Monday, February 25, 2019

'I Ride With the Outboard Ravagers'

Today is one of those days when I just can't settle down to post anything in particular.  It isn't so much a lack of ideas as a lack of motivation.  Not only am I back at work after an extended four day weekend, but my stomach has been playing me up all day courtesy of my diabetes medication.  Plus, I've been distracted by my work on the first of three podcasts I'm currently preparing this week.  So, I thought I'd do a magazine equivalent of a 'Random Movie Trailer', by presenting the cover of a vintage US men's magazine from the late sixties.  This 1968 edition of Male is pretty representative of the 'sweat mags' of the era, with its emphasis on sex, violence and sensationalism.  In common with most men's magazines of this period, it sports a fabulous cover painting - these, with their depictions of scantily clad young women in peril, or enggaing in sadistic violence.  The most infamous of these types of cover were those showing such young women enduring various tortures at the hands of Nazis (and sometimes Communists).  By the late sixties, Hell's Angels were increasingly popular protagonists on these covers, along with surfer bums and modern day pirates.  This one enterprisingly combines Hell's Angels with boats, (I say Hell's Angels, but that coal scuttle helmet references not just bikers, but also Nazis, of course), and wild women.

In truth, of course, the contents of these magazines could never live up to the expectations generated by those magnificent covers.  But they gave it a good try with their salacious 'factual' features about the suppose sexual availability of newly divorced women or young widows, for example, and their entirely fictional 'true stories' of survival against the odds in the wild, or behind enemy lines or undercover behind the Iron Curtain.  The central theme of such stories was one of endurance of pain and deprivation, frequently treading the same sort of sado-masochistic ground made popular by films like A Man Called Horse, with white men being abused by their captors, be they primitive tribesmen, SS officers, Soviet interrogators or hell's Angels.  Another popular trope was that of the animal attack - 'Weasels Ripped my Flesh' being the best known of these stories - with the protagonist usually horrendously injured by anything from rampaging Rhinos to giant Otters, then being forced, once again, to survive against the odds until rescued or effecting an escape back to civilisation.  Clearly these were winning formulae, as they were repeated, over and over again.  That said, by the mid seventies men's magazines were in terminal decline, with proper 'adult' magazines offering something they couldn't: actual sex and nudity.  The fabulous painted covers had,  by this time, largely given way to photographic covers and the magazines' tales of world war two heroics and savage animal attacks seemed old hat to young readers.  It was the end of an era.

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