WHY WE SHOULD STILL BE READING GEORGE
George is the timeless holy grail of politics and fashion working together (besides Rabble Rouser, of course). Here's six reasons why you need to get your hands on a copy - or ten.
“So we hope you enjoy George’s take on the future. Why not put it in a safe place somewhere and take it out in 20 years? To paraphrase a great Englishman, it may not get you what you want, but you just might find, it will get you what you need.”
Editor’s letter written by JFK Jr., February/March 1997
1. THE RISE OF THE “CELEBRITY” PRESIDENT
Twenty-five years ago, George magazine predicted the rise of the reality T.V star to commander-in-chief. George predicted the politician as a figure plucked out of the obscurity of reality television - taken from the mind-altering banality of scripted T.V to scripted speeches in the oval office. George ran a column titled “If I Were President”, a column that today would evoke a swirl of serious campaign rumors.
The column asked celebrities what they would do if they were to be elected president. Marla Maples, one of Trump’s ex-wives was asked by George what she would do if she were to be elected president. Her closest advisor would be God, Trump would be Secretary of the Treasury, Martha Stewart would be the Secretary of the Interior, and her publicist the Secretary of Defense. Something she would veto every time would be her American Express bill. Now the entertainment George placed in the political arena is reality, there is little to use as an escape.
2. GEORGE MADE POLITICS FASHIONABLE
In a country where presidential elections have become a competition of who is the whitest, the oldest, and has the most testosterone, George gave politics an allure, a sex appeal far removed from ill-fitting suits and three-foot-long red ties.
George used A-list faces to promote the magazine - Cindy Crawford, Barbara Streisand, Robert De Niro, Barbara Walters - and left them on the front cover, not posing them to debate politics within the magazine. George’s ability to make politics fashionable marketed itself as a top competitor amongst other print giants.
Vanity Fair had a similar formula to George, celebrities on the cover to sell, investigative journalism, and prose that might go over the heads of the average American inside. Unlike Vanity Fair, George put famous faces on the cover, dressed up as George Washington, re-creating some idiosyncrasy of his life, not celebrities dripping in jewels trying to sell stories about the rise of the alt-right and the Iraq War.
After JFK Jr’s death, the magazine faltered. Partially due to finances, partially because George was slowly becoming what it said it never would become: a publication riding on the coattails of its cover stars for sales, rather than the substance inside its gilded covers. It had become a tabloid. One of the last covers before George’s eventual collapse featured Donald Trump, with the headlines ‘The Secret Behind Trump’s Political Fling’ and ‘He’s Running - All the Way to the Bank’, published twenty years ago for the February/March 2000 issue.
3. POLITICS AS CULTURE
To George politics was culture and culture politics. Now, our pop-culture idols are politicians, and politicians are pop-culture idols. Their actions dictate our lives, but our lives do not dictate their actions.
Within the pages of George, the celebrity (costumed as George Washington) sold the politics. Now there is no need for a middle-man - the two have become inextricably interlinked. George knew that this interlinking was the golden rule to getting the masses invested in politics - the switching of figures from stuffed suits to fashionable figureheads. It's this formula that yielded the current president.
George contained many coincidences. The most glaring of these coincidences is within the February 1997 issue, in which the magazine predicts what the future, specifically in the year 2020 will look like. “What does the future hold: a new world of promise or apocalypse? We launched a discovery mission to the next millennium to find out what’s on the other side. So buckle your chin strap and hold on as George enters the time warp and re-emerges in the year 2020.” A glaringly eerie pull quote within the article “Survival Guide to the Future” under the section “Disease”, written by American psychoanalyst Arno Karlen prophetically remarks the “worst-case scenario an over-populated planet choked to extinction by a lung-attacking virus.”
Another is in the April/May 1996 issue: “VERY CROOKED AND STEEP, ONE NEXT MILE” reads a road sign plastered running along the margins of a story on Hillary Clinton’s Whitewater controversy. The short version is the Clintons lent an illegal $300K loan for a Belle Reve a la rural Arkansas. “Crooked Hillary” would be Trump’s stock phrase for referencing his sparring partner.
5. GEORGE WAS THE ORIGIN FOR MANY HOUSEHOLD NAMES WHO WERE RELATIVELY UNKNOWN OUTSIDE OF POLITICAL CIRCLES AT THE TIME
George aged well. It’s a mixture of idolization and cynicism against the monarchs of Washington politics still hold to this day. And, if anything, they carry more weight as nothing much has changed, the same names are still floating around at the top.
Kellyanne Conway, now counselor to Trump, was working as a part-time standup comedian and pollster when George asked her to become a contributor. She penned an article titled "Why Female and Generation X Voters Are Ripe Prospects for the GOP: to Young Voters, the Lack of Hope and Optimism Is the Most Glaring Absence in Politics Today.” The future would come to show that Conway was not entirely incorrect in her assertion. In the 2016 Presidential election, 42 percent of 30-44s voted for Trump and 53% of 45-64-year-olds. A study conducted by Monmouth University in March showed that Biden loses by 13 points amongst voters between the ages of 35-54. Conway is still following the predator-meets-pray route to success today.
6. BIPARTISANISM SANS BICKERING
JFK Jr. branded George as a “post-partisan” magazine. Newt Gingrich posing next to a lion co-existed alongside a lengthy interview with a Planned Parenthood executive. Ann Coulter wrote her diatribes alongside Norman Mailer. To George bipartisanism was possible and was a matter of giving editorial space to ideas, which is not, as the mainstream media believes, unequivocal support of them. Reading an article about socialism is not going to make you grow a Che Guevara mustache overnight.