Guilty Pleasures, Part 1: Magazine Profiles

It seems to me that most people have some kind of guilty pleasure–that is, some activity which is enjoyed, but the enjoyment of which is balanced by a certain amount of guilty or embarrassment concerning what others might think of them. Isaac Asimov said his guilty pleasure was reading murder mysteries. I imagine a show like Jersey Shore or some equivalent serves as the guilty pleasure for a great many people. I am no exception to guilty pleasures. And I’ll tell you right off the bat that one of those guilty pleasures is reading magazine profiles of notable people.

I’m not talking about the 1-page Q&A type interviews you might find in Time or People. Instead, I’m talking about those in-depth profiles, the kind that Rolling Stone does so well. I find these profiles utterly absorbing, and at the same time, there is a bit of guilty or shame at being so fascinated by someone else’s life. Still, the pleasure I derive from reading these profiles far outweighs the guilt, and so I read them whenever I can.

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Rolling Stone produces some of the best. The most recent issue has a wonderful profile of Tom Hanks, one of the few living actor I truly admire. It was a well-written, piece, engaging, and really captured what it might be like to spend a day with Hank. Another reason I enjoy profiles like these is to learn about people I otherwise know nothing about. I learned a lot about Adam Yauch and Taylor Swift–people I might have never otherwise decided to read about–through in-depth profiles. I usually come out of the other end of these profiles more impressed with the subject in question, or at the very least, seeing them in a new light1.

I noted a profile of Clint Eastwood in the current issue of Esquire, a magazine that I’d never read before. The profile was available for free, courtesy of Zinio, and so I read it, and I thought it was terrific–very well done. I had no idea that Esquire, like Rolling Stone, did these kind of profiles, and I enjoyed the profile so much, I subscribed to the magazine. That issue, by the way, has a cover with Mila Kunis, “The Sexiest Woman Alive.” I had no idea who she was when I saw the cover, but there is a fairly extensive profile of her in the magazine, as well, so I guess I’ll learn who she is.

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I realize that as far as guilty pleasures go, this is by no means an extreme. Nor is it an obsession. If I read two or three of these profiles a month, that is pushing it. But I enjoy reading them, both for their content, and for the break it gives my brain. I don’t have to think about a whole lot when I am reading these profiles. I don’t have to be considering a book review, or wondering how the particular scrape the protagonist has gotten herself into will be resolved. I don’t have to try and imagine some multidimensional geometry or even add two plus two together. Generally, I can just sit down, relax and be whisked away for an hour to someone else’s life and see what it’s like.

Is this my only guilty pleasure? No, but you’ll have to wait to find out about the others.


  1. The only exception so far was Rolling Stone‘s profile of Justin Beiber. I didn’t know much about him going in, but I thought less of him coming out than I did when I started.