In the grand scheme of things, of course, these aren't the most glaring journalism faux pas; it's not as if the September 10, 2001 issue of Newsweek had downplayed Osama Bin Laden's influence on his fellow jihadists. So maybe Redbook's credibility as a seer of celeb couple crapouts sustains a few body blows--quel horreur! I sure hope Better Homes & Gardens can pick up the slack, or else we'll be massively underinformed for hours, possibly days.
In all the ways that matter, the March Redbook delivers on its longstanding promise, offering its mommy readers gazillions of tips about life, love and shoes. In the easiest-to-decipher manner humanly possible, Redbook attempts to simplify, simplify, simplify, whether in the guise of a 38-second chicken cacciatore recipe or Disney-ish suggestions for boudoir gymnastics ("if you can be playful in bed, you'll be more relaxed and happier").
What gives the magazine more authority than its competitors is its outright worship at the altar of everyday women. As opposed to every fashion title and most service ones, Redbook acknowledges the possibility that maybe, just maybe, fat people exist. In "Our Biggest, Smallest, Curviest, Thinnest Fashion Story Ever," the mag dresses 17 "real women" ranging in size from 0 to 20. "Weight Loss Reality Check" presents a pragmatic workout regimen for gals unable to devote their every waking moment to squat-thrusts, while the monthly "Instant Makeover" focuses its attention on an average-looking New York receptionist (rather than, say, Charo).
Elsewhere, the March issue offers a veritable bounty of tips for practical, hyper-mannered living. The "Handbook" section surveys common body-language tics and what they say about an individual (note to self: stare at eyes, not breasts), plus gives timely tax advice and info about multivitamins. "Beat the Clock" serves up hints about cheap meal prep and herb gardens for the time-constrained (cue "Fanfare For the Common Woman" here); "Time For You" revisits the twin horrors of asking for a raise (the mag neglects to include blackmail and holding your breath as valid tactics) and writing thank-you notes (apparently it's bad form to mention the word "money" in a thanks-for-bailing-me-out epistle).
The March issue does, of course, stray away from the practical at times. For every smart feature--a sharp assessment of the work-versus-stay-at-home debate--the mag runs an equally dippy one. Worst is "TV Is Ruining Our Love Life!," which reads like a rejected script for an episode of "Yes, Dear." The front-of-book calendar, apparently constitutionally mandated for women's pubs, airily suggests that readers wear blister blocks on March 27; I'm guessing there's some kind of diphtheria-awareness walk on March 26. And do you think women's mags ought to lay off the rhetorical questions? Maybe this is just a little itty bit annoying?
Too, Redbook occasionally feasts at the celebrity trough. The unmarried, wrinkle-free Crow makes no sense as a profile subject for this mom-ified audience, plus Shania Twain--who I've long suspected to be a robot--somehow finds her unblinking, unfeeling way into a compilation of most embarrassing moments. But nearly everywhere else, Redbook basks in input from everyday gals, which vests it with a decidedly non-glam sheen that complements the topical breadth.
At some point, it's going to dawn on Redbook's competitors that it makes more sense to feature Grocery Line Glenda than Brittany Murphy in their stories about everyday livin'. Until that day, the mag should remain the service category's most rational and effortless read.
CORRECTION: Yesterday's "Magazine Rack" incorrectly identified the plastic surgeon featured in the March issue of Vanity Fair. He's Dr. Garth Fisher, who stars on "Extreme Makeover."