Features Australia

Closing time at the Zoo

We have entered a new prudish, illiberal era

17 October 2015

9:00 AM

17 October 2015

9:00 AM

In August, outraged online-feminist group Collective Shout successfully petitioned to have the laddish ZOO Weekly banned from Coles supermarkets. Within days of that decision Bauer Media, ZOO’s publisher, decided to cancel the publication, citing difficult retail conditions. This week, nine years after the first issue, there will be no weekly ZOO.

Hours after ZOO Weekly’s final issue went to print (‘Thanks for the Mammaries’, reads one headline), Playboy announced they would soon no longer feature nude pictorials. All this only a few months after the Sun made the decision to stop showcasing topless women on page 3. Collective Shout and their like-minded allies are jubilant, and they are wrong.

Avowed feminist that I am, I take no pleasure from the disappearance of glamour photography. ZOO Weekly wasn’t having trouble selling issues because the young men today of today suddenly reached new heights of erudition and prudishness. Over the last decade the internet has made high definition pornography of any kind imaginable available for free, any time, anywhere. Young men have been desensitised by daily displays of debauchery. A pretty young woman in a two-piece just doesn’t cut it after you’ve seen a guy get his whole arm up there.

We bid goodbye to ZOO Weekly, as well as the Sun and Playboy in a recognisable form, not because we have moved as a society away from objectifying women, but because it is now so entrenched as to not be exciting.

I bought my first ZOO Weekly shortly after puberty kicked in. The walk from the ‘men’s interest’ section of the newsagent to the counter was mortifying. As I handed over a fiver, I had vivid hallucinations that the young woman working the cash register would have me arrested, or worse, somehow find a way of telling my parents. Instead she smiled, slipped the magazine into a brown paper bag, and handed me my change. The whole experience felt, in a strange way, very wholesome. The magazine itself turned out to be surpassingly normal too; alongside the quasi-covered breasts was, shockingly, prose. Funny, lowest common denominator, politically incorrect prose.

It was the editorial ethos of ZOO Weekly, rather than the scantily clad models, which really infuriated its enemies. The magazine courted not only controversy, but wrath: they ran a competition to find Australia’s sexiest asylum seeker; they aggressively used provocative pronouns when referring to transgender people (e.g. ‘shim’); other competitions offered prizes like ‘a free divorce’, and ‘a boob job for the missus’; the Gallipoli centenary issue featured an immaculately bosomed woman holding a long-stemmed poppy (deemed to be held phallically), wearing a string bikini (I thought it especially bold to go with a beach theme).

They often ‘stepped over the line’, but now that they’re defunct there are few magazines left in this country which have the bravery to test the limits of good taste (the magazine you’re presently reading is a blessed exception).

We live in intolerant times. Collective Shout, and legions of hard-line culture warriors like them, fight for, and are successful in, banning magazines, blocking ‘inappropriate’ people from entering the country, and shutting down any line of discussion inimical to their world view. Simultaneously, the internet has opened up access to unprecedented unpleasantries, and the new virtual vices have been virtually unopposed. We’re not entering into an enlightened age, but rather entrenching the sort of sensual apartheid that has been basically unknown to the western world since the Victorian Era. Playboy, and magazines like it, were controversial in a prudish age once, and are controversial in a prudish age once again.

Other than in my early pubescence, I was not really a regular reader of ZOO Weekly. The humour didn’t speak to me like it used to. When I do, occasionally, and still shamefully, partake in the sexual appreciation of a woman, I prefer her to be more amply proportioned than the average glamour starlet.

Nevertheless, I mourn ZOO Weekly’s passing. I shall frame my copy of the final issue, and display it in my home, proudly; an historical artefact from a more liberal age.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

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