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Sheila Moeschen Headshot

Print Tabloids: Why Are You Still a Thing?

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"The ghost of Elvis is living in my car, Midnight Star, I wanna know, I wanna know!"

My girlfriend and I used to dance around my bedroom shrieking Weird Al Yankovic's goofy homage to the outrageous, ridiculous tabloids that have remained a staple of grocery store check-out lanes for decades. Sometimes when we went to the beach, she would snag a few from the stack her grandmother kept in her bedroom. We'd page through the grimy, cheap periodicals while the sun cooked our tender skin. We'd giggle over the stories about the 150-pound Asian baby, the expose about alien sex, and yes, the requisite piece about Elvis' ghost, his secret Russian love child, and his faked death (the King lives in a split-family ranch house outside of Modesto, duh). These were the rags I knew as tabloids, a Tarantino-scape of pulp fiction at its most outlandish.

While waiting in line at Target this week, my eyes fell on The Enquirer, the tabloid most like Nosferatu -- refusing to wane, aging ungracefully into perpetuity. "Best and WORST Beach Bodies" screamed the Gigantor-sized print. I paused because BEACH, and I am a sun-parched New Englander still sleeping in flannel sheets. But it really was about the images, showcasing mostly the WORST of beach bodies. Ugly, angry yellow and red arrows pointed to the cellulite on the backs of women's thighs and to the saggy rounds of ample bellies. One toned shoulder stood out, circled in red, a lone survivor amidst what they wanted us to think of as a train wreck of flesh. It made me so sad. It made me feel defeated and tired. It made me angry that this garbage was still a thing.

I realize that in relation to the digital colosseum -- you know, the infinitely vast arena of the Internet where anyone might suddenly find themselves battling against unknown and unseen adversaries judging, ridiculing and humiliating them for sport -- the sad print tabloid industry is merely a fungus on the underside of a rotting stump. That doesn't excuse its existence. It doesn't change the fact that between mobile technology and good, old-fashioned hold-it-in-your-hand print material, this kind of trash is ubiquitous; this garbage is still very much a thing. Why?

I still don't have an answer; I only know that it's taking up magazine real estate, adding to the erosion of the environment, creating jobs for obviously self-loathing individuals, and serving no purpose other than stoking the culture of salacious voyeurism and mean-girl behavior (especially when it comes to women's bodies) we've come to accept as, well, acceptable. As I write this, the New York Post brokers a greasy cover of Monica Lewinski and news of her latest tell-all, proving that the line between tabloid and mainstream media is depressingly fluid, is, in fact, less a line than a suggestion quickly becoming an after thought.

Battling the tide of this junk is a waste of time and gas, better to exercise conscious consumerism by choosing not to look, buy, download or click, and maybe if we put enough effort into shunning these zines -- into diverting our energies to support positive, healthy media -- they will become pieces of bizarre fiction; they will amount to little more than fodder for someone's catchy, silly pop song.