The counterculture goes mainstream Trends: Can "phenomenons" such as Howard Stern, Courtney Love and alternative rock keep their edge now that they've been packaged and presold?

Magazines

March 30, 1997|By Matthew Gilbert | Matthew Gilbert,BOSTON GLOBE

The massive Howard Stern media blitz is over, leaving in its wake remnant thoughts about what New Yorker writer David Remnick cleverly calls "over-the-counter counterculture," or the mainstreaming of edginess. Does a pop phenomenon -- Howard Stern, alternative rock, Courtney Love, the nodding-out-on-heroin look, "independent" movie-making -- remain edgy once it has been mass-packaged and presold? And if a healthy, lip-jobbed Courtney Love is making Oscar presentations, and Howard Stern has topped the box-office list, who will become the new rebels? And how will they transgress?

We may have to wait until the next millennium to find out. Meanwhile, at least for this month, gone are the zoned-out junkies who had been peopling the fashion ads in such magazines as Details and Spin. After all, it has become increasingly hard to deny that that downtrodden rebel look is based on the fashions of extremely high-achieving rock bands. For April, the ads offer up cleaned-up, healthed-up young models who don't have a lot of color in their cheeks but nonetheless seem able to crack a smile. Laughter as an act of daring?

Rolling Stone, which has constantly juggled pop with mainstream as its founding hippie culture has become the stuff of Burger King ads, gives us an issue for April 3 called "Rebel Hollywood." But at this juncture, most of the "rebels" the magazine profiles are far more representative of the establishment: Bob and Harvey Weinstein of Miramax, for instance, whose "The English Patient" swept the Academy Awards Monday night. They might as well be old-style major-studio bosses. Or Brad Pitt? Few young actors epitomize big-budget Hollywood as closely as Pitt, whose new movie co-stars the box-office king himself, Harrison Ford. Pitt is about as rebellious as Yogi Bear.

'The next wave'

It's another pretty-picture month at Vanity Fair, which joins Rolling Stone in some Oscar-season movie adoration with its April "Hollywood 1997" issue. The cover is a three-paneled portrait of "the next wave" of actresses, the sort of sprawling ensemble shot that has become a trademark of 1990s Vanity Fair and helped to distinguish the magazine from its many celebrity-worshiping competitors.

The actresses, including Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Claire Danes and Renee Zellweger, all look very shimmery and chesty, if not particularly comfortable. The issue, a whopping 384 pages, has a host of classy pictures by Annie Leibovitz, Herb Ritts, Helmut Newton and others of many stars, including Oscar winners Frances McDormand, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Anthony Minghella. Particularly excellent are shots of the lengthy Nicole Kidman and a wistful, dog-loving Diane Keaton.

A word from our sponsor

These days more than ever, TV ads sound like classic-hits radio. "Goin' Up the Country," "I'll Take You There," "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," "Tired of Waiting for You," "Good Morning, Starshine," are all currently being used for TV marketing purposes, blurring the line between advertising and art ever further. This week, Entertainment Weekly reminds us that advertising can be more original and inventive than simply borrowing a pop-music demographic.

The magazine takes a fascinating look at the 50 greatest TV commercials of all time, reaching back through the decades from the "I want my Maypo" ad of the 1950s, which was later transformed into "I want my MTV," to last year's Pepsi ad, in which a Coke deliveryman is caught taking a Pepsi. The winners were selected on aesthetic grounds, and not effectiveness.

No. 1 on the list is Energizer's "Escape of the Bunny," the one that keeps going and going and going. Also included: the fast-talking Federal Express guy, Alka-Seltzer's "Spicy Meatball" campaign, the singing California raisins and little Life-loving Mikey. It's the sort of feature EW does well, and it includes a "Where Are They Now" section, catching up with Underwood spread's Mason Reese and Chiffon's Mother Nature, as well as a list of controversy-marked spots, including Calvin Klein's 1995 kiddie-porn campaign.

Pub Date: 3/30/97

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