Swimsuit issue may not be too far off base for National Geographic

By Eric Edwards The Orlando Sentinel (KRT) When most people ponder signs of the apocalypse, they think in terms of rivers of blood, skies of fire and locusts. Lots of locusts. When journalists think of the apocalypse, they think of swimsuit issues. Not that journalists don’t like swimsuits. We do. As do most other men. Which explains why Maxim, FHM, Stuff and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue are highly regarded in fraternity houses but rarely the subject of panel discussions on “Meet the Press.” But one magazine that is almost never sighted in the dens of the testosterone elevated is National Geographic. National Geographic is the sort of classy, thought-provoking magazine that one finds in doctors’ offices and not on my coffee table. But no longer. This month, the venerable magazine has published an issue titled “Swimsuits: 100 Years of Pictures” and thus entered the smut fray. I can only assume that after years of documenting the free-range chinchillas from the frigid peaks of the Andes, National Geographic editors and photographers, in search of warmer subject matter, have embraced the barely clothed female form. Not that I can blame the photographers for wanting a change of pace. These talented shooters, some of the best in the world, spend most of their time capturing images of Sudanese farmers and their goats. It’s only fair that they, too, should be allowed to photograph pretty women in bathing suits. Through the looking glass of journalistic values, a National Geographic swimsuit issue might appear to be a hackneyed notion, but, really, how far-fetched is it? After all, this is the one magazine to which young boys who do not yet have access to HBO can consistently turn to find nudity. Granted, this nudity is almost exclusively relegated to women of the aboriginal sort, but I speak from experience when I say that 12-year-old boys really are not too discerning. And to be honest, National Geographic claims this issue is not an attempt to lure the beer-swilling, hormone-driven Maxim fans away from their adopted bible. Rather, it is a look at the evolution of bathing wear, including stories on the rise of tanning and the birth of the flip-flop. And to look at the cover, which boasts a striking model covered only by water and seashells, the bathing suit has come a long way from the water-resistant body armor that used to pass as high fashion among the aquatic set. So perhaps a swimsuit issue is not such a sinful departure for a magazine that boasts of family-oriented learning. Maybe it’s just a playful sidestep that is well-timed to hit the stands just as men everywhere are standing sentinel at their mailboxes awaiting the swimsuit issue of the Sports Illustrated kind. And who knows, if this newsstand-only edition of the National Geographic takes flight, maybe it won’t be too long before we’ll be seeing a Page Three Girl in The New York Times_and locusts, lots of locusts. ___ Eric Edwards, who plans on swiping a copy of the National Geographic swimsuit issue the next time he goes to the dentist, can be reached at [email protected] . ___ ‘copy 2003, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.). Visit the Sentinel on the World Wide Web at http://www.orlandosentinel.com/. On America Online, use keyword: OSO. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.