Sunday, December 02, 2007

How SASSY Changed My Life (Kara Jesella and Marisa Meltzer)

"So how did Sassy change their lives?" Jim asked, looking at the book on the table.

"The same way it changed all girls lives my age," I said. "Our lives sucked before we got the magazine. Then we got it. And everything was awesome."

A bit of an overstatement, yes, but how many girls out there read Sassy and then felt like it was okay to be different from the popular girls at school? And while I can't remember every issue I ever received, I remember the first one. I believe I read the whole thing with my mouth wide open. As a young girl, I was a supporter of Tiger Beat (not a subscriber, but I surely convinced my mom to get me the issue with a fold-out poster of Kirk Cameron), and when I was in sixth grade I started reading Seventeen, which made me feel like I had a long way to go before I would be cool (which, in all fairness, was probably true). But Sassy didn't look or feel like Seventeen. It introduced me to independent actors and musicians, made fun of the 90210 celebrities who could do no wrong at the time, and told me how to dye my hair with kool-aid.

And then, many years after my very first issue, Sassy disappeared for a while in a pre-Internet age where you couldn't easily find out why. A few months later, Sassy came in the mail. But I was immediately put in the defensive: Who is this super smiley bland girl on the cover? I flipped through the magazine. It was like bizarro-Sassy, Sassy without the Sassiness or any of the writers that had made the magazine what it was. I was furious. And I, apparently like almost every other Sassy reader out there, wrote them a letter expressing my discontent. For my efforts, I got an extension on my subscription, the worst possible outcome.

Since that time, "what happened to Sassy" has been a mystery to me. How SASSY Changed My Life: A Love Letter to the Greated Teen Magazine of All Time documents the story of the magazine from its inception to the dark unSassy Sassy days. There are stories of the conservative outrage that sparked advertisers to pull out in the early days because they felt the magazine was too explicit about sex, the writers who were in their early teens who wrote as if they were talking to their younger sisters, the story of how Sassy paved the way for such great magazines as Bitch and Bust. Jesella and Meltzer do a good job presenting the whole story, which for me helped make what had become almost a myth (the undeserved downfall of the most amazing teen magazine ever) into a story that involves real people not always making the best decisions.

I will say that the design of the book is a bit odd. It's a two-column magazine style, but the font is rather large for the look, and there are no photographs. (Not that the design of the book would have affected my decision to read the book, but the part of me that spends every weekday working in publishing can't let it go.)

This is a quick read and good one, filled with lots of inside stories about the staff (including interesting stories involving Spike Jones, Kurt Cobain, and Courtney Love). Highly recommended for every girl who read Sassy.


Lee Anne said...

While my parents were packing up their home, they found all my Sassy magazines. Since I cut them all up in a fit of collage mania, they aren't worth anything on EBay. But, they were worth something special to me! I wrote an angry letter, too, when they changed the magazine!

Maewen Archer said...

How did I miss that? I totally could've used a magazine like that when I was 13.