Esquire’s Descent into Sludge

CW sludge.jpg
I first subscribed to Esquire a decade ago, because of Rust Hill’s summer fiction edition and stayed on because, in general, the prose crackled with wit and verve on subjects that interested me. It was a content-rich magazine supported by ads.

Esquire’s October 2004 issue is a snapshot of our cultural descent into sludge in an ad-rich magazine marginally supported by content.

This special photo issue features a piece on the new president of NBC Entertainment captioned as follows: “Don’t let his wonder bread appearance fool you. The new president of NBC Entertainment is a sicko at heart. And that may be exactly what network television needs right now.”

This month’s regular sex column features Stacey Grenrock Woods answering the question “Do other animals have oral sex??

Life’s meaning is found in music? This is the message of the music column hyperbolizing in the byline about “five new records that make life worth living.”

John Waters, whose latest NC-17 movie opens this week, shows a photo of his parents with the caption: “They’re conservative, certainly, but less so because I’ve been their son. But I’m a little more conservative than people might expect because of them. They come to all my premieres, although they both wish I’d make another type of movie. I think the only time they didn’t have to lie to their friends was about Hairspray on Broadway.”

Filmmaker Kevin Smith photographs his wife kissing his friend because “it makes me horny.” Alicia Keys snaps a picture of a banana because it “makes me horny.”

Esquire is not silent about religion, just coyly dismissive.

Terry Bradshaw photographs his Bible with the caption, “something I can’t live without.”

The “What I’ve Learned” column, designed to pass on to the next generation lessons learned by outstanding achievers from older and wiser masters, features Arny Freytag, a Playboy photographer for 30 years. He says, “my parents were religious. At first, they were concerned about my career, and they went to talk about it with the minister. He removed their worries. He said, “There’s nothing wrong with the naked body. God created that.” As time went by, they even started to enjoy Hef’s parties.”

Then there is the picture of the Lakewood 8200 member mega-church in Houston where Pastor Joel Osteen packs them in with sermonic themes like “God wants you to succeed beyond your wildest dreams.” (The show goes on the road to Madison Square garden in October).

What is the message in all this?

Esquire has descended into the sludge because culture has. It reflects mainstream American culture. The magazine is not considered outrageous but is honored for its excellence–editor David Granger reports on the number of awards Esquire has won recently. Most reader’s will not be thinking “what disgusting sludge” as they read, because we are all desensitized to valuing repartee centering on sex, silliness and superficial comments about conservatism or religion. Religious parents enjoying Hef’s parties is considered cute, not sad.

This is the culture in which we live our faith, and in evangelicalism’s zeal for engaging culture, we risk trivializing faith to connect with such a superficial culture. Filling large auditoriums with spiritually undiscerning people and calling it church is the name of the game in American evangelicalism. We’ll only survive and influence if we go deeper in this superficial age.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

PS 2. If you haven’t yet done so, register for our daily updates. You won’t regret it!

  • Register for CW
  • PS 3.

    If you have comments regarding this column please contact us at:

  • CultureWatch: culturewatch@dickstaub.com

  • This web site is supported solely by tax-deductible donations. Please mail your generous contributions to: The Center for Faith and Culture, PO Box 77385, Seattle, Washington 98177

    ‚©CRS Communications 2004
    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

    PS 2. If you haven’t yet done so, register for our daily updates. You won’t regret it!

  • Register for CW
  • PS 3.

    If you have comments regarding this column please contact us at:

  • CultureWatch: culturewatch@dickstaub.com

  • This web site is supported solely by tax-deductible donations. Please mail your generous contributions to: The Center for Faith and Culture, PO Box 77385, Seattle, Washington 98177

    ‚©CRS Communications 2004

    Posted in Staublog in September 27, 2004 by | No Comments »

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.

    98 − = 92

    More from Staublog