Time Out Has Sold Out

Time Out

Time Out uses sex, not culture, to sell.

A week or so ago, I was sat at my computer desk, when I suddenly received an email from Time Out magazine.  (I have subscribed to get updates on their ‘Offers’ – which are, I must say, mostly rather good.)

This email subject read: ‘After-dark fun: open if you dare’.

I dared…

And in the blink of an eye, a huge vibrator appeared on my screen.  (Yeah, you ‘eard.)  I’ve put a picture of it below – it looks a bit scary, right? Sort of like an evil robotic cactus sticking two fingers up at you.

Vibe

Time Out had sent me a Valentine’s email – filled with offers for waxes, vibrators, condoms and couples’ boink boxes. But it wasn’t very romantic. Just tacky.

And it didn’t stop there; because the email also invited me to contribute to a competition – to ‘SEX UP’ Time Out’s ‘Sex Issue’ cover (which came out last week).  Sex issues always stink of desperation to me: a cheap carrot on a stick to get people to turn their heads; a form of journo-prostitution. Still, readers were happy to submit their artwork: just check out this gallery of all the beautiful pictures people contributed. Time Out writers revelled in the ‘brilliance’ of the competition entries, writing:

‘(A) tube map was re-purposed so that ‘Holland Park’ became ‘Whoreland Park’, someone drew a woman ‘jerking off the magazine’ and one reader saw fit to submit an entry featuring the words ‘Why does it burn when I pee?’

That’s not my idea of ‘brilliance’: that’s the stuff of sniggering teenage boys. And yet the writers of London’s leading culture magazine not only rewarded such creative inadequacy, but endorsed the submissions as ‘amazing’ on their website. Editor-in-chief Time Arthur went so far as to say about the winning picture (displayed at the top of this article) ‘Cockfosters has never been so arousing.’ Oh please.

This week, Time Out has brought out a ‘Drugs’ issue that includes results from its ‘London Drugs Survey’. It’s simply another crude idea for a publication, that smacks of unoriginality in the drafting room – and writers anxious to sell, not tell. Let’s not forget that this is a magazine that can be picked up anywhere, by anyone in London. In an age where there is ever increasing concerns over children ‘growing up to quickly’, magazines like Time Out are just as much to be blamed as the porn industry for making adult material easy for the taking.

Time Out, like many other media institutions, has made a mistake in assuming that prurience is a trait of any intellectually curious reader. It’s time it learned how to sell culture without using sex, or shock gimics; and remembered that its real target market are not Anne Summers customers.

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This Is 40: Review

40

Apatow needs to watch he doesn’t turn into the American Mike Leigh.

If Judd Apatow’s latest film ‘This Is 40’ was intended as a light-hearted comedy about middle-age, it certainly wouldn’t seem that way.  The finished product is a self-indulgent, rambling lesson in why not to cast your family in your directorial work.

The beginning of ‘This Is 40’ is the first sign the film is going to be a stinker.  It’s a mess; with no compelling opening, and no signs of an organised plot and structure.  We are introduced to Debbie (Leslie Mann) and Pete (Paul Rudd), a ‘dysfunctional’ couple.  They’re dealing with the trauma of turning 40.  It’s hard, apparently.  And they argue the whole time. About everything.

Debbie and Pete are characters that first appeared in ‘Knocked Up’, as Katherine Heigl’s sister and brother-in-law.  Debbie was incredibly irritating then; like having a blonde, humourless fly buzz around your head. But Apatow didn’t swat her out. Instead, he decided the world needed more of Debbie. So she’s back, in even more annoying form – her sole purpose in this film being to complain in a squeaky voice and look constipated. What’s worse is that Mann had a large part scripting ‘This Is 40’, meaning that she is not only responsible for bringing Demonic Debbie to life, but putting her personality to page.

Debbie and Pete have even more problems in ‘This Is 40’ than they did in ‘Knocked Up’.  There’s a relentless amount of shouting in the film: at points, it was like watching a Mike Leigh film – only the characters don’t have cockney accents. They argue about cupcakes, sex, exercise, children, and finances (even though they have a mansion and a trampoline). Despite these micro-issues, there didn’t seem to be any big message about the underlying cause of their tensions.  But this story is all one big improvisation, a directionless experiment. One of Apatow’s strengths is the unpredictable nature of his scenes; but it’s gone too far. If he is to keep audiences coming, he needs to regain a sense of editorial judgement, and write stories with better clarity and bigger twists.

Another thing that made the film bad was Apatow’s decision to cast his own family in it. As well as his wife Mann, his two daughters Sadie (Maude Apatow) and Charlotte (Iris Apatow) play Debbie and Pete’s children.  Future directors, take note: leave your family off the set. There’s something really uncomfortable, almost perverse, about watching Rudd and Mann make out – with the knowledge that it’s Apatow giving the direction. In one particularly bizarre scene, Debbie is giving Pete oral sex, in a room with the door locked – and the mini Apatows are trying to break in.   Iris Apatow is only 6, and yet she’s in scenes where Pete and Debbie argue about an unwanted pregnancy.  Both girls use their fair share of curse words to the amusement of audiences. And we wonder why children are so precocious these days?

‘This Is 40’ isn’t a complete flop – there are genuinely hilarious moments, perhaps the best being a scene in which Pete asks Debbie to inspect his hemorrhoids.  But Apatow has become complacent; to evolve he needs to create a complete story, rather like that of ‘The 40 Year Old Virgin’ to drive and refine his comic ideas.