Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Exactly As Droll As One Might Suspect: Maxim: The Hot 100 Disappoints

The Good: Decent photography, Good interviews
The Bad: Stupid concept, Addy, Lowbrow writing
The Basics: Maxim: The Hot 100 lives down to what one might expect of the annual magazine issue, though I was pleasantly surprised by the interviews!

One of the animated sitcoms - Family Guy, American Dad or The Simpsons has a line about Maxim that was utterly hilarious; something about their “Most Rape-able Celebrities” list. My wife recently gave me a gift subscription to Maxim, ostensibly for review and when Maxim: The Hot 100 (the annual special issue) arrived, I found myself trying to remember the joke from television about the publication. Maxim: The Hot 100 might not be quite the sinister issue that the joke insinuates, but it is pretty damn close.

Comprised of photos and a blurb for the 100 women that Maxim has decided (apparently through votes somehow) are the most desirable in the world, Maxim: The Hot 100 is like a catalog for shopping for unobtainable women. In addition to being a preposterous exercise (ranking women on their “hot” factor, as if there were a universal standard for the subjective emotion of desire), Maxim: The Hot 100 undermines itself far too frequently to be at all useful or even engaging. It’s not just some form of weird sour grapes that I write that; - favorites of mine like Anne Hathaway and Ellen Page did not make the list, but Bar Paly and Candice Swanepoel did(?!) – but any list where Katy Perry is ranked as more desirable than Sophia Vergara or Avril Lavigne ranks 44 and Anna Paquin is 78 seems skewed toward the absurd.

In addition to having a purpose that is ridiculous – are Maxim readers so stupid that they need to be told whom to be attracted to?! – and somewhat inscrutable (what are the readers supposed to do, exactly, with this information?), the Maxim: The Hot 100 special issue seems remarkably lowbrow in terms of the writing. Take, for example, the listing for Gal Gadot (who made #84 on the list) on page 13 of this year’s Maxim: The Hot 100. The blurb for Gadot reads, “Hollywood’s newest Wonder Woman is a total badass. She not only owns a motorcycle but also served two years in the Israeli army” (13). Gal Gadot is Israeli. You know who else served two years in the Israeli army? Every other Israeli citizen; it’s mandatory. Does that make her more of a badass than #39, Gina Carano, who was a MMA-brawler? Probably not. My point is that virtually none of the blurbs say anything useful, interesting or insightful about their subjects.

What keeps Maxim: The Hot 100 from the most dismal of ratings, then? First off, the photography. Most of the photos are incredibly good, exactly what one might hope for from a celebrity spankbook with a ridiculously low cover price of $3.99. The price of the magazine might make one think that it was not going to be a glossy, good-looking magazine, but apparently advertiser dollars subsidize the magazine enough that the special issue needs not charge an arm and a leg. Maxim: The Hot 100 features photographically solid pictures; in terms of color, contrast, and composition, the photographers utilized in Maxim: The Hot 100 clearly know what they are doing. In fact, because the photographers seem able and their subjects are undeniably photogenic, it is astonishing that they get some of the celebrities in remarkably unflattering looks (there’s something horrid about calling someone “hot” and smacking up a picture of them looking haggard, as at least one of the women was).

The other aspect that sells the magazine – the one that pleasantly surprised me – is the interviews. Maxim: The Hot 100 features interviews with cool celebrities (this year, it was Bryan Cranston and Nick Offerman). The questions asked of these celebrities are not the typical ones that have been asked to death and the answers are fun and informative.

Unfortunately, the two articles and a smattering of the hundreds of pictures throughout the magazine are hardly enough to justify the magazine’s existence. Several pages of the magazine are wasted debunking movie plot/effect issues (like would reversing the Earth’s direction a la Superman: The Movie turn back time). Does Maxim believe a large population of its readers are physicists who somehow slept through basic temporal mechanics? Or biology students who do not know the average size of a great white shark? Other preposterous articles focus on the latest supermodel, hot trends, and a short story about joining the mile-high club. The average length of an article in Maxim: The Hot 100 is one page, which suggests that the average reader’s attention span is ridiculously limited.

Not overflowing with impressive diction or vocabulary, Maxim: The Hot 100 is fairly ad-filled. The 120-page magazine features 22 pages of full ads (not counting the inside and back covers), along with 3 pages of partial ads and 8 pages of style articles which list all of the items in the photos, with a price (which is pretty much an advertisement to me!).

Maybe I’m not the target demographic, maybe I’m not desperately looking for unobtainable women or maybe I just don’t need a magazine to tell me what to like to have opinions. But, for those who don’t care about smart (the most common comment by women on the Maxim Hot 100 list is about their own butt; none of the quotes capture the intelligence of any of the smart women on the list), aren’t looking for a woman even close to 40 (Jennifer Lopez seems to be the most senior member of the list) and who want something more respectably portable than a hard-core magazine, Maxim: The Hot 100 is enough to entertain those who want to spend the four bucks on it.

For other magazine reviews, please visit my evaluations of:
AAA Living
Ladies’ Home Journal
Buffy The Vampire Slayer Magazine


For other magazine reviews, please check out my Magazine Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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