Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

A look back at a look back at 1998

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At the end of every year in magazineland, history devolves into pithy lists of important events, quotidian grotesqueries, celebrity transgressions, and last year’s most potent political commentary: the dick joke. We offer the following chart as a public service to magazine editors who are no doubt already “conceptualizing” their looks back at 1999. This is what worked in 1998, and the hundred or so years before it. So there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work again.

Snappy proprietary package title High-concept visual element Total number of dick jokes Overcovered event of the year How’d we miss that?
Esquire Dubious Achievement Awards of 1998 “Jism in the News” graph plots how often the word “semen” is mentioned in the New York Times throughout the year. 19 See “jism” graph. “To protest ‘harassment’ of his brother Eric Rudolph, who is a suspect in numerous bombings…Daniel Rudolph cut off his left hand with a table saw and sent a video of the act to the FBI.”
TV Guide The Year in jeers TV actors dress up as the year’s most prominent figures 11 “Jewel wrote a book!” “O.J.Simpson surprised TV host Ruby Wax during a taped interview by stabbing her several times with a banana.”
US There’s Something About ’98 TV actors dress up as the year’s most prominent figures. 8 “Sexy: Jewel’s poetry” The first successful “fashion infomercial” hawks a dress with more than 100 looks. Says the garment’s model: “After a certain point, I think, the dress took over.”
Entertainment Weekly Best of 1998 TV actors dress up as themselves. 11 “The folkie’s tome reveals her tendency to both misspell the names of alleged influences and a fixation on breasts.” “To promote [her new yoga-influenced album, Ray of Light, Madonna] squishes Rosie O’Donnell into a few positions on the latter’s talk show….”
Artforum International Best of 1998 Lots of highbrow nudity 8 Veiled reference to Jewel: “Nothing in this world with a body and color is ever as simple as you think it is.” “[Claude] Wampler, as domineering mom in a steam bath with ‘jumbo shrimp’ Magic Markered on her forehead and some kind of jellied blood oozing from her nostrils, hurled Naumanesque abuse.”

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As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

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