Glossy Review: Total Girls have too much stuff

Gloss Review: Total Girls have too much stuff

Every month is like Christmas in the world of tween magazines, so I pity parents looking to find stocking stuffers that surpass the splendiferous and plentiful gifts bestowed on readers each month. 

My old stocking staples, quite literally packets of staples and other such stationery necessities, don't quite cut the mustard next to Celebrity Calendars in Plastic Cases, nor Imagine Town dolls, charm bracelets and cards in a sachet, nor Totally Tasty Total Chef mini mag supplements, all which come with the December issue of Australia's number-one tweenie magazine. Santa Claus? You're stuffed.

No wonder some mothers don't buy their girls magazines: so they don't know what they're missing. If Total Girl ($5.95) had been around at the height of my pester power years, my mother would have had a coronary, so I pass them on to my sister-in-law with trepidation and apologies.

Nickelodeon star Miranda Cosgrove, who is not Demi Lovato, is this month's cupcake-cute covergirl. Cosgrove gives Total Girl (whose tagline is no longer "No boys allowed!") the lowdown on her new album, Sparks Fly: "Most of the songs are about boys, which I didn't realise until the end, after I wrote it down, because I had recorded 30 songs for the album and had to narrow it down to 12." But before you think she's boy-crazy, Cosgrove, who's a fan of Katy Perry and No Doubt, adds, "I'm all about the girl power right now." Nickelodeon steps in after the interview to push the iCarly2 Wii and Nintendo games.

Further pop culture coverage comes via 'On Set at Home and Away', celebrities 'Keeping with tradition', three pages of movie reviews, two pages of Totally Gossip containing innocuous tidbits, such as "Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe is obsessed with chocolate!", celebrity photos with reader captions, and TV, DVD and gaming reviews (there are even board games!).

The 'Totally Smart' sections offers up a page on charities Bear Cottage, Ronald McDonald House and Mission Australia with details on how girls can help, as well as DIY Christmas Craft (Total Girl has even provided bonus gift wrap for girls) and the magazine gives girls cost-free gifting ideas ("create your own block of coupons" for dad) and brain-training '12 Days of Quizmas' fun, while 'Santa's Toy Factory' takes us on a global geographical exploration.

But these goodwill gestures aren't enough to compensate for the overwhelming product explosion occupying much of the 108 itty-bitty pages.

There are two pages of 'Stuff That Rox Our Sox' (including a Spank Publishing journal and Vera Wang perfume), 'Cheapsk8' summer bargains, Glam must-haves including $65 Harajuku Lovers fragrance, Clearasil Ultra face wash (for tweens?) and Nicole by O.P.I nail polish, as well as a Totally Christmas Gift Guide where girls can win the product they see (like a St Trinian's 2 DVD - is that really suitable?) or cut out the picture to stick on their letter to Santa.

Also on girls' wish lists will be the Leapster Explorer game console and game software, the Razor pink powering scooter ("perform kick-outs, side-drifts and 360 degree spin outs for some super-freaky freestyle fun!"), Dance Academy DVDs, Heelys rollerskating shoes, Imagine Town figurines and the Barbie VideoGirl (dolls that have a camera lens in their necklace, a colour LCD screen on their back and 30 minutes of recording time... the perfect sneaky accomplice for girl sleuths! Freaky.)

Every tween's must-have beauty accessory, the Lip Smacker, has manifested into a variety of lickable shades. And Wizz Fizz is still the sugar hit of choice.

A White Christmas recipe tantilises little tastebuds (great gift for teachers?) in preparation for the 16-page Total Chef mini magazine. Celebrities share their special dishes (omelettes for Vanessa Hudgens), TG staffers Sally and Shae make rocky road and gingerbread men, 'Five Recipes in 5 Minutes' tap into the fast-food preparation mentality of Aussie mums and suggestions are given for 'Study Snacks', 'Comfort Food' and 'Gossip Sessions' (should we be encouraging those?).

Girls are educated about the effects of fast food items like hamburgers, salty chips and sugary soft drinks ("your mind will trick itself into thinking it's energised and satisfied") and low-energy release foods like apples and bananas. There's also a food pyramid and exercise tips like playing with a hula hoop and making up dance moves (when I was young these weren't even considered exercise!).

Girls are instructed to place the food they eat into a chart divided into 'Eat Sometimes', 'Eat Lots' and 'Eat Sparingly' for mum to see. The Ice-Cream Sandwiches in the 'Totally Tasty' recipe section are marked with a 'Special Treat: Not To Be Eaten Often' stamp. The 'Strawberry Yummy' smoothie is given an 'Eat Whenever' stamp. So much food advice to remember!

Looking at the 'Imagine Fashion Paradise' game double-page ad that opens the book – this game allows girls to open glamorous new boutiques and unleash their creativity decorating shop windows – I'm nostalgic for a time when a game of "Shops" meant inviting my sister to peruse the merchandise (aka my stuff) laid out on my bed for faux-purchase. Surely more fun than a computer game? Disturbingly, with Imagine girls can also create their own virtual fashion shows. A page over, we get Barbie Fashionistas in various pink ensembles that make them look like Las Vegas showgirls. Ick.

Which brings me to a brilliant short film I picked up at the Collective Shout bash on Saturday called Ruby Who, which you can buy at It teaches girls that having too many material things can weigh you down while also giving them positive body image messages. An ideal stocking stuffer, or Santa gift, for any tween, if you ask me.

A glossy worth spending your pocket money on?
With so many material temptations, this mag should come with a parental warning, though some of the messages are sound. There are a few areas where the magazine could pick up its game to better serve the interests of parents and girls, and I'm not talking Nintendo Wiis. For Santa and his helpers, the competition from Total Girl is fierce.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel


Anonymous said...

Hmmm, it was a Christmas issue though, so showing off cool products to fill your Christmas stocking doesn't seem so unusual? If not getting ideas from Total Girl, surely they're browsing junk mail catalogues and stores instead. I bought my niece a subscription to the mag this year and haven't heard of any OTT Christmas present requests yet... What was your point again?

Erica Bartle (nee Holburn) said...

I know where you're coming from, Anon.

But while most mags will feature gift guides this month, I felt the product focus to be disproportionate in Total Girl, which - whether inadvertent or deliberate - sends girls, who don't have the same media savvy sensors as adults, the message that material things are what Christmas is all about.

I felt I gave a largely positive assessment of the issue: the sheer volume of product pages speak for themselves.

Thank you for taking the time to comment.


Anonymous said...

Maybe parents could stuff their kids stockings with a copy of this mag. More fun than office supplies I would think. :0P