The first time you encounter Vice magazine, you're amused at the audacity of the prose subjects and fascinated by the gritty photography. You might have been drawn in by the widely imitated DOs and DON'Ts feature, a genius invention which mocks endless reams of hipster photos on their dress, appearance, and questionable worth as human beings. And perhaps you've become enamored by the caustically funny antics of cofounder and "spokesman" Gavin McInnes.
Then here we are, ten years later, and you find a copy of Vice on the counter at a downtown boutique that sells only three styles of leather boots, two nylon backpacks studded with industrial rivets, and a pearl inlay mini-dildo, and your instinctive first reaction is: They're still shoveling this thing out the door?
The Vice branding push hasn't been limited to the free mag. You got Vice shops, plus various attempts at TV, movie, and record deals, not to mention the Vice guidebooks and a standalone DOs and DON'Ts tome. The Vice "lifestyle" requires constant novelty of offense, whether it's sexual, racial, social, or aesthetic. Trouble is, this strong drink ruins you for the binge — it only takes an issue or two to inoculate against the shock. Then you'll find yourself skipping the text entirely, skimming the photos, and tossing the whole mess in less than three minutes. The fact that McInnes and his successors at Vice pride themselves on playing the role of bohemian champions means they'll say anything to anyone just to get a reaction, and in this way they've pranked many an unsuspecting square or clueless reporter. They'll say whatever they can against the prevailing opinions of whoever they're speaking to, meaning that anything they say can be funny, but none of it means much. And if you already know their mission statement, where's the rest of the joke? Rather than the bohemian terrorist Vice wants to be, it ends up reading like a celebration of its own hedonism. You're merely supposed to congratulate them on having such a great time. Nothing wrong with that, but all it finally proves is that vice is much more enjoyable to practice than to read about.