REVIEW: Frankie is an old lady with cats

I’ve been a staunch supporter of Frankie ever since I discovered its gorgeous pages wayy back in first year of uni. Since then, I’ve developed a Will-and-Grace like attraction for intellectual gay men (Benjamin Law) and angry whip-smart anger (Mia Timpano). I have also perfected the art of byline stalking.

Frankie’s been the source and comfort of my inspiration for a very long time, which is why I was decidedly wary when Jo Walker took over from Louise Bannister as editor. I’ve liked Jo’s writings and contributions to Frankie. But “change is one thing I don’t mind” was Frankie’s original slogan, and being the devoted supporter I was, I thought things would be the same but better – if that makes sense.

But no, Frankie is no longer the person you see at parties and gigs every now and then nor is s/he is the only one there wearing flannel or Wayfarers. S/he is still well-spoken and seems to know everyone there, but no one really knows him/her. S/he is the friend you don’t see or talk to as often as you’d like, but when you do, come out feeling inspired and that little bit more intelligent, and your existential crisis is thrown out the window. But s/he is no longer traipsing around the world pondering the little quirks and embracing the idiosyncrasies and nuances that make life what it is. Instead, she is home with her numerous cats, flouncing over her miniature teacups and wearing more holes than usual into her crochet shrug.

Anyhoo – courtesy of my magazine addiction and hapless reading of blogs, I drummed up this review for the latest issue of Frankie for Girl With A Satchel. Erica Bartle used to be deputy editor of Girlfriend magazine (where I interned for a few months) until she moved to QLD. We only became internet buddies through her magazine blog – reading it helps me monitor the financial woes of my magazine expenses.

The review is below, but do click on Erica’s blog for a much better presentation. Thanks muchly, Erica! =)


Frankie Nostalgia

My love affair with Frankie began way back in its sophomore issue in late 2004. Dubbed the “In-The-Moment” issue, I was struck by the model’s big blue eyes – confronting yet intriguing at the same time. It contrasted with the refreshing stories on real people and balanced out by the raw idealism shared by the musicians and actors gracing the pages in between. The best part was the tagline: “change is one thing I don’t mind”, something which seemed to play in very well with my starting uni at the time. Twenty issues later, and I’m still a strong supporter of the stunningly-produced publication. However, these days I’m beginning to suspect perhaps I’m beginning to grow out of my beautiful friend (or s/he is outgrowing me), which makes me a wee bit sad.

I opened this bi-monthly with a little trepidation, despite the sleepy eyes that glanced from the cover. My initial confusion with the first “do-it-yourself sock cat” in issue 21 developed into a quiet fear as the crafty bits popped up with each subsequent issue. I’m beginning to suspect that Frankie is regressing into old lady-isms with their mini-knitting manuals and domestic tendencies. The cat count for this issue amounts to eight (not including ads). Many of said cats feature in the fashion shoot where simple jersey tops are thrown together with delicate and oh-so-comfy knits, complete with a feel-good RSPCA endorsement. The “Denim Fancier’s Society” had me salivating over the jeans, not so much over the photography. I’ve definitely seen Frankie do much better – she’s better and brighter than the slouching on display.

In Frank Bits, I got excited and giggly over The Kooks, and oh my goodness, how scrumptious does Gena Rosenberg’s felt strawberry-iced donut brooch look on p. 21? These quirky bits are breathes of fresh air amongst the many musty shawls worn across my friend’s shoulders these days. The celeb-factor is covered by a streamlined profile on songstress Duffy by Andy Welch, and party tips by the dance-happy electro duo The Presets, complete with Julian Hamilton brandishing shiny disco ball.

Masculinity comes under the microscope as Josh Phillips contemplates the pretentious nature of “buying a shelf” as opposed to building one, while Benjamin Law reaffirms his perfect brand of pondering by assessing the “hugging dilemma” – “it’s like we’re animals meeting for the first time in a David Attenborough documentary”. I, myself, have always been privy to the hug – I tend to save them for special occasions, though a cute stranger hug in my mind never goes astray. Justin Heazlewood picks a bone with bloggers, while Camille Hayton’s Babysitters’ Club pilgrimage got me really nostalgic (Claudia and Dawn was my favourite sitters, closely followed by Mary Anne).

The writers’ rant is often my favourite part of the magazine, and this issue’s question, “Am I a Stereotype?” really got me thinking. Edmund Burke talks of searching for leprechauns, Mia Timpano reminisces about her ‘wog’ family, while Andrew Mueller ponders Australians’ determination to live down to London’s grimmest expectations of us. But Benjamin Law (squeal), whose own experiences include distancing himself from Asian tourists so as not to appear in the same camp as them, offers the real insight into stereotypes: “No-one can be a stereotype in an of themselves. That’s actually someone else’s judgement call to make, and usually those people are cliché’s themselves.” It’s eye-opening to see the internalised judgements we often make of not only others, but of ourselves whenever we see someone on the street or meet people travelling.

Meeting people with same name as your idols must be a surreal experience, but being ‘Jane Austen’, ‘James Dean’ or ‘Jackie Chan’ must make life even more bizarre. ‘James Dean’ did not lose the grim irony over his experience at 110 kilometres per hour on an open road where he “pranged” his car – but such irony may not have occurred at all considering his parents were expecting a girl. And I love how ‘Jackie Chan’ reckons the man in question ought to get back to his roots; she reckons, “He just needs to leave Hollywood… all he needs is one movie – one old-style movie – to redefine him.” I have to say, I concur, and it seems that Frankie agrees with this philosophy in a difference way. Those homely elements have come back to haunt me as the felt ladybug casts its yellow-stitched eyes onto me. Am I meant to be traipsing around pondering the quirks and chasing the dreams of the world? Or stick to what are apparently the simple things in life like pin cushion ladybeetles? While I’m all for appreciating my nest like the ladies photographed in their homes are doing on p. 34 (and absorbing the excellent roast pork on p. 112), I can’t help but feel that I’m missing something here.

I think my lovely friend could be diagnosed with a minor case of “Russh-itis”, where the carrier suffers a perpetual nostalgia to the old days where things were either brash or simpler (the advertisement for the Gumby DVD on p. 117 seems to reaffirm that). Once upon a time, my friend spread her knowledge over the world with bright-eyed enthusiasm, charming those in her wake. But like most people after a long soul-searching holiday, I think s/he had a hankering for some downtime at home. And while a familiar change is all good and comfortable, I hope s/he’ll continue this journey with me again soon and won’t stay home for too long.

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