.

Home

In the Home section, we’re encouraged to think like a decorator, read about a lady and her dog and avoid doing stupid stuff on the Internet.

Grade: D.  Boring and recycled, with bad stock images.

Food

There are, I shit you not, five recipes for salad and one for a big pink cake.  Who needs a recipe for salad?  They could have done this whole five page spread with one infographic and some great photos.  Filling out the food section is a set of tips for avoiding food poisoning.  Servicey.

Grade: D-.

Health

Swimming and walking are good for you, especially if you’re not a regular exerciser, sometimes you need a new doctor and a chart with wrinkle fighting food.

Grade: C+, for being mediocre and recycled.  The information isn’t bad, it’s just not very new.

Overall

Ladies’ Home Journal falls somewhere between Good Housekeeping and Redbook.  It’s mostly bland and predictable, with a side of old reliable lady-trope.

Grade: C

 

 

 

By [E] Selena MacIntosh*

Selena MacIntosh is the owner and editor of Persephone Magazine. She also fixes it when it breaks. She is fueled by Diet Coke, coffee with a lot of cream in it, and cat hair.

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