OK, OK, if we must have an entertainment-obsessed culture, with its incumbent proliferation of glossy mags enough to make even the most fertile of rabbits jealous, at least let them all be as cover-to-cover engrossing as Mean. Better still, let them all be as in touch with situationist politics and able to nimbly undermine the standard Q&A/puff-feature practices of the Details/Maxim/People rags of the world as are the folks behind Mean. With the straight-faced thug mugs of John Cusack and Jack Black (you know, one half of Tenacious D) staring out from the cover ready to strike, and a tantalizing “Exclusive! Inside the Friars Club” as the main reader bait, the canny editors of Mean seemingly walk the fine line between tabloid-A&E rag and men’s mag. But it’s a fantastic red herring: A bizarre exchange between Ween and Matt Stone and Trey Parker, a one-two punch of features on Primal Scream and Malcolm McClaren, and a handful of engrossing, subversive reads featuring everything from home burglary to a 93-year-old philosopher acting as the mag’s reluctant advice columnist emerge swinging, spitting and ranting from the Trojan Horse.
The Friars’ Club package delivers the goods, stripping away the veneer of celluloid safety from the old-guard celebrity world and showing the old vaudeville generation and Rat Pack-era comics, entertainers, their hangers-on and pals for the bawdy bunch they truly were.
And if the exchange between Cusack and Black is ingenious in its attempts to undermine the Q&A form, the interview heckling between MC Paul Barman and his questioner strikes just the right fucked-up/fucked-off tone and content to illuminate the hyperliterate darling MC.
In a world of glorified PR hacks and the copy they spew, Mean is a refreshing cover-to-cover exercise in adventurous pomo-pop-culture literacy.
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