Recently I took a writing workshop with Eric Drysdale of The Colbert Report at ImprovBoston. During the class, we learned how the writers for The Colbert Report put their material together. The workshop started off with the group talking about things that were going on in the news and we eventually hit on a topic that Eric felt would be good to tackle for The Colbert Report‘s “Tip of the Hat/Wag of the Finger.”
We then split off into groups where Marc Hirsh, Emily Laverdiere, and myself wrote (to be read in Stephen Colbert’s voice):
Nation, I love Sports Illustrated. To me, nothing captures the thrill of sports quite like reading about it ten days after it happened. And in honor of the 50th anniversary of the magazine’s swimsuit issue, they’ve partnered with toy-maker Mattel for a special Barbie-themed swimsuit feature. That’s right, Barbie is showing some skin, I mean acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, in the latest edition of their under-the-mattress favorite. The theme of the issue is “legends,” and rather than use boring real-person models like Christie Brinkley and Tyra Banks as the face of the magazine, the honor has been given to Mattel’s flagship toy. Which is fair enough. After all, Heidi Klum has never been a veterinarian OR a UNICEF summit diplomat.
And so a double-tip of my hat to both Sports Illustrated and Mattel for celebrating the legends of the swimsuit issue’s lengthy history… and then saying, “F*ck it, let’s just put a doll on the cover.” This is a great deal for Barbie, too. Sales of the doll have been on the decline, and Mattel knows that there’s no better way of reaching their traditional market demographic of pre-adolescent girls than by joining forces with a magazine that’s the first thing daddy removes from the mailbox. It’s the same with Ken’s upcoming photo shoot for Men’s Health. And by marketing this magazine with the hashtag “#unapologetic,” Sports Illustrated and Mattel are boldly standing firm in the face of the criticism that they clearly knew that they’d get before they even announced it. And wouldn’t you know it, there are some killjoys that are up in plastic, unbending arms about the pure expression of a classic girl’s toy in cheesecake poses. According to Occidental College professor, feminist and media critic Lisa Wade:
[accompanied by a photo of Barbie in a professorial suit]
“Both Barbie and the swimsuit issue have been making women and girls feel inadequate for decades. It’s a perfect partnership.”
Yes, exactly! She gets it! What were Sports Illustrated and Mattel going to do, each individually partner with a corporation that encourages healthy body image? That would have been a mess. It’s called corporate synergy, and it’s what makes America just like Barbie: great to look at and easy to work with. Not to mention a job creator. I look forward to more magazines replacing their content with legendary toys that ideally represent their contents and speak to their readership: Architectural Digest with a Lego spread, Car And Driver with Hot Wheels, Popular Mechanics with Slinky, Reader Digest with Speak-n-Spell.
I hope that worked. I think it should have for anyone who can imagine it on the show.