NSFW: Exploring the Superficiality of the Glossy

Categories: Company News

By: Jessie White

REDSTITCH SEASON 2 2013

Lucy Kirkwood is a bright young British stage and screenwriter whose work often explores dark issues in contemporary society. She is the playwright of Red Stitch’s final play for 2013 NSFW (Not Safe For Work), which is a comical and dark exploration of the issues surrounding the present day magazine industry. In NSFW the confronting themes include gender objectification, female body image, desperation for employment, workplace ethics and pressure, compromised feminism, Photoshop – image retouching methods, power games and workplace bullying. Kirkwood’s other successful plays all investigate similar problems in modern day society. She touches on dark and fascinating issues in contemporary society whilst adding subtle humour to all of her stories both for the screen and the stage.

Her latest play, the highly acclaimed Chimerica, won best play last month at the coveted Evening Standard Theatre Awards in London.  The play follows an American journalist who photographed the protester confronting a tank at Tiananmen Square in 1989 and his search for him years later. Some of her other plays include Psychogeography from 2009, which again features young characters this time a couple who buy their first house which once belonged to serial killer. Prior to Psychogeography she wrote Tinderbox, a revenge comedy set in a butcher shop.

Kirkwood has also written for the television program Skins where she tells realistic, bleak and hilarious stories of teenagers growing up in the city of Bristol in the UK. The teenage world created by Kirkwood in Skins avoids the shining-teeth, sanitised version portrayed by American prime-time shows such as Gossip Girl, Glee and The OC. In this program she manages to mix heavy themes such as feuding friends, bullying, body image issues, online material, privacy needs, drugs, disabilities and self-perception with comedic scenes of young mischief, friendships and romance. Some of these contemporary issues are again explored through NSFW’s investigation of the magazine industry and the problems of young characters who are beginning their working lives.

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In NSFW, Sam is a young recently graduated writer desperate for full time work. He is finally granted a break in the magazine industry but is left miserable as he finds both men’s and women’s glossies are excessively cruel and critical. Kirkwood investigates the harsh attitudes powerful magazine editors have towards their vulnerable, junior staff. She reveals that these fresh faces are viewed by some dishonourable print media heavy weights as disposable. Young writer, Charlotte is desperate for work and prepared to compromise her feminist morals due to the current dire employment situation familiar to many recent graduates, particularly in Europe. Graduate Sam later stumbles into a job at women’s magazine Electra and encounters the monstrous editor Miranda. He also discovers Electra’s culture is based around Photoshopping and that it has an obsession with criticising body image. It cannot be a coincidence that the editor of Electra has the same first name as the infamous Miranda Priestly, the editor of women’s magazine Runway, in the film The Devil Wears Prada.

NSFW has many striking similarities to the film, The Devil Wears Prada especially when the focus is on the formidable offices of Electra.  Miranda, head of Electra magazine shows she has the potential to be as cruel as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada.  This film also examines the demeaning treatment of junior assistants and their willingness to obey rather than face unemployment. The film is based on the novel by Lauren Weisburg and her time as an assistant to the editor of Vogue. Years after her time at Vogue, Lauren went to see the documentary made about Anna Wintour and the magazine, which was called The September Issue. Reflecting on seeing the documentary she said, “Anna’s office looked the same and the people were the same – so much so that I started getting cold sweats from the flashbacks!” NSFW takes the idea of the demanding magazine manager one step further. It transmits us into an outrageous world where scouting for imperfections in women’s appearances is seen as an art form to be nurtured and taught so that images are ready for the Photoshopping phase.

The Devil Wears Prada

Last month at Glamour Magazine’s 2013 Women Of The Year Awards Lady Gaga accepted her award with bold, stern criticism of her own recent Glamour photos. She was outspoken admitting, “I felt my skin looked too perfect. I felt my hair looked too soft. I do not look like this when I wake up in the morning.” She called for the publications to change, saying, “When the covers change, that’s when culture changes.” She urged young people to, “fight back against the forces that make them feel they’re not beautiful.” She has been the victim of Photoshop before, when Vogue digitally slimmed her figure for their September 2012 cover. She didn’t speak against the blatant use of airbrushing back then but she did not miss her opportunity as a recipient of a Glamour Award. Glamour in its mission statement says it “gives readers what they need to transform every part of their lives”. This deceptive publication finds it acceptable to convey to its broad female audience that only unnatural perfection is cover worthy.

6-Lady-Gaga Photoshopped

NSFW is a timely and provocative response to the way women are being presented in magazines. This tongue in cheek, black satire is showing at Red Stitch Actors Theatre until December 21st and has already proven to be a complete smash hit! Be sure to book now to avoid missing the final provocative play of 2013 – one that will take you deep into the murky world of the magazine industry and give you the unedited version.