Funny You Should Ask: Raciness extends beyond the covers

A major retailing company recently announced it would cover the covers of some popular women's magazines deemed a bit too racy by customers.

I snickered as I read the wire service report because I think the magazines in question are silly.

Silly, and ironic, because the attractive female celebrities on these vanity-appealing covers are not causing problems as much as the words that tease shoppers.

The covers are everywhere, though what amuses me more than Jennifer Aniston's or Sarah Jessica Parker's pouts are those headlines proclaiming any number – pick a number – of ways for readers to improve their lives, often sensually, which is what the current commotion is about.

"8 scintillating ways to make him … "

… Well, as the inimitable "60 Minutes" commentator Andy Rooney would say, you get the idea.

Since watching Rooney's segment about the numerology of magazine covers a few years back, the numbers have shown up on places where I've least expected.

Like Fortune magazine, the once-lucid if staid explanatory source of corporate reasoning that has become a jargon-filled, new-economy business equivalent of the supermarket glossy:

"16 ways to tell your company's CEO that he's narcissistic and short-sighted even as he (or she) is showing you the door.

… "

If we can't read the covers Glamour or Cosmopolitan while in the checkout line, what can we read? "8 ways to keep hubby from snoring (and 6 more keep him from slurping coffee)"?

Ummm.

It wouldn't make me want to buy that magazine.

Not like: "10 ways to drive each other wild with nothing but a pool cue and two longnecks while snuggled inside a jeep parked beside a cliff on a switchback curve on the way to Oatman.

… "

According to the wire service report, the retail company was experimenting with binders for the racier magazine covers, hoping to have them in use at all stores by July.

(In the company's Kingman store, the covers were still, uh … bare … as of Tuesday.)

(The prim campus librarians at my small-town alma mater never worried about binders.

They simply cut up the covers or inside pages of Madameoiselle before putting the issues open-faced on the rack.

Distracting myself from "Branzeburg v.

Hayes" or Thoreau's more obscure works was one thing, but prurient interest?)

That a business is covering up suggestive looks or headlines restores my faith in the idea that censorship of borderline material was never a matter of politics, only morality - that there has never been a double standard of a taxpayer-funded exhibit or broadcast being obscene on the one hand, while that which is paid for the free market of advertising is, well, simply tolerable.

Well, a small leap of faith, maybe.

I remember the controversial 1994 public television broadcast "Tales of the City," a critically acclaimed adaptation of the acclaimed Armistead Maupin novel about life in San Francisco right before the AIDS era.

Nowhere near as lewd or graphic – even by standards nine years later – as a Britney Spears Pepsi commercial or the inane Jennifer Lopez music video, "Tales of the City" was a provocative miniseries because it dealt intellectually with relationships between people, not the sensuality thereof.

That there was nudity and frank talk about sexuality … and homosexuality … was enough to provoke mainly Southern legislators to threaten their states' public broadcast funding if the show aired.

In some markets, it didn't, even edited.

Production of a sequel was cancelled over congressional displeasure that threatened the budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

In the meantime, broadcast networks scrape ever more like vassals for viewers to satisfy to bottom lines of their owners, Viacom, Disney, General Electric.

As a result, we're treated to skinny-dipping on "Survivor: Amazon" and vulgar back-talk by John Ritter's television daughters (during family hour, no less).

According to the British newspaper The Guardian, the retail company now worried about Cosmo and Glamour covers already had adapted more family-friendly packaging for videos and CDs.

Sales of some male-oriented magazines were discontinued because of scantily clad females on the covers.

The company, of course, rightfully is acting in a proprietary manner not just for its customers but its image.

Besides, I don't suppose customers would any more want to see leopard-print women's thong underwear, or men's athletic supporters, displayed near the checkout line.

And knock-off Victoria Secret's lingerie?

How gauche.