Time Gentlemen Please
Yesterday, Bauer Media announced it was suspending its two so-called Lads Mags, FHM and Zoo. I went out to buy a copy of each after seeing the story, and having done so, am not remotely surprised by the publisher's decision. They are pitiful publications: cheap, cheesy and charmless.
The accepted narrative is that the Internet did for the Lads Mag genre. I don't think so. A lack of balls did.
The Internet accounted for porn mags, for sure. But Lads Mags, as originally defined by James Brown's epoch-making mid-90s Loaded Magazine weren't really about topless women and sex, at least at first. They were, as Loaded's old slogan said, 'For Men Who Should Know Better.'
They came out of music journalism and stand-up comedy. They owed much more to punk, Viz, football fanzines and The Young Ones, than they did to Playboy and Penthouse. They emerged from Margaret Thatcher's can-do culture, which also spawned the like-minded YBAs, Britpop stars and a certain Jeremy Clarkson.
The reason that Lads Mags have withered and died unlike the Hirst, Albarn, and Clarkson-types of the Men Behaving Badly era, is because they lost sight of what they were about. They were suckered into the disastrous and vacuous soft-porn arena by desperate execs that didn't understand the readership and wanted a quick fix and an upswing in sales.
But the success, for example, that Trey Parker and Matt Stone have enjoyed with South Park and The Book of Mormon shows there's still plenty of life left in the naughty-boys-at-the-back-of-the-class genre (Breaking Bad, John Niven's book Kill Your Friends, Wolf of Wall Street and so on).
The Lads Mags made a big mistake. They should have manned-up and gone down the Vice route. They had the attitude, the writers and the readers to succeed. But they chickened out and went for the cheap shot and ended up getting what they deserved.