Buzzfeed Was Invented by This 1952 Magazine That Asked "How Anthropomorphic Are You?"
Date: October 1952
Publisher: Hillman Publication
Discovered at: Los Angeles thrift store
The Cover Promises: "Why Our Boys Are Afraid to Fly" and "Barbara Payton: The Girl Men Fight Over," photographed here in that high mid-century style known as "fitting-room noir."
"[Psychologist Jerry Broderick] knows that any teen-age boy whose name gets into the newspapers is going to get several 'love letters' from homosexuals." ("Guess Who," page 56)
First things first, please don't let that weirdly chaste cover shot of Barbara Payton convince you that 1950s magazines were as wholesome as you've been told the 1950s were by any white grandparents you may know. Here's the back cover:
With its pinups and its concern-trolling articles like "Why Are Our Boys Afraid to Fly?" Pageant may not look like the progenitor of Buzzfeed, today's hard-to-resist listicle candy shop. Some of Pageant's articles go on for paragraphs. But both Pageant and Buzzfeed excel at the collation and presentation of news-flavored content certain to divert readers eager for diversion. More to the point, both could whip up amusing feature pieces out of nothing but pre-existing images (or .gifs) and the moxie of what Pageant called its "foxy, eagle-eyed researcher."
Behold, 1952's best Buzzfeed article:
Yes, Pageant killed 12 full pages of its editorial budget with photos of people who are kind of contorted into the same shape as animals. Seriously, that's like an entire Time magazine's worth of content.
Also, it looks like that's a llama? And it's apparently sleeping instead of dead? Question for further research: How bad would pageviews have to get before Buzzfeed did a piece called "27 Real People Who Look Like Dead Animals"?
Notes: That boy and that lizard were rehearsing the first 15 minutes of what just five years later would become West Side Story. Also: The Henson people have neither confirmed nor denied that this Pageant piece was the inspiration for Sam the Eagle.
Besides art-department barrel-scraping like the above, Pageant exemplified other hallmarks of the modern Buzzfeed. These included:
Headlines only the strongest of us could resist:
Headlines whose first word is a number:
Important articles about breasts:
Posts that will be cited in college papers written by library-averse stoners:
(You owe it to yourself to click on that one and marvel at it in close-up.)
Brief, cheery pieces about subjects that warrant deeper analysis:
And, most importantly, both Pageant and Buzzfeed offer a feeling of fitful enjoyment, the somewhat disreputable pleasure of midday time-killing, the joy of distraction from things that matter rather than of concentration upon them. Pageant dared to ask its readers the question most applicable to people who routinely paged (or clicked) through either:
Here's the quiz's scoring. Shockingly, belief in socialism or communism is worth the same as belief in God. Also, you lose points for believing that women are more scheming and dishonest than men.
If your results reveal that you are unhappy, you should do what your Crap Archivist does when he feels a bit beleaguered at the end of a work day: Click around Buzzfeed for a few minutes. They always have something.
Other Studies in Crap columns you might enjoy:
"Are You Prejudiced?" Asked Faith 'n Stuff Magazine in 1994. Take the Quiz and See!
Hey, you could do worse than following @studiesincrap on the Twitter thing.