PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Comics

The Second Coming of Sassy: Rookie Yearbook, Years One and Two

Nora Brooks

There’s a bit of Diana Vreeland fairy dust in the exoticism of Rookie's location shoots—a Mexican playa, mermaids on a beach, outsider artist Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain in a California desert…


Rookie Yearbook (1 and 2)

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Writer: Tavi Gevinson
Publication Date: 2013-10
Website
Amazon

Teenage girlhood is an awkward, transcendent time, an era of exploring new influences, falling on your face, and morphing into a more powerful version of yourself. There’s not much in the culture that can help you navigate this.

Except, for those of us that are old enough to remember, there once was a well of witty fervor and teen girl grit called Sassy Magazine.

In an interview in the first volume of Rookie Yearbook, Avengers director Joss Whedon told its 16-year-old editor-in-chief Tavi Gevinson that he had a subscription to Sassy in high school, despite not entirely being its target audience: “They talked about things like feminism, body issues, community, and diversity, but in context with teenage girls’ actual life and language.” Instead of dictating to girls about their politics or trying to get them to buy more makeup like its competitors, Sassy became a lightening rod for perceptive, thoughtful writing by women living what they were writing about. It was no accident that Gevinson initially conceived of Rookie as a joint venture with Sassy founder Jane Pratt, as Gevinson’s own blog has detailed. Sassy is a major reference point for Gevinson, and Rookie in many ways picks up where Sassy left off, a millennial take on the authentic teen girl experience.

Like any teen girl magazine ever, Sassy included, there is fashion. Lush photo spreads mash-up hyper-feminine pastels, Chantilly lace, tie-dye, Ziggy Stardust makeup, denim, grunge era band t-shirts, glitter, and more glitter. Gevinson shot to public attention with her fashion blog Style Rookie at twelve, and we are sometimes treated to a backstage look at a Rodarte or Meadham Kirchhoff show. There’s a bit of Diana Vreeland fairy dust in the exoticism of Rookie's location shoots -- a Mexican playa, mermaids on a beach, outsider artist Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain in a California desert, a dinosaur park -- albeit it through a lens somewhat bleary with nostalgia for childhood. It’s a classic adolescent pull back towards true girlhood even as the fashion leans forward into adulthood. There’s a lot of references too, ironic ‘60s and ‘70s prints and the aforementioned ‘90s grunge, along with a nod to rockabilly or Frida Kahlo here and there.

There’s a witchiness to girl power at this age, a way the culture is uncomfortable with the moment a girl becomes a woman, and Rookie jumps right in to celebrate this unsettling transformation. How-to articles on casting spells, ghost-hunting, crafting your own personalized jean jacket, and communicating better with others, including how to fight for yourself fairly. An interview with rock star and Porlandia creator Carrie Brownstein veers into Brownstein’s own moment of becoming as a young musician: “I didn’t realize I could be this loud, and heard so far away.”

Brownstein is only one of many genuinely inspiring culture-makers to sit down with Rookie or contribute a piece. A short list might include Morrisey, Girls creator Lena Dunham, Miranda July, John Waters, Liz Phair, Aubrey Plaza, Sarah Silverman and Mindy Kaling. Ghost World cartoonist Daniel Clowes explains that he went against his art school teachers because he was “fueled by a sense of what he wanted to do.” Molly Ringwald and Emma Watson talk to the readers about having careers as very young actors. Essayist David Sedaris tells Rookie that for a creative person: “the crazy part is realizing that being yourself is key. For some insane reason, people like you.”

This thread of self-acceptance runs through most of Rookie's editorial content. Pieces on gender and sexual orientation, body image and weight, sexual awakening, surviving or fending off sexual assault, managing anxiety and depression, and meeting racism with humor all come back to a place of moving through whatever obstacles might come towards your own awesomeness. There are how-to articles on ignoring what other people think of you, surviving rejection by the college of your choice, and giving haters your “bitchface". Israeli writer Etgar Keret outlines ten rules for writers that includes loving the act of writing, no matter what anyone else tells you.

The dominant tone veers close to memoir -- again and again in almost every article, a very particular person is telling you a story that might just as easily segue into a lesson on building a computer or outline a battle with bipolar disorder. These are counter-narratives that lay out the minutia of simple everyday life, antidotes to the consumer culture found in the teen fashion glossies. This story-telling impulse nicely bypasses any monolithic ideas about American girlhood since each article expresses a very different experience. It’s also very much of a piece with our current fascination with the real, from reality TV shows to NPR’s This American Life.

In fact, This American Life creator Ira Glass is a mentor to Gevinson, an example of the credibility Gevinson builds up through her impeccable curating that undercuts any suspicion I had at first about Rookie as an aspirational publication. If Rookie is aspirational, it is in the best possible way, one that seems to speak to its readers without ever trying to corral them or commodify their experience. True, it is a fashion magazine of sorts, and it does present Gevinson and her staff writers, not to mention celebrity contributors, as a kind of avatar for her readership of a certain kind of girl -- ultimately, one who knows women can be both smart and pretty, funny and feminine, awkward and absolutely fearless.

9

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Music

Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.

Music

Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.

Music

Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.

Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.