Let's Hear It for Women Who Suffer No Fools

Media Reviews for Media People: Jezebel.com

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Here in New York we're already being treated to ads for "Sex and the City," a movie I won't be seeing unless somebody assures me that it ends with four ritualistic disembowelments. Within a month, the gals will start popping up on magazine covers and talk shows. The publicity push will be as relentless as the rain and as egregiously made-up as a rodeo clown. It will be a dark hour in our cultural history.
Jezebel analyzes and it attacks, with clunky gal-targeted pitches and moribund women's mags its primary targets.
Jezebel analyzes and it attacks, with clunky gal-targeted pitches and moribund women's mags its primary targets.

Need a pre-emptive antidote? If so, you should start checking in with Jezebel two or three times a day. Approaching its first birthday, the site has evolved into one of the few genuinely intelligent repositories of media/marketing/fashion commentary and celebrity deflation. If there's a publication, online or off, that appeals as creatively and non-patronizingly to women in their 20s and early 30s, I haven't seen it.

Ladies who lunge
It would've been easy for Jezebel to follow the "Sex and the City" blueprint of shoes and brunch, previously mined to some success by Daily Candy and tens of others. What distinguishes Jezebel from those who derive inspiration from the fictional Ms. Bradshaw and her handmaidens, however, is its approach: always arch, more observant than mocking, sometimes willfully contrarian. It analyzes and it attacks, with clunky gal-targeted pitches and moribund women's mags its primary targets. It suffers no fools.

Everything I like about Jezebel is neatly encapsulated in this post from a few weeks back. The site describes "Lost" fandom as "the primetime equivalent of an emotionally abusive relationship," then presents its case by alluding to advice parceled out by Dr. Phil and others. It's a clever idea honed to perfection courtesy of its straight-faced execution. In 300 or so words, the post says more about the show, the way it treats its fans and the way its fans happily accept being jerked around than 32,000 "Lost is BACK!" stories spoon-fed to TV Guide.

I also dig it when Jezebel gets all outraged and service-like, as it does here and here. The pressure to churn out content must be smothering, as witnessed by the "53 posts in the last 24 hours" stat line that sits atop the site. That Jezebel's seven listed staffers can pack so much critical thought into posts like those -- indeed, into everything they publish, even the semi-frivolous stuff -- is impressive.

Pitfalls for marketers
Jezebel might be a risky sell for mainstream marketers, as graphic travelogues (and definitely not safe for work posts) like "Last Night I Boned an AVN Award Nominee" would send Procter & Gamble scurrying back to its moat-encircled lair in Cincinnati. Too, Jezebel is frank and unapologetic about sex, drug use and related topics shrouded in women's magazines by hair accessories and sparkly bangles. It stands to reason that the site would be similarly unapologetic if it felt the urge to rip into one of its advertisers' products or services, so maybe the caution is justified.

At the same time, Jezebel is somewhat of a cult -- the devoted kind, not the stabby kind. Judging by their comments, its quippy readers adore the site and place a lot of stock in its every recommendation. Perhaps adventurous advertisers would seize some credibility-by-association by somehow allying themselves with Jezebel? I can't see why entertainment marketers -- the HBO and FX dramas, high-thinking literature, indie record labels, anyone who has anything to do with acts like Tegan and Sara -- wouldn't be falling over themselves to do this.

Really, the only problem I can foresee for Jezebel is one that falls under the purview of the human resources department. Sooner or later, one of the women's mags will wave a huge wad of cash in front of the ladies and challenge them to reinvent a wheezing old-world publication for the internet era. While this would make for a wildly entertaining culture clash -- old vs. new, giggly vs. thoughtful, listy and exclamatory vs. list- and exclamation-point-averse -- it could only end in a flurry of hurt feelings and restraining orders.

I hope the Jezebel gals stick around. The internet is a cooler, fiercer place for their presence.
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