Saturday, February 9, 2013

How Johnny Depp Helped Form My Feminist Perspective

Act #40:  Stay Sassy, Stay Jane.

When I was 15, I was in love with a tall dark, soft-spoken man with eyes that pierced my soul.  He was an undercover police officer whose office was located at 21 Jump Street.  His name was Johnny Depp.  OK, so about 15 million other adolescent girls shared this love with me but I was OK with that.  Like my counterparts, I was painfully aware of my flaws and squirmed in my own skin.  I changed clothes at least 3 times every morning before I thought I had put together the perfect outfit for school.  My raging hormones powerfully dictated my new and unstoppable attraction towards boys and probably contributed greatly to my increasing awareness for fashion.  I wanted Johnny Depp…and I wanted to know which side I should pull my scrunchy-gathered pony tail up on my head.  And the American media figured out just how to give me what I wanted every week.  Teen Beat.  Tiger Beat.  And 16 Magazine.  So I saved up my allowance and bought these glossy information-filled publications, teared out pictures of Johnny and taped them to my walls so he was the last thing I saw every night before I went to bed.  And I read the articles that told me what color to paint my nails, how to attract the star football player, and how to look sexy even though I had barely even developed breasts.  And I was left utterly dissatisfied.  What many people didn’t know about the 15-year old me is that while I swooned over and wanted to look like Hollywood stars, I also wanted more.  I wanted to tap into this bubbling sense of power buried deep inside of me.  I couldn’t yet put my finger on it, but I knew that someday I would unleash it and do something.  Be something.  I wanted to get ready for the raw and gritty real world.  I wanted to know about drugs, punk music, sexuality, feminism.  Redemption.
And then I discovered Sassy Magazine.  Sassy was originally founded as an Australian magazine aimed at teenage fans of alternative and indie rock.  It was later born in the U.S. under founding editor, Jane Pratt.  In 1997, Jane founded Jane Magazine, a non-conformist teen publication that I continued to follow way into my 20’s.  I finally had it all:  A place where I could connect with Johnny Depp (unlike me, he remained perpetually youthful over a ten-year span), where I was inspired by a fresh sense of style that encouraged individual thought, and where I was exposed to a buffet of thought-provoking and sometimes radical perspectives on contemporary issues that impacted emerging women like me.  Right at a time when that bubbling, deeply buried sense of power was getting ready to erupt.  The world was changing.  The role of women was changing.  I was changing and Sassy and Jane provided just the affirmation that I needed to believe that it was OK for me to be different.  That I wasn’t a freak. 
Jane Pratt took a hiatus when Jane shut down operations in 2007 and, taking the irreverent tone of Sassy and Jane recently launched xoJane, an on-line alternative, raw, modern-day unapologetic magazine tackling real and hard issues impacting young women (and that still offers up valuable fashion advice).  One of today’s headline articles:  It Happened to Me:  My Best Friend Committed Suicide.
I can’t tell you how ecstatic and bewildered I was earlier this week when 25 years after I picked up my first copy of Sassy magazine, a deputy editor of xoJane became my 106th Twitter follower.  This happened the day I posted my blog “How to Slowly Kill Someone’s Spirit”.  Something I would have never had the courage to do if it weren’t for Jane Pratt’s early influence.
And life has certainly come full circle. 
Thank you Sassy and Jane for showing me, and countless other evolving young women that there was always so much more.  That I was always so much more.   And that baby-faced undercover police officers could grow up to become rebellious pirate lords of the Seven Seas.


  1. Fabulous article. We learn a lot by looking back to the earlier incarnations of our persona. Personally, Mae, I think you've always had a wonderful sense of yourself. Great post. Thanks for it.

    1. Thank you Normandi, for sharing my love for Johnny Depp ;-)

  2. I totally remember Sassy magazine - looking back, I think I always found myself in a mindset that blended the perspectives of Sassy and the other magazines. Definitely will have to check out the new online feature. Thanks for the trip down memory lane! =)

    1. I kind of did the same, blending and pulling together all the different magazines. They didn't make one for confused, second-generation teens, growing up in sex-crazed multi-cultural America, or I would have been set! ;-)