Heaven Is Real; Is God Dead? 5 Controversial and Ridiculous Magazine Covers
Inside the magazine’s pages lay a doctor’s account of going into a coma and having a hallucinatory experience which he interpreted as a little holiday in heaven, whose delights included riding on butterfly wings, having a mysterious female companion who communicated unconditional love, and entering a dark void that was the home of God.
Bizarre and amusing as this particular cover is, it hearkens back to an old-school tradition of using major questions about theology to worship another deity entirely: the god of sales.
So besides the “big statements about God” category, which we’ll put at number one, here are a few more of the most sensational magazine cover stories and types of cover stories that stir the pot to stir up sales. Let;s be clear--some of the stories, whether serious probings of a massive sociopolitical issue or even a plain old celebrity Q+A were and are perfectly standard, even above-average or excellent, magazine journalism.
...Newsweek featured President Obama wearing a rainbow-colored halo with “The First Gay President” as the headline. Bloomberg Businessweek attracted attention in February with a cover featuring two mating Continental and United planes with the headline “Let’s Get It On.”
“In a nonstop news cycle, it’s their best vehicle to say ‘Hey wait a minute. Look at me,’ ” said Josh Tyrangiel, the editor of Bloomberg Businessweek. “We’re seeing a really interesting moment where weekly magazines have awakened to the possibility of that real estate.”
But Twitter had the last laugh when people began responding with great irony using the hashtag #muslimrage about the everyday temptations of pork, the hassles of the hijab, and the pain of reading Thomas Friedman columns.
Two of the most popular tweets were:
Lost your kid Jihad at the airport. Can't yell for him.#MuslimRage — Leila
"I'm having such a good hair day. No one even knows.#MuslimRage" — Hend
At Salon, Alex Pareene slammed the piece as being the worst kind of “trolling” “This is related to the “news” of the “week.” But it’s also a much more dickish and counterproductive bit of trolling, because it is shamelessly exploiting a sensitive situation with idiotic “provocative” fear-mongering.”
Here’s the irony: Newsweek’s online, site, the Daily Beast, has already published its own fairly comprehensive list of controversial and racist magazine covers, not including its own. Want to see more magazines with covers that employ problematic racial and cultural tropes? Click through.
The, erm, arresting, image promoted an article about the already-controversial “attachment parenting” movement--but became a topic of many an article itself.
The LA Times ran a piece about the impact of the image, quoting a fawning journalism expert saying this was the most exciting thing that had come out of print journalism in a while:
Katha Pollitt called bullshit on these stories that profile and hype up “parenting” (especially mothering” “movements” or fads:
It all adds up to the secret sauce behind the cover's success, said [Smir] Husni, a professor at the Magazine Innovation Center, Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi. The editors have taken a very old topic -- breastfeeding, after all, has been around forever -- and managed to put a very fresh spin on it.
"It didn't just start the conversation, it's continuing the conversation," he said. "This is not just '15 seconds of fame, go on to the next story.' This story is going to be 24/7 [for a while].
Child-rearing fashions come and go, but they’re always about regulating the behavior of women—middle-class educated women. If these discussions were really about children, we would be debating the policies that affect them—what to do about our shocking level of child poverty, for example
In fact, it even provoked Slaughter, inspired by a Rebecca Traister piece, to drop the phrase “have it all” from future discussions of the issues at hand--while acknowledging that that very phrase vaulted her byline into stardom. As the responses to her piece fanned outover the internet, she wrote:
Her piece also prompted Jessica Valenti to identify the scare-mongering trope “Sad White Babies With Mean Feminist Mommies,” a perennial favorite of magazine covers and spreads.
when so many Americans have so little and so many men appear to be dissatisfied with their lot (judging by the number of responses that essentially say "men don't have it all either," a better and more accurate title for my article would have been Why Working Mothers Need Better Choices to Be Able to Stay in the Pool and Make It to the Top. (Not sure that would have been catchy enough to motivate over a million readers to read and debate it, however.)
Buzzfeed Shift and Jezebel both have galleries of shame listing the worst examples of this practice.
We haven’t even touched on the tabloids, but you can be sure as the internet continues its erosion of our attention spans, editors are going to be fighting to attract our roving eyes. And as a fan of magazine journalism I can’t entirely fault that instinct. Still, there must be a way to get our attention without resporting racist and sexist tropes? Please?