In Defense of Gossip RagsBy: Marcelo Báez
My friends love scoffing at my TvNotas subscription. “Those magazines are abhorrent,” one girlfriend righteously quipped about the gossip-rag genre. I think they’re ingenious, enlightening, telling and, no sir, I don’t consider TvNotas a guilty pleasure. Self-conscious individuals feel ashamed of their culturally reprehensible interests, but I don’t.
For starters, TvNotas is very open about its shady practices; they assume you know they’re full of crap. If they didn’t, the magazine wouldn’t add those “TvNotas always tells the truth” stickers to their articles, which are occasionally proven to be true. And as any fiction writer can tell you, it is of little to no importance if anything TvNotas “reports” is legit. Because no matter how outrageous, shocking or “abhorrent,” readers will consume anything that’s entertaining.
I started reading tabloid magazines because of my dad. He used to carry many of them in his work truck and, after picking up a new batch, he’d toss the old ones my way. Is it odd for a grown, married man to buy gossip magazines? If your dad is from Latin America, then no. Our culture doesn’t shame gossipy males—a gender that often follows soap operas with the same devotion that women do.
Unsurprisingly, TvNotas knows its demographic very well. Along with all the tragic divorces, weight losses, weight gains, surgical procedures, deaths and births we’re all collectively dying to know about, they entice heterosexual males by putting half-naked women on most of their covers. The hot mamacita provides macho men with a flimsy excuse to purchase the salacious content. Of course, the men could care less about the women—what they really want to know is whether Marco Antonio “El Buki” Solís’s daughter is a drug dealer, a pothead, or *gasp* both.
While the editorial tone of its American counterparts (People, Star, OK!) is generally more objective, TvNotas can be ruthless and opinionated. More National Enquirer and New York Post than US Weekly, the rag is an equal opportunity troll. (Well, almost: drug lords and high-ranking politicians are notably exempt from their judgment.) But their style of criticism is never foaming-from-the-mouth àla Bill O’Reilly. Instead, TvNotas’s voice is that of a passive-aggressive, concern-feigning, witty, bitchy aunt.
They’re surprisingly tactical, too. When TvNotas wanted to ridicule Lucero, Televisa’s golden goose and go-to Goody Two-shoes, they published embarrassing pictures of the 44-year-old mom taken during a hunting trip. Word on the street is that the rag published the photos as retribution for being excluded from a Lucero-hosted event. Whatever the reason, the public lynching worked extremely well. Now the usually chatty star won’t even update her Twitter account. (And whenever they’re feeling especially nasty, TvNotas calls upon Nueva, its more sinister publication, to do its dirtier work—nude celebrity photos, ruthless fat-shaming, closet outings—with backhanded rhyming compliments that can become legendary.)
Great bad taste doesn’t get any better than this.
Or does it? When TvNotas is “invited” to check out the homes of has-been celebrities, one can picture their writers laughing out loud at the decorative choices of their unsuspecting hosts. Worse yet, the staff photographer will often prop their subjects next to what looks like the most ridiculous piece of furniture. Completely straight-faced, they run the photos accompanied by a serious and earnest interview.
All that entertainment for less than two American dollars? What a bargain! It almost feels like we’re taking advantage of them.
I’ll be honest: not every issue is entertaining. In fact, probably because of the pressures to keep up with online publishing, their content seems to be losing the signature TvNotas voice. Rarely does one read pun-heavy or tongue-in-cheek headlines anymore, which used to be their bread and butter. And their writing—as evidenced by the aforementioned Lucero piece—has become too objective. Where’s the faux indignation? Where’s the rage? The old TvNotas would have painted the town red with the leftover goat blood. The person who wrote that timid piece—probably an intern—barely gasped.
For better or worse, TvNotas serves a purpose: to highlight the interests, obsessions and preoccupations of the populace. And even if those feelings are artificial, constructed or misguided, they’re still being felt. Probably because knowingly surrendering one’s common sense to the deceitful practices of a gossip publication is fun. Plus, being nosy is normal since, according to science, gossip helped our ancestors survive and evolve.
So here we are now. Entertain us.