Enoble Media Group. (2009, Dec/Jan). Word Up!.
This magazine has been categorized as Undecided, but I think I’m going too easy on it. My problem is the target age group and the magazine’s portrayal of black people, which can be a touchy subject and I wish wasn’t an issue… but is. Moving on…
Word Up! magazine has a layout that is nearly identical to Seventeen magazine so one assumes that the audiences will be roughly the same age level 14 – 16 year olds, give or take a few years. Just replace the regular audience of suburban middle class teens, with urbanless advantaged teens. Then replace the girly cosmetic adds with ads for specialty hair products for black hair, replace Taylor Swift with Lil’ Wayne (aka Weezy) and you’re good to go.
Now, I’m not saying that Seventeen promotes wholesome characters, far from it in fact. But, the specific issue is how different the role models are depending on your skin colour. The medias constant promotion of black celebrity thugs is exemplified in this magazine. At the time of publication Lil’ Wayne was already up for charges of possessing a loaded fire-arm and for drug charges. The second main star of the magazine was Chris Brown, a man who in a months time would be charged with assault and making criminal threats on his girlfriend, Rhianna. The only charge that carries any palpable jail time is Weezy’s drug possession charges which is sickening in itself when you compare it to Chirs’ assault charges. Furthermore, it doesn’t help that Lil’ Wayne’s official reason for quitting coke (the powder, not the soda pop), if he even quit, is because it gives him acne, not because of the bad highs.
I am a middle class, white male. I easily make the judgments that guns are bad and coke ares bad because I never grew up around them. The only exposure I had to knowledge of these items was from every authority I knew saying they were bad. Lil’ Wayne grew up in a very rough neighbourhood of New Orleans where crack-cocaine wasn’t a foreign threat, but a factor in everyday life. It is very easy for people who have never know hardship to harshly judge those who have only known hardship, and I am trying to avoid judging the magazine (and Lil’ Wayne in this way).
This is why I am undecided. Even though the magazine glorifies the lifestyles of people who abuse powerful drugs, carry murder weapons, and beat up women Word Up! is also providing a platform for poor black kids to see people who were born in the same situation they were have (for the most part) rejected the streets, worked on their positive talents, and become successful. Lil’ Wayne is one of the hardest working artists in the pop music industry, an industry where fame and success are often bought and provided for performers rather than being earned. So what if Lil’ Wayne has problems. If you grew up where he did you would too. Check out this article if you want some context.
Ultimately though, Lil’ Wayne, has tons of exposure and there are better role models out there. Although his influence is waning from popular media there’s Master P and if you care to go back a little further, Louie Armstrong, all Louisianan successes. But, if you want to find a current black celebrity who is an entirely positive role model (not counting Obama because he’s a politician and I am specifically thinking about representation in the entertainment industry) they will be difficult to find… Wayne Brady, maybe? Then again the number of celebrities in the entertainment industry, regardless of skin colour, who are wholly positive role models can probably be counted on one hand, maybe two if you search around hard enough.