Hachette's Shock magazine hits the newsstands on May 30, but early copies are floating around Mediaville, and a greasy copy has thus arrived at HQ And, dare we say, it's a thing of lowbrow beauty. If the National Enquirer bound and gagged Life and forced it to sift through Rotten.com, it would result in something like this. Cheap ($1.99), low on words (there has to be well under 1000 in the entire issue) and bravely independent of advertising (FishbowlNY dutifully notes a mere 3 ad pages), Shock just might be the perfect publication for happily deranged voyeur within us all.
Visually, the mag looks like a studly version of Us Weekly, taking the celebrity rag's signature bright pinks and purples and beefing them up to manly reds and yellows (it even mocks Us with its own "Who Wore It Best?" feature, pitting Juliette Lewis, Flava Flav, and Thor against one another in viking hats; the jury was "seven gay homeless guys a the bus station"). Other celebrities uncensored-style treats include the requisite Kate Moss-with-blow pic from 1998, plus such gems as Eddie Van Halen's rotting teeth, Val Kilmer sucking Paris Hilton's face and, our personal favorite, the celebrity asscrack guessing game (at right, click to enlarge).
While the celebs-looking-stupid schtick is fun, it's not Shock's strong point (mostly because
one can find similar pictures on the web). Rather, its skanky allure is in its newsy photos that you don't typically see any mainstream American publication, presented in full-page, high-res fashion: a Japanese river running bright red with dolphins blood ("Blood Bath!"), a Congolese woman setting herself on fire ("Girl, Erupted!"), and children in danger ("Tiny Hostage"). They're not exactly breaking or relevant (save for the pictures from Iraq), but they certainly make for interesting eye candy.
With little more than big, crazy-ass pictures and a dash of tabloidian prose, Shock won't likely have much cultural impact or media influence. Nor is Shock particularly shocking, but it is stupidly entertaining. And it works — because for once, we're looking at a magazine that's not trying too hard.
Related: Shock Is Here! Shock Is Here! [FishbowlNY]