Elementary Education: Pop Culture Analysis of Rookie Magazine!

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As promised in last week’s post, here is my analysis of Rookie Magazine’s effect on adolescents. All of the photos on the blog are my artistic response to the magazine. Tavi (and the teens on the blog) often employ the use of shrines to encapsulate their current obsessions. The display ended up being a shrine to Tavi, Rookie Magazine, and being a teenager. Enjoy!

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It seemed very easy for me to select something from the annals of pop culture that has a negative impact on teenagers. My mind immediately looked towards the Twilight Series, singers like Nicki Minaj, T.V. shows like the Jersey Shore, and the new movie Project X. While there is absolutely an importance in evaluating these types of influences in order to have conversations about them with students, I thought it far more interesting to look for the very elusive pop culture item that has a positive impact on teens. This seemed a very worthy endeavor, as I could share my findings with other educators in the hopes that they could potentially utilize the pop culture in their own classroom. Rookie Magazine became the focus of my pop culture analysis and I am very happy to say that its influence on teens seems to be almost exclusively a positive one.

Rookie Magazine is a website for teenage girls. The site launched in September of 2011 with a “Beginnings” theme. The site is largely the brainchild of 15-year-old Tavi Gevinson. She started a fashion blog when she was just 12 years old and became quickly beloved by adolescents and adults across the globe for her honest writing style and feminist take on fashion. Although she still occasionally blogs, Rookie Magazine has become her main focus. Rookie Magazine has a large team of contributors. The majority of them are women between the ages of 15 and 22, although there is one teenage male on staff. New content is uploaded to the website three times a day and five days a week. The content categories include: Music, Eye Candy, Live Through This, Style, Movies & T.V., Books & Comics, Dear Diary, Sex & Love, You Asked For It, You Said It, Fiction, Fun, Tech, and Everything Else.

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Rookie Magazine takes the image we have of current adolescents all seeming like depictions from Teen Mom 2 and absolutely flips it on its head. The content on the magazine is thoughtful, honest, and witty, and it presents a very accurate depiction of what it is like to grow up and how hard middle- and high-school can be.  Many of the articles explain exactly what I felt as I was growing up. The idea of adolescence being a shared experience across generations is very prevalent in the articles. The writers of Rookie Magazine seem to understand that there are people who have gone through this before them and made it out okay, and in fact they seem to revel in the lessons that adults can pass down to them on topics such as love, sex, jealousy, friendship, and eating disorders. Although the content is written by either girls in their adolescence or emerging adults, the wisdom imparted in the articles consistently feels as if it it’s been written by women far beyond their years.

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Adolescents on Rookie Magazine are portrayed as extremely curious human beings who have many things to worry about and simultaneously take pride in. Readers can send in questions to be answered by experts, along with submissions of artwork and articles. Each month has a teenage theme. This month’s theme is exploration and the first article about it describes the world as ripe for adventures. Readers are asked to explore NASA’s website, to take up a craft, to go bicycling through their town, and to send in what it means to them to be an explorer of their world. Rookie is pro-learning, pro-activity, and pro-inquiry. It never implies that teenagers are above it all, and in fact asks them to be okay with shouting from the rooftops about the things they love. It helps them develop their identity by telling them that whatever they love is okay. It influences them to explore their world, to find themselves, to ask big questions, and to be proud of their gender. I can’t imagine a better message.

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Rookie Magazine does appeal to a wide audience by occasionally having adult guest columnists. The adults they select are some of my grown up role models, including: Mindy Kaling, Ira Glass, Dan Savage, John Waters, Zooey Deschanel, Sarah Silverman, Joyelle Johnson, and Patton Oswalt. These celebrities, ranging widely in race, gender, size, sexuality, and age, often write from an adult lens looking down at their own adolescence. They are also all somewhat famous, but by no means traditional teenage celebrity obsessions. By selecting people slightly off the mainstream, Rookie Magazine stays true to its audience by not telling them that they must only like what is popular.

Rookie Magazine has a monthly feature that truly exemplifies what is positive about their website, called Friend Crush. Girls can submit a story about one of their friends and why she is an amazing girl. The feature is a celebration of friendship and an unspoken denouncement of a very typical trait in female friendships: jealousy. Additionally, the friends are usually celebrated for things that they do well, such as playing music, writing stories, or telling jokes. It’s just one very smart feature in a sea of brilliant teenage resources.

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I wish I would have had something like Rookie Magazine when I was a teenager. It not only offers an in-depth portrait of so many of the things that I dealt with when I was in middle school, but it almost always lets you know by the end of each article that things will turn out for the better, or if not, how to at least handle the situation until you can gain some perspective. It promotes creativity, individuality, girl power, intelligence, and approaching life with a sense of humor. Rookie Magazine is a shining star among a sea of a lot of pop culture trash. I sincerely hope that it continues to become more popular among its intended audience base.

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