Brett Easton Ellis’s novel titled Less Than Zero mentions a variety of different magazines during the course of its narrative. At one point, for instance, International Male is mentioned; later , a “porno magazine” is described; later still, Glamour magazine is referred to, as is Los Angeles magazine, as well as a number of other magazines whose titles are not given. The magazine most frequently mentioned, however, is People. At one point, for instance, the narrator notes that
My aunt was fanning herself with a People magazine. . . . “I want to leave,” my aunt said in a very far-off voice, eyes distant, her fingers clenched around the magazine. [italics in original]
People is also mentioned again later, making it the magazine most often emphasized in the book.
Why does Ellis mention these particular magazines, and why does he place special emphasis on People? Several possibilities suggest themselves:
- International Male was a magazine that featured male models in various states of undress; its current name is Undergear. This magazine is relevant to the homoerotic aspects of the novel.
- The “porno” magazine mentioned is relevant to the book’s focus on casual sex and erotic titillation.
- Glamour magazine, as its name suggests, focused on attractive women and all the clothing, hairstyles, makeup, etc., designed to make them look attractive. This magazine is relevant to the emphasis on fashion and fashionable people in the novel.
- Los Angeles magazine is clearly relevant to the setting of the novel – a setting which is itself associated with popular culture and with a certain degree of decadence.
- People Magazine covers the culture of celebrity, especially the doings of actors and actresses for television and film. Reporting “hard news” is not its great strength; celebrating celebrities is.
All the magazines mentioned are relevant to the novel’s themes of superficial appearances, of life lived on the surface of things, and of people who follow the latest trends rather than embracing to traditional values.