deconstructing vanity fair germany part 1

Friday, July 6th, 2007

Julie Delpy at Berlinale
well, i just picked up the new issue of vanity fair deutschland. das neu zeitschrift fuer deutschland. and i would like to of course, pick the whole thing apart. on a one hour train ride on DB, while the powers that be weren’t on strike. i pulled out germany’s weekly publication, vanity fair as well as a pen and a notepad. then i counted. what was i counting? ad pages. and unless my fingers were too fast. i counted exactly 8 ads. dolce and gabanna, cerruti, something with jens lehmann and oliver kahn in it, a double-paged spread from american express, a mobile phone operator, Duismann (a german book store). there were the obligatory advertisements from condé nast, which owns vanity fair. but i did not count the ads for AD(architectual digest), Glamour, or GQ in my final total. like i said, maybe i missed a page or two. but i’m pretty sure there are less than 10 ads in the current 162 page issue.

lindsay lohan is on the cover. but somehow the photo doesn’t look like an exclusive photo. but i can’t confirm this. paris hilton gets 4 pictures in the magazine, one double page photo for an article called ‘Sun for the Stars,’ then a smaller version of the same photo in the table-of-contents, and yet another one with in the story. she was on the cover 2 weeks ago.

tom cruise appears twice in the magazine. he’s in the ‘Sun for the Stars’ piece. there’s a double-paged spread of him and the spawn of l.r. hubbard frolicking somewhere. then there’s yet another article about prince william. last week’s cover was of princess diana and included a small photo of prince william and kate middleton.

there’s an article about tom cruise and the count von stauffenberg movie. the article includes a photo of bryan singer and tom cruise in berlin, a smaller photo of the count, and a picture of tom cruise and nicole kidman with sky du mont, one of germany’s most respected actors. the article seems to be all about promoting the film as being good for germany’s image. tom’s publicist must of put pressure on the editors because tom cruise is widely despised in germany because of his strange obsession with scientology. the article includes a quote from florian henckel von donnersmarck, who won an oscar earlier this year. the quote was pulled from an editorial the film director wrote for Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung. and basically says that having tom cruise play the role of von stauffenberg would be good for germany’s image. uwe wolff, who wrote the article writes ‘mit Valkyrie, werden rund 40 Millionen Euro in den Filmstandort Deutschland investiert, 500 Jobs geschaffen, auch für deutsche Schauspieler wie Daniel Bruehl und Armin Mueller-Stahl.’ translation. ‘with the film valkyrie, 40M will be invested where the filming takes place, 500 jobs will be created, also jobs for german actors like daniel bruehl and armin mueller-stahl.’ but tom hasn’t mentioned whether or not he’ll be erecting a scientology tent at the babelsberg studio set. we can only hope he doesn’t try to convert daniel bruehl.

o.k., so i was discussing how the magazine seems to be misreading germany. no one in germany likes to discuss there being an elite in the country. anyone with the word ‘von’ in their name is hissed at. der spiegel details this in its article. the article says the ‘…the problem is the magazine’s point of view.’ while popular celeb magazines take the piss out of celebrities, vanity fair, der spiegel notes, ‘…often prefers to shut itself out from its readers by associating itself with the world’s rich and powerful.’

how else are they out of touch? on one of their in/out pages, someone from their photo staff has found the dowdiest photo of julie delpy (above is a more accurate photo of delpy, which i took of her earlier this year) and slapped her image with the word OUT because she made a derogatory comment about quentin tarantino. the comment was made in a comical way. it’s about how poorly tarantino treats women in his films. yet, delpy’s directorial debut, 2 Days in Paris,(which stars herself and daniel bruehl), is doing quite well in germany. her little film has been in the top 10 for about 3 months. and all of the reviews have been infinitely positive.

for some inexplicable reason, the majority of the images in the magazine are of english speaking celebrities. the same is true for russian vogue btw. for vanity fair deutschland, the aging kate moss and the aging george clooney are seemingly favorites. they’re both in the new issue as is the basketball player tony parker (nobody cares about basketball in europe). the guest editor, rainer schmidt of the magazine talks about ‘the hollywood elite’ in his editorial without even a hint of irony. the magazine also bills itself as a new magazine for germany’s new elite, again without any hint of irony.

aside from the first issue with til schweiger dressed in a cowboy outfit rubbing his hose, i can’t think of another issue that’s had an actor from the german speaking countries on the cover. this brings me to another point, which i will, in a simone de beauvoir way mention now, but only get around to discussing later. basically, i want to tell the editors, it is perfectly okay to put danny bruehl or franka potente on the cover or michael ballack. they could even put roger federer on the cover. these people are all well known in german speaking countries. if the editors want a more european perspective. then put topical political stories on the cover. zapatero could be interesting. if the article runs for more than 2 pages. or what about the twin leaders from poland?

but perhaps the magazine’s fascination with american culture is a way for condé nast to try to minimize anti-americanism and anti-britishism by filling the magazine with the cultural elite of both countries so that everyone in germany will decide that they want to marry prince william, go partying with prince harry, and have a laugh with george clooney and leonardo dicaprio. without a bit of irony.

vanity fair german includes a mix of fashion, celebrity, and politics. just like vanity fair in the u.s. and the version in italy. ( i saw the italian version the last time i was in italy, it was about 10 pages. but perhaps it has improved.) but in the german speaking market (except for perhaps switzerland), this is not the same audience. people either want their hard political stories that go on and on in great detail for about 10 pages or they want a celebrity magazine and pictures of glamourous politicians from france are okay. note, i said france, not german. there are no glamourous politicians in deutschland. although it might be okay to put ursula von der leyen on the cover, despite her name having ‘von’ in the middle. she’s the 3rd most popular politician in germany, according to stern and she’s telegenic. but no. vanity fair just continuously runs photos of klaus wowereit. whose national popularity is quite low considering his city is 6 billion euros in debt. that’s almost 1 trillion dollars.

the political stories should run a minimum of 8 pages and include lots of charts because i’m convinced focus’s biggest readership comes from the people who have to camp out at their doctor’s office for two hours waiting to take advantage of their socialized medical system.


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