Sunday, November 1, 2015

Minnesota Monthly, the Sell-Out's Sell Out

Minnesota Monthly began life as the monthly program guide to Minnesota Public Radio, back when it was just a couple of stations that broadcast classical music most of the time, with the NPR news shows during evening drive time and a Prairie Home Companion on Saturdays. Over the years it became a real magazine, part of the regional lifestyle category of publications, the ones that usually have a city name for a title. It competes with our local version of New York or Chicago, which is awkwardly named MplsStPaul magazine.

I realize times are tough for print publications that rely on advertising, and Minnesota Monthly has long carried special sections on the best doctors, the best dentists, the best plastic surgeons, all in pursuit of advertising dollars. I scarcely look at it when it arrives in the mail, generally.

But the most recent issue got my attention.

Things like this red Maserati are Worth the Slurge!, we're told.

Luxuries! Extravagances!

Treat yourself. Clearly, you deserve it! (Deserve: not one of my favorite verbs.)

The editor's note by Rachel Hutton, headlined How to Spend Minnesotan, is both self-congratulatory and fake-apologetic:

Responses to this month’s cover story, more than any other in the magazine’s recent history, perhaps, may overwhelm our postman’s mailbag and crash our email server. No, the subject isn’t politics, or religion, but something even more effective at triggering Minnesotans’ ire: conspicuous consumption.

This aversion is rooted in a cultural discomfort with receiving gifts — and, even more so, treating oneself. (See: Howard Mohr’s How to Talk Minnesotan for a primer on the practice of refusing food three times before accepting it.) And then there’s the Midwestern ethos of practical thrift, which favors good value and modesty over flashiness and flaunting….

Because Minnesota Monthly is a lifestyle magazine, we cover a mix of serious issues and lighthearted fun. If our recent features on the education bubble and gender equality in the workplace were oat bran and kale, “Splurge!” (page 68) is a Manny’s behemoth brownie, a $24 dessert nearly the size of a car battery.

Is the mere mention of such decadence causing your (long) undies to bunch? If so, let me assure you that our intent is simply to inform you of these unique indulgences — for example, the historic mansion you can rent for $8,000 a week, domestic staff included — and there’s no obligation to partake. Simply reading about the stunning Gucci frock that Cate Blanchett wore on the red carpet won’t somehow siphon $4,900 straight from your bank account into Nordstrom’s cash register. Minnesotans many not be known for their extravagance, but they do have a reputation for generosity. So consider using this guide to splurge on a gift — surely you know someone deserving.
I don't know whether to be more annoyed about the misuse of the critique of conspicuous consumption or the blatant attempt to appeal to advertisers chasing the dollars of the 1 percent. Minnesotans aren't any more opposed to conspicuous consumption than anyone else: It's always been in bad taste everywhere. That's why the term was created.

Indulgences... decadence... comparing real journalism to oat bran or kale. Thinking that this crap is "fun." I like fun as much as the next person, but this isn't it. While income inequality keeps increasing and Minnesota has almost the biggest racial equity gap in the country, it's in more than bad taste to flaunt the flashiness of a bunch of junk no one needs.

I wish Hutton would have just been honest and said, We have to run this crap because it sells ads. Not pretend she has some kind of defensible reason for the section, let alone lecturing us about how we're being sanctimonious and have our long underwear in a bunch.


Unemployed Dragon said...

What caught my eye in her response, was the reference to getting "your (long) undies in a bunch". It reads to me like: "ya big whiners!", as though she's offended at being
called out on trumpeting over consumption of needless stuff.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Sounds like she is feeling guilty and trying to hold off the inevitable responses. But at the same time she's inviting elites to send messages of support.

Gina said...

Minnesota Monthly is a HUGE disappointment to me. When I first "joined" MPR, I was so happy with the magazine and especially the section on program listings. I highlighted the radio programs or classical music I didn't want to miss. With the internet, they stopped the program listing in the magazine. Not long afterward, I stopped receiving the magazine. The content no longer interested me -- the annual "best" articles especially. In its early life, the magazine's content was far more interesting, and they also ran fiction. I am so happy I decided to skip the magazine every month.