Call for Submissions: Tiger Beat Theory
Suddenly, practically overnight, the whispers of ten thousand teens fell silent! Will the name that has thrilled countless generations of youth vanish forever or is there something YOU can do, right from your bedroom, to Comfort Your Idol in a time of need? Friends of Tiger Beat, every little bit counts…send away now for various remnants of the teen dream, including, but not limited to buttons, stickers, posters, and pocket explanations of commodity fetishism! Hurry, this offer is going, going, gone!
This issue of Dilettante Army takes a cue from the long run of Tiger Beat magazine (1965–2020) to ask about the life cycle of the concept of the teenager, which is also a question about the life cycle of power. For purposes of this issue, we’re calling any attempt to think about the subject formation of youth in the context of ideological and economic needs for the category of “youth” an exercise in Tiger Beat Theory: adolescence does not age well.
What was Tiger Beat? Tiger Beat and its sister publication aimed at Black youth, Right On!, were publications that not only made fans of teenagers, they made teenagers. They were the magazine’s most successful commodity. While the enterprise started by featuring celebrities like the Beatles, they also created celebrities when none were ready to hand—witness the meteoric rise of Davy Jones and the Monkees. These magazines for teenagers were instrumental in reaching pop and celebrity fandoms and in creating those social groups wholecloth.
Tiger Beat manifested a material culture of adolescence with a short sell-by date: countless teen girls and queer boys have pinned up the magazine’s full-page photos of young, male, cute (but not overtly sexual) stars to their bedroom walls. Its economic model depended less on subscriptions than on newsstand appeal and, crucially, the merch that readers could send away for, bringing their idols into their own spheres through physical presence. Although the publication tried to present a sanitized version of sexuality, this project was always unsustainable, because sexuality heroically refuses to stay clean—and in an online culture now saturated with sex, it is harder to envision a fumigated sexual adolescence.
Social reproduction, too, has shifted. Because adolescence was a passing phase, Tiger Beat relied on other emerging adolescents becoming the magazine’s consumers, which they did—until they didn’t. A 2015 relaunch of Tiger Beat (one of its own many life phases) failed to find a large audience. What can we make of Tiger Beat’s demise, and the shifts in the media landscape that have fractured the youth (mono)culture it helped create? How do we describe the Tiger Beat-like machines that have assembled out of new studio and label systems in K-Pop, J-Pop, and Bollywood? Where is youth material culture found now?
Arguably, there is no longer a single youth culture. The past decades have seen cultural fragmentation along with an increasing consolidation of technology and capital. This trend seems likely to continue as political subjects agglomerate around corporate social media platforms and Amazon-owned clouds. While Tiger Beat and other media aimed at teenagers can seem silly or superfluous, we know that it is also ideological education. Tiger Beat offers an opportunity to examine the twilight age of a power structure that, although it is primarily concerned with adolescence, does not imagine its own decay.
Dilettante Army invites scholarly writing on the subject of Tiger Beat and the currencies of youth and celebrity, as well as other historical and contemporary models of parasocial romance and idol worship. Topics might include: queer readings of Tiger Beat and Right On!, Gramscian hegemony, Sailing to Byzantium, Sylvia Plath for Mademoiselle magazine, Taylor Swift’s media mastery, BTS’s military service era, Teen Vogue, Gawker Stalker, platform capitalism, JTT, Justin Bieber, Lord Byron, the Jackson Five, Tiqqun’s Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl, Riot Grrl zines, childhood and legal personhood, trans adolescence, Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience.
Submission proposals should be emailed to editor Sara Clugage (email@example.com) by Tuesday, January 16. For more information about what we’re looking for and how to pitch, check out our Submission Guidelines.
Image of Tiger Beat magazines via Anne Helen Petersen’s excellent 2015 Buzzfeed article on the subject.