Glossy Talk: Why Frankie and I can't be friends
Getting together with an old friend is sweet sorrow for Lucy Brook.
Frankie launched in September 2005, then-editor Louise Bannister (now assistant publisher) and creative director Lara Burke held an impromptu launch from a brown vinyl couch plonked in the middle of QUT’s Creative Industries precinct.
I was mid-journalism degree and scuttled from the media building to the quadrangle to meet the ladies behind this quirky, clever new book, crammed with cute graphics, wry first person rants and a fresh, alternative manifesto. From the first issue, I was captivated. Real people? Check. Intelligent, grounded content? Check. Savvy social commentary? Hip, arty design? A deliberate lack of diets and dildos? Check, check, happy check.
Frankie captured the zeitgeist of the mid-2000s, when young women were increasingly fed up with the stagnant content in mainstream women’s magazines but weren’t quite ready to spend their weekends devouring Time. For a year or so, I never missed an issue. Frankie and I settled into a comfortable, predictable rhythm – one that more than 38,000 readers no doubt feel settled in today.
Frankie, in case you haven’t heard, has a cult-following, burgeoning circulation and has been steadily catching big name glossies like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. I’ve changed, Frankie hasn’t, and we've grown apart.
Though its loyal readership of bright, trendy young things might disagree with me, Frankie’s December/January issue seems stale, as though resigned to a state of inertia. I expected to be inspired and entertained, but I was annoyed. I don’t want to read bad jokes about why someone is an awful house guest, or struggle through expletive-laden attempts at funny.
This golden line actually appears in one of the stories (do not proceed to read if easily disgusted): "I hope her unborn children develop rabies whilst in the womb and leave a coating of diseased froth on her vagina on their way out!" Sorry, but either that is completely unfunny, or I have no sense of humour.
I don’t want to look at models doing ‘wistful’ in cheap hotel rooms, or have informative articles tell me that Truman Capote wrote True Blood (that would be In Cold Blood). A sneak peek into the gardens of creative types and a pictorial feature on dark magic in northern Ghana are somewhat redeeming, but I wanted ingenuity and connection, and I got zip.
Maybe I’m expecting too much? I don’t want to suggest that my disappointment with this issue is remotely indicative of how others might feel about it. Frankie has filled an aching void for savvy young Australian media consumers, and in positioning itself as an “indie/twee/hipster/creative” magazine (as Rachel Hills wrote here) perhaps it’s inevitable that it won’t appeal to everyone at every stage in their lives?
One can’t discredit the ground Frankie has broken. Would we have believed in the early 2000s, when our obsession with celebrity was beginning to pique, that two 25-year-olds peddling their sweet, left of centre, gossip-free glossy would be taken seriously?
That Frankie, which, refreshingly, features real people of all ages (nannas included), races and socio-economic backgrounds, would be wholeheartedly embraced by a generation weaned onto Dolly/Girlfriend then Cosmo/Cleo then Vogue/Marie Claire? It’s pleasing that Frankie is a runaway success. What’s not pleasing is that I fall smack-bang into their demographic, and I just don’t get it.
Perhaps Frankie needs to refocus with some original, thought-provoking content that will reignite the flame for former devotees like me? Inspiring features that have you nodding and ‘mmm-hmming’ as you read. Some fresh voices. Less focus on ‘cool’ and more focus on ‘real’.
Or am I expecting too much of an old love?
Lucy @ Girl With a Satchel