OPINION - Loaded's relaunch is missing a trick — but not in the way you think

An early issue of Loaded magazine  (James Brown)
An early issue of Loaded magazine (James Brown)

Talk about a missed opportunity. On Monday it was reported that Loaded, the laddiest of the lads mags, has relaunched. Appetite appears middling — Loaded made its original announcement on Instagram a couple of weeks ago, only barely anyone noticed — but this month it turns 30, and so it goes.

Maybe no one cares because it’s after the blokes who stopped buying the mag in the first place. Not the business decision I’d have made. New editor Danni Levy says she’ll be “targeting the original Loaded audience who are now living happily at home with their wife and kids but still reminisce about their nights spent clubbing until 3am, drinking £1 shots, with a bedroom covered in posters of half-naked women”.

Jordan Peterson has an enormous following, likewise Andrew Tate — an audience is waiting

Sounds to me like Levy is betting on taking a few quid from middle-aged sorts suffering a crippling case of Peter Pan syndrome. It’s a shame, as the revival of Loaded could have meant something to teenagers and those in their early twenties. It might have even done them some good.

What, glamour rag Loaded, do some good? Stay with me here. When it launched in 1994, with Gary Oldman on the cover (smoking, not noticeably topless), Vic Reeves pontificating on mustard and just the two pages of models, it did not capture the imagination of young British men so much as kidnap it. It became the bestselling title of its kind. Sure, the rot didn’t take long to set in — by the time it made the common room in my (all boys) school, its sole merit seemed to be that it was quicker to flick through pages than battle with dial-up — but for a moment there, it mattered. In all, 40 million copies were sold.

Young men could do with something like that; something written for them. Plenty of magazines for young women endure. But for men? It’s not as if there’s a generation who simply don’t want to be entertained: Jordan Peterson has an enormous following, likewise Andrew Tate. An audience is waiting. But Tate is the darkest imaginable influence, currently facing accusations of rape and abuse — which he denies.

The thing with magazines is there are rules. You cannot simply print whatever you like, or voice any opinion. Libel is a worry. Publishers stack their publications with lawyers to ensure lines are not crossed. Loaded will likely be regulated, just as the majority of UK newspapers and magazines are, both online and not. TikTok, on the other hand, is a gutter of misinformation. Reddit is littered with a harrowing amount of misogyny. Lad culture had plenty of problems, but it feels better than this.

And that’s without even mentioning porn. The Children’s Commissioner reports that the average age for children seeing pornography is 13. OnlyFans is only making it worse. Those old glamour shots feel quaint in comparison. Porn is everywhere and easily accessed — and what does it teach? Lads mags used to, at least, usually employ a female sex columnist. Far from perfect, given the editing, but better.

It would be absurd to say some old hands-on-tits glossy should feel a moral impetus to guide the young, and Loaded worked because it was never goody-goody. It was, in its own words, the thing “for men who should know better.” Naughtiness is appealing. But Tate and his ilk are not naughty — they’re downright dangerous. A reloaded Loaded might have taken them on. I’m not saying it would have worked. I’m just saying I’d wish they’d try.

 (Hoda Davaine/Dave Benett/Getty Images)
(Hoda Davaine/Dave Benett/Getty Images)

To ego, or not to ego

Eddie Izzard is having a hard time of it, with her solo take on Hamlet savaged by critics. The Standard’s Nick Curtis summed it up as “an act of colossal vanity and hubris”.

Shock horror: Hamlet has 10 main parts (11 if you distinguish between Rosencrantz and Guildenstern). These parts exist for a reason, at the very least to let actors play off each other. Izzard, pictured, has form here, having performed a solo Great Expectations last year (also crap).

Isabelle Huppert, Sarah Snook and Andrew Scott have lately done similar. But who wants to witness an ego out of control? Theatre has never been about a solo performer. A full cast helps with the spectacle, and also reflects life better; none of us do it alone. Repeat after me: the play’s the thing.

David Ellis is the Evening Standard’s Going Out editor