Glossy Talk: Why Frankie and I can't be friends

Glossy Talk: Why Frankie and I can't be friends

Getting together with an old friend is sweet sorrow for Lucy Brook.

When 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?

Yours truly,
Lucy @ Girl With a Satchel


Angela said...

Hi girls,
I too am feeling a bit stale with darling old Frankie, my once true love. Swearing for the sake of swearing just feels ick & I particularly winced at that line you quoted last night when I settled down with my new issue, cuppa tea & ironic knitted rug.
I usually feel full & sated with Frankie issues, but this one fell short, or I’m getting out of the demographic as well.
Glad I’m not alone out here.

Anonymous said...

Lucy, I agree 100 per cent. Mia Timpano was one of the reasons I stopped reading Frankie: her writing was rude and crude, and Benjamin Law's is often of a similar standard. Some of the ideas are interesting but the quality of writing is what lets Frankie down, in my opinion: it's either offensive of condescending and irritating. To me, Frankie has grown stale and cliched; or perhaps it always was and we were all just too starved of different magazines to notice until recently.

Anonymous said...

No, that sentence is entirely unfunny.

And disgusting.

Anonymous said...

Love the review - while I have never been a Frankie girl, I work in a newsstand so I am familiar with the mag. I've never been sold on it, to me it seemed preachy and like those 'cool' alternatives who look down on people who aren't alternative. However as a journalism student I am rapt to see a small publication become so successful in such a short space of time. The market needs diversity and Frankie delivers to it's readers.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... I agree with you about this particular issue - I found it unfunny and unrealistic - but I still love frankie. Many other issues have had me laughing hysterically and left me feeling good (and happy with myself, which is the opposite to how most other mags make me feel), and I love the realness and relatability of the articles and the fact that they often interview musicians who aren't already hugely popular. I think (hope) that frankie was just having a bad day and will go back to its regular top form next issue.

Nat x

nicky said...

I sooo agree with you on this Erica!

I found the last two issues of Frankie exactly as you say - the depressing models in a caravan / wallpapered room is getting tired and enough of the bodgy homemade felted craft things in the early pages.

The writing is unfunny (apart from Benjamin Law - I still love him)

Amy Choi said...

I think I'm simply too old (35)to find Fankie interesting. But then, I've started to feel that way about Vogue, too. It's the end of an era! The only magazines I really enjoy these days are glossy weekend newspaper supplements. It has got to the point where my hunger for magazine-style content that suits me has me buying two newspapers on a Saturday, and an overseas one from a specialist newsagent every so often.

Vinda Sonata said...

great review. i find this very inspiring. 'cool' magazines which has risen through the ranks tend to lose focus on the originality instead of the 'cool' factor.
when the 'cool' got beyond exaggeration, all that's left will be overly dramatic, pompous things, which is not good.

thanks for sharing!

Kate Moore said...

It's us. Let's face it we got old and we belong to a generation that will not buy on brand alone. In fact, isn't it the more the brand has a following our generation move away from it. I'm not in my early-20s anymore and I think it's OK for a mag to have a demographic - I just don't fit it anymore. I have bought and read every single issue and I chose to stop at this one, which given your analysis seems to have been a good idea. I did flick through at the newsagency but put it down. There was an age too, when I stopped reading Dolly and before that some tween magazine that came out of England so scant were the offerings in the mid-late '80s. I don't mind that it's time to let it go.
I will add though, my teen and 20-something girls have also stopped buying it. I am unsure why just noticed it's not around in triplicate anymore.

Jess said...

YES! For so long I have waited for someone to put their hand up and say, "Hey Frankie, you're not as awesome as you think you are." This has always been my problem with Frankie, it takes itself WAY too seriously and hasn't evolved at all. And the fact that every single cover is a hipster model wearing glasses and/or a serious expression doesn't help either. If they started putting 'real' people, e.g. non models, on the cover, that would be a step in the right direction.

Kaitlyn said...

I wanted to love Frankie - really, I did. In theory, it sounded like a perfect fit for me - indie crafts, political awareness and everything else I dig. I opened my first issue and loved Frank Bits. But it was kinda all downhill from there. Don't get me wrong, in the few issues I persevered with I found a couple of articles I enjoyed. But it was not enough to make me cough up the cash every issue. So I returned to my glossies, feeling slightly like a traitor to my values but much more entertained. For me, the reality of Friankie never lived up to the hype.

Unknown said...

Lucy, are you me? Heheh - thank you for posting this as you echoed a lot of my sentiments. Granted, one of the reasons I was drawn to Frankie in the beginning was their snarky yet insightful articles - I still love Mia Timpano + Marieke and I'm pretty sure everyone is privy to at least one or two unrequited writer crushes on Benjamin Law (ILOVEYOUFOREVER).

I don't think it's a mag about 'being cool' (most women's mags take up that flag just fine thanks). It's too hard to find a magazine that encompasses everything you wish for in a mag and to demand for one that 'validates' all your views otherwise would be pretty naive. Frankie ticks 80% of my boxes and to me, that works just fine.

g notes said...

I agree on most points. I also thought that particular sentence went way too far and True Blood - I hoped it was really bad play on words!

Anonymous said...

Hi Lucy,

Thanks for the honest review.

I look at Frankie every now and then at the local supermarket magazine rack in Woolworths, but never caught onto it. It may be because I never liked the font that they used for their body text. I would like to see something that is serif and pleasant on the eyes, such as Mercury Text or Warnock Pro.

Many random online journals on the Net feature expletive-laden experiences of life. I'd rather not pay to have copy of these in print.

Of course, there are many great bloggers out there and Frankie should be perhaps be inviting these people to write for them. I want to pay for great textual content, not just pretty pictures.

On a related note, the reason why I don't buy Marie Claire is their regular section on crime. I don't need to read the details on how someone was killed. I see enough of this in newspapers and TV already. Why should I pay to see a glossy version of it? Does crime get any prettier?


Bon said...

I am glad I am not the only one. I have only recently started reading Frankie (I have only bought four issues, including the latest one) and up until now I have loved it, but something about the Nov/Dec issue just left me cold. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, it just felt like all of a sudden Frankie has become so self consciously "alternative" and (dare I say it) up itself. Perhaps it is just this one issue - but it has put me off subscribing for the time being.
On a side note - I did like the christmas tree feature. It has made me wish I could crochet so I could make some of those gorgeous crochet bauble covers from the "granny" tree.

Lucy said...

Thanks for all the feedback everyone. Let's hope the Nov/Dec issue represents a minor hiccup for Frankie, especially for loyal readers who aren't feeling in-sync the latest offering. Lucy x

Anonymous said...

You're not alone. I subscribed to Frankie after a quick flip through a couple of copies, and a friend's reassurance that it would definitely be 'my thing' ... glad it was only six issues. It's just totally lifeless, I've yet to read an entire issue cover-to-cover. It's the hip kid that thinks he's awfully witty and different and clever, but really he's just a crude, self-absorbed twat. Light on quality written content and heavy on poorly focussed images of anemic models.

Anonymous said...

What a great review, I completely agree. Frankie has definitely lost that formerly witty appeal. Publishing cook books is definitely not enough "evolution" to keep me interested in this magazine.

Scarlett Harris @ The Early Bird Catches the Worm said...

I agree; the latest issue was very stale, and it left me wishing I'd spent my money elsewhere.