Looking At Primer

Last week I mentioned that I had stumbled across an online publication called Primer, marketing itself as a young man’s magazine for coping with life after college. I noted it bore a lot of similarities to Art of Manliness, and I had stated I wanted to compare and contrast the two once I had read up a bit more.

I’m not going to do that.

Don’t get me wrong, I did read Primer (and re-read Art of Manliness)- it’s just that the differences between the two aren’t going to take up an entire post to list off. Instead, I’m going to be looking over Primer, which is a pretty dang solid publication all around and fully deserving of a post all to itself.

Let’s get started.

Primer was established back in 2008, so it hasn’t been up for very long and you can kinda see that. Everything’s very sleek and streamlined, it’s just that they’re clearly still in the process of building up their articles- their segment devoted to taxes has only a single post devoted to the subject. That said, I’m really interested on watching the publication grow- it’s got a lot of good things going for it.

Let me break it down for you.

I. The Writers

One of the first things I noticed when I was browsing the articles on Primer was that the authors were pretty varied in terms of race (and gender- but more on that in a sec). Now obviously, that in and of itself doesn’t mean anything, but the general implication is that you’re going to be getting a wider array of perspectives than if all the viewpoints originated from the same (general) background.

(It’s a perspective gif)

I also noticed a couple (repeat) female authors, and you really gotta appreciate the fresh take there. Granted, there’s probably people out there would debate whether or not the female perspective on male development is helpful, but I think it really speaks to the general tone and attitude of the magazine. These guys are open-minded and certainly not tied down to any set-in-stone criteria for what is or isn’t manly. I’m guessing this probably has a lot to do with Primer’s major selling-point, which is that the one commonality the authors do share is age. They are, as their audience is, in their 20s. As savvy as a lot of these guys are, they haven’t figured things out yet either, and you can really feel a level of sincerity here that you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere. There’s no condescension, no paternalism, no world-weary complacency about who or what you’re going to become as you grow up. It’s really and truly refreshing, and I wonder if that’s just the kind of attitude that my generation could really benefit from.

II. The Issues

With most (if not all) of the authors being in their twenties, the issues that they’re addressing are (to me at least) about as relevant as it can get. I like Art of Manliness, but the simple fact of the matter is that the average guy out there could probably stand to benefit more from learning how to get your security deposit back on your apartment than how to build your own house.

Which isn’t to say it doesn’t help…

Perhaps one of the criticisms to level at Primer is that it’s pretty clearly targeted at an urban audience, but that’s probably a petty complaint in the grand scheme of things. For the most part, the articles here are all centered on issues that will affect you personally- checking out an apartment, searching for work, managing finances on a tight or unstable income, or dealing with the lack of friends you’ll have after leaving college (which hits pretty close to home). Plain and simple, people- these guys get it.

III. The Future

As much as I dig the general trend to toughen up and become more independent, one thing that’s always made me a bit leery of the “manly movement” is the idea that manliness is somehow being “reclaimed.” Like our grandfathers had perfected it, and somewhere along the line we lost it. I’m not saying our ancestors weren’t tough as nails- they were-

What I call ’em every time my brakes die in my truck…

-it’s that when you idealize the past like this, you forget or glaze over the simple fact that the 40s and 50s were viciously sexist, racist societies. Imagining that the past was some kind of utopia isn’t just wrong- it’s unhealthy and unjust.

Primer doesn’t do that. As I said above, the impression I’m getting from the publication is that adulthood is something yet to be figured out. There’s no formula- and that doesn’t mean “do whatever you want, there are no rules,” it means that there’s still plenty of room on the chalkboard for fresh ideas. For all the crap that gets thrown at us (and Primer is decent enough to not call us all lazy kids and  understand that times are in fact tough), Primer is, at the end of it all, hopeful. You have to appreciate that, if nothing else.

Now that said, there’s still some issues I’d like to cover, and these apply not just to Primer but to any such men’s-issues publication.

I. “What’s Good For the Goose…

…is good for the gander.”

A “gander”, for those of you who don’t know, is the term for a male goose- the phrase meaning “what’s good for men is good for women, and vice versa.” I guess I’m still trying to sort out exactly what counts as a “men’s’ issue.” Unemployment, financial problems, home repair- these aren’t somehow exclusive to guys. Maybe I’m just wholly ignorant of how big the gender-divide is in this country, but surely these articles are just as helpful to women as they are to men, right? I’m not opposed to the idea of a “men’s magazine” or a “women’s magazine”- I just don’t want good info or advice to go unheeded because it was marketed to one group and not the other, y’know?

II. We’ve Got No Class

The image of “manliness” tends to get associated with this kind of suits-and-whiskey type of lifestyle. Typically the ideals or roles that seem to be glorified in these magazines are of men who are either wealthy, or at the very least, well-off. I get that part of the whole point of these magazines is to help people develop self-sufficiency, but poverty is a reality and certainly one we could use some advice on. Class issues (yeah, yeah, the Marxist is talking about class issues) could stand, at the very least, some recognition here.

III. The Place of Race

While we’re not seeing lynchings or internment camps scattered across the western world, the simple fact of the matter is that race is still a relevant, if not hot-button issue. As the world becomes ever-increasingly interconnected and multicultural, we’re going to need to know how to best handle the inevitable misunderstandings or issues that are going to crop up. How you treat others, or how others treat you, based on your race, is something I’d like to know more about, and if there ever were a venue for this kind of open and frank discussion, it’d be in a magazine such as this- yet we’re really not seeing it yet.

IV. Faith Of Our Fathers Peers

Philosophy, or at the very least, motivation, is pretty common as a subject in these publications- religious issues, however, aren’t typically touched on.

And I get that- I can’t imagine how difficult it’d be to write an article on religion for diverse audience on a grand scale. Still, the religious make-up of the country, heck, the world, is shifting and 20s are a major make-or-break point for spirituality. I would at least like to see the subject addressed, y’know?

And there you have it- what Primer‘s doing right, and what it could stand to do better. Check out the site for yourself, and tell us what your impressions are down in the comment section.

See you next time.

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2 responses to “Looking At Primer

  1. 3 things:
    1. That perspective gif is screwing with my mind. Like, I am messed up right now just watching it over and over.
    2. I read that “why you don’t have any friends” article. Very close to home, man. Also, good stuff.
    3. This was a solid post. I thought you really nailed it.

  2. Pingback: Writing Issues | Culture War Reporters

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