Each installment of John’s Brill’s Content serves to take a hard, critical look at the magazine Brill’s Content, a magazine that serves to take a pulsating, critiquish look at the media. “Who Watches the Watchmen?” they say, and Brill’s Content does. But “Who Watches Those Who Watch the Watchmen?” we say, and we do. That.
ITEM: HEAD SIZE WATCH
Brill’s Content is a large magazine. That is, the actual measurements of the magazine are larger than many other magazines: 9″×10 7/8". There are larger, but so be it. That’s a half-inch wider than a normal piece of paper. This additional size gives Brill’s Content a rare opportunity among magazinepublishingdom: the opportunity to print a photograph of someone’s head 1 on the cover at nearly or exactly the actual size of their head. In other words, you could hold the magazine up to the real person’s head and nod sagely that yes, they were the same size, or almost so.
The pinnacle of this zenith-like peak of full-frontal publishing technology was achieved by Brill’s Content in the March 1999 issue. The cover features the head of the son of a man, John F. Kennedy, Jr. (That is, John F. Kennedy, Jr., is the son of the man, not the man whose son’s head is on the cover.) The head is printed quite large—-perhaps, indeed, life size.
As if reeling from the porous blow of this man’s face printed so largely that you could cut out the eyes and affix it to your skin in lieu of costly plastic surgery, Brill’s Content opted the following month to both recognize its achievement in the head-size arts and make a stinging, steaming cup of Content Comment about the pervasiveness of sexual discrimination in the media. The April 1999 issue featured the large headline HEAD TO HEAD—-ah ha!—-and then printed colorless, black & white cover heads of Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric, both considerably reduced from actual size and brutally cropped. The puny size of these professional female broadcasters’ heads and their lack of color when compared to the bulging, life-size floridity of John F. Kennedy, Jr.’s head on the previous issue makes an eloquent if unelaborated point: women in the media have small, colorless heads, while men have large, blushing 2 ones.
John F. Kennedy, Jr.‘s near-life-size cover head also compares favorably to past cover heads. The previous issue, February 1999, had no cover head. December 1998/January 1999 had a full-body glamour shot of Mickey Mouse, but since he is a fictional character it’s difficult to gauge his head size; certainly it’s far, far smaller than the frankly huge Mickey Mouse heads worn by costumed theme-park employees. November 1998 had Matt Drudge, in what was obviously a smaller-than-life-size appearance; presumably they needed room to include his frankly huge hat. October 1998 presents a massive slap against the collective or sequential faces of Hugh Downs, Barbara Walters, Stone Phillips, and Jane Pauley, none of whose heads are shown even as large as the “G” in “WARNING,” which appears just below their heads. And finally, the debut issue from September 1998 delivers perhaps the most unkindest cut of all: Ken Starr gets the coveted cover head slot but his tiny little head is almost lost in a sea of many heads, none of whom really belong to anyone who would ever be a cover head if they hadn’t happened to be next to Ken Starr when that picture was taken. Perhaps it was a 3 family reunion.
Full Disclosure/Disclaimer: John Tynes is not employed.
1 By head, of course, we don’t mean the person’s severed, dripping head. “Face” would probably be a more-accurate term.
2 and porous
3 frankly huge
NOTE: John’s Brill’s Content should not be confused with The Media Watchdog, the independent ombudsman keeping in check the print version of McSweeney’s, and protecting the children, they being the future. Do not confuse this with that. They are not the same.