ABC News and People magazine recently announced that they are joining forces to produce a show that I'm not sure anyone actually wants to watch.
Hosted by (middle-class white woman) Lara Spencer, co-anchor of ABCs Good Morning America, the show is described by People as a "limited series inspired by the covers that have made a lasting impact on American culture."
Yeah, you read that right. It's an entire show about stories that have already been featured on People magazine covers. No, I don't know why, either.
The show's first episode will feature (heterosexual) celeb love stories, while later episodes feature celebrity deaths. The third and fourth episodes include the Sexiest (White) Man Alive featuring (heterosexual) male celebs who have landed the "coveted" title and an episode devoted to heroes and survivors of (suitably apolitical) tragedies, respectively.
I'm bored already.
Lara Spencer is an accomplished journalist who has served as a correspondent for Nightline and ABC News, and I'm not sure that I begrudge her for choosing to accept this hosting job — work is work. But ABC, really?!
Of all the shows you could have created, this is the one you thought America needed right now? You sat there in a boardroom and decided that given today's political, cultural and racial climate, a show rehashing old People magazine covers was the best use of your network dollars? How many other shows did you turn down in order to make this one?
Let me help you out a tiny bit: We don't need another show hosted by a blond white woman. Didn't you learn anything from the reaction when NBC bumped Al Roker and Tamron Hall for Megyn Kelly?
We don't need an entire show dedicated to rehashing old news about predominantly white, heterosexual wealthy people and we certainly don't need any of this in a time when our entire country is in massive social upheaval and ripe with uncertainty.
I'm all for escapism (hello, my name is Madeleine and I write about celebrity gossip), but there's a vast difference between escapism and studied ignorance. One offers a short reprieve from the insanity of the world, the other pretends the insanity isn't happening.
And as for People, this seems like yet another example of the publication's slow march toward irrelevancy. As attacks on media outlets continue to increase under a Trump presidency, People seems intent on toeing the party line and appeasing Trump rather than using their outlet to challenge Trump's increasingly worrisome white supremacist-run government.
As soon as President Trump was elected, People went from covering Trump's sexual assault of one of their own writers to breathlessly detailing the soon-to-be first lady's best fashion moments of the campaign.
Some will argue that People magazine doesn't need to expand their coverage — they're just a celebrity gossip magazine. I think this is a fantastic argument for getting left behind in the next four years. I mean, how relevant is the Sexiest Man Alive award when they've crowned just two nonwhite recipients since 1985? This is a problem, and rather than fixing it, People seems to be doubling down on their status-quo approach with this show.
I follow a metric shit ton of celebrity accounts on Twitter. Nearly all of them have shifted the content of their tweets from one-liners and promotional content to political discourse. They're tweeting information about how to support the ACLU, protest march photos, sharing phone numbers of elected officials and expressing outrage at recent racist and xenophobic executive orders.
Sure People can keep on doing what they've always done, but the world has changed and they'd be remiss not to change with it.
And just for contrast, while ABC and People premiere their first episode of this inane show featuring celebrity love stories that have already been written about hundreds of times, Teen Vogue has also released a special love-themed issue of their magazine.
The difference? Teen Vogue came out with three different covers featuring different types of love to better reflect the reality most of us live in. A reality that isn't exclusively white, heterosexual and cisgender.
The first and arguably most conventional cover features model Gigi Hadid. The second cover features openly gay pop star Troye Sivan interviewed by Hari Nef, one of the first transgender models signed to a major agency. The two discuss what it's like to be gay in 2017 and in Trump's America. The third cover in the series features biracial actress Sasha Lane, who speaks honestly about confronting her mental health issues.
I mean... come on. There's just no contest.
Our world doesn't look like People anymore. We may even be entering a post-People era. And if the magazine refuses to catch up and instead keeps serving up news mirroring a world that doesn't really exist, their readers will go elsewhere too.
Congratulations on the show, Ms. Spencer. But I think we can collectively agree that there are more important conversations to be had and stories more worthy of being shared. Let's see some of those too, please, ABC.
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