Having let my GQ sub lapse long ago, I don't keep regular tabs on its covers or the increasingly insipid articles within. At one time, under Art Cooper, GQ boasted fine writing and some of the better topics and prose in American mainstream mags. Gore Vidal and James Ellroy contributed feature pieces, and Terrence Rafferty penned a monthly culture column. By the late-90s, however, Cooper was pressed by Conde Nast's Si Newhouse to simplify and chop down GQ's content in order to compete with Maxim and FHM. Cooper apparently struggled with this, but ultimately, GQ went the boy mag route. Cooper retired, then died of a stroke while dining in 2003.
Recently, while doing some online research for a piece I'm writing about new experiments in electromagnetic disruption of REM cycles (for the Journal of Unconscious Science), I happened upon some photos from the July GQ of Jessica Simpson stripping off camo gear to reveal an Old Glory bikini. Her cover shot was adorned with "God, This Is A Great Country: Jessica Simpson and 75 Other Reasons To Love America."
Now, in the past, I've made fun of Simpson, suggesting that she's an intentional parody of American trash culture, made sharper by the fact that the parody makes loads of money (which, in turn, lends added gloss to the parody, making it seem even more real, and on and on), and that she entertained US troops in Iraq alongside the cryogenically-frozen remains of Bob Hope. But the GQ profile, written by Chris Norris, outdid me on every front. Imagine typing this with a straight face:
"What an enigma, this Bible Belt–raised, teen-pop-honed, reality-TV child bride. True, over three seasons of MTV's Newlyweds, [Simpson] has amassed the most astounding collection of blond sound bites in the modern age—including three abortive attempts to pronounce the word Massachusetts. Yet later reports hint at subterfuge behind the seduction. Husband Nick Lachey cites her 'very deep, intellectual' aspect as key to his love. Her mom once put her IQ at a genius-level 160, suggesting that an anguished intelligence might lurk behind the telegenic facade.
"Even now, as she looks over the barbecue take-out containers scattered around her, Simpson's face seems to bear traces of some existential malaise. 'Why do I feel such paradoxical loneliness?' she might be thinking. 'How can the Self truly breach the Void?'"
So, until further notice, I'm placing a moratorium on Jessica Simpson gags. After Norris's piece, there's simply nowhere else to go. All I can say is that if Jessica Simpson is the top reason to love America, our cultural demise is perhaps closer than anyone thinks. That may be a good or bad thing, depending on the fall out, but know that the end was heralded by a secret genius posing as a stupid blonde with fake tits and horrible taste in music. That countless men masturbate to her image adds the crowning touch: love of country expressed through jerking off. You can't get more American than that.