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Mag Review: Jane

Rachel Smucker

Jane, June/July 2007, 155 pages, $3.99

What kind of women's magazine skips out on dieting, forgets ab workouts, and leaves makeup by the side of the road? Jane does, and that's exactly why I like it. There are no unrealistic guarantees ("lose five pounds in THREE HOURS!"), nor any "embarrassing stories" sections, which, let's face it, we never really read anyway. What Jane does have is an uncanny knack for writing about things that women truly care about.

Take the interview with Zooey Deschanel, for instance. Not your average celebrity, she avoids gossip in favor of her Hello Kitty bike, and forgoes tabloid publicity for vintage scarves. And she's absolutely adorable.

"She can sing, dance, act, and knit you a sweater," says Casey Affleck, one of Deschanel's costars in an upcoming film. "I can't figure out her Kryptonite."

It's women like Deschanel that Jane wants to keep on its cover. Previous issues have featured Alicia Keys, Drew Barrymore, and Kate Winslet, all famous women who have earned their respect through talent and good Hollywood manners (i.e., not flashing the camera, shooting movies without having to take cocaine breaks). Perhaps it's a hint from Jane to readers worldwide: chill out. Or, in this month's issue, a not-so-subtle hint: Jane editor-in-chief Brandon Holley dedicates her letter to "detox[ing] your attitude," and suggests that everyone "be so chilled out that hopefully they'll think twice before calling someone a 'fucktard.'"

But besides its girl-power celebrity covers and mouthy editor, Jane has a sort of magazine attention deficit disorder. The topics of its articles range everywhere from the dangers of cult life to road trips, jumping from one category to the next in a surprisingly unobtrusive way. The whole magazine is like one giant list of things to do, see, understand, buy, and read, giving Jane a well-balanced table of contents. I like to see more than clothes and accessories between the pages of advertisements in my magazines; Jane offers books, ice cream, and Miranda July.

But even so, Jane is a women's magazine after all, requiring that there must be some sort of beauty section. Being the semi-rebel that it is, Jane does this with its own twist. This month's issue featured the Dead Sea as its main beauty product -- yes, the actual Dead Sea, the salts, the water, the mud, the minerals, all of which appear to be "nature's cure-all for everything from joint pain to acne to premature aging." Why didn't Cosmopolitan tell me about this?

As far as fitness goes, there is one plan, and one plan only: kiteboarding. It is a slightly outlandish suggestion for exercise, probably expensive, definitely difficult for those of you not on the coast -- but I appreciate Jane's effort to provide an alternative to the complicated 5-day plans usually seen in women's magazines.

Jane isn't perfect -- there were some misleading headlines and a few pages of scatterbrained design -- but it does try pretty hard to stand out above the rest. It sets a high standard for other magazines in the genre, focusing more on self-assuredness and having fun than being rail-thin and improving your flirtation style. A fresh pink manicure? I think I'd rather roll around in some Dead Sea mud.


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