“You’ve got a nerve to be asking a favor,” spews the narrator of The Walkman’s punishing mid-2000s hit “The Rat.” Pounding on his ex’s door, bleeding on the wall, his antagonism eventually gives way to desperation: “When I used to go out I'd know everyone I saw / Now I go out alone if I go out at all.”
“The Rat” is a drop of lemon juice in a glass of cream; sour, acrid, and curdled into clumps of bile. It’s also the namesake of the latest offering in Rotten Magazine’s series of self-published zines. Released in April 2023, “The Rat” tells the story of Bogman, a reclusive, terminally online 28-year-old living a toxic life indoors. Mashed together with photography, drawings, and collage, the passages of text throughout “The Rat” come straight from Bogman’s fingers, pasted from Reddit AMA (“ask me anything”) threads. “Do u get lonely? Have you ever had a girlfriend? Do u masturbate a lot?” asks a user who calls themselves degenerate1. “Yes, yes, and yes,” Bogman replies.
Launched in 2019 by London-based creators Joel Seawright and Lucy Jackson, Rotten Magazine recontextualizes internet flotsam and jetsam into deeply personal work that reflects a surreal, disjointed reality. With the release of “The Rat,” their third issue, the duo search for the source of their anxiety in darker, weirder corners of the web than ever before. “I’ve always been a socially anxious person,” says Joel, explaining that he “wanted to explore how a series of life events could push a socially inept person […] down a rabbit hole, and turn them into a toxic, spiteful outsider like Bogman.”
Originally from Belfast, Joel met Lucy, a painter, after traveling to London for an advertising class. The two joined creative forces, spinning their love of design, photography, and indie printing into a 124-page, punk-inspired zine. Vol. One, titled “Look, Daddy, I Made a Magazine!,” features work from photographers Joshua Gordon, Ciarán Óg Arnold, and Dani Lessnau, all artists Seawright and Jackson hand selected for the project. “I’ve Always Liked Slime,” released in January 2021, is the ambitious follow-up, a 128-page love letter to the shared experience of lockdown. “The Rat” picks up where Vol. Two left off by exploring the devastating effects of prolonged social isolation.
Accompanied by a bonus 60-page zine featuring stills from David O’Reilly’s short film Please Say Something, “The Rat,” like its musical namesake, is violently forlorn, a black hole of self-loathing bred by 24-hour news cycles, continuous screen time, and a seemingly infinite cache of bullshit available for purchase around the clock. The Walkman’s song is addressed to an ex-lover, but its pummeling bitterness is every bit a match to Rotten’s version of “The Rat,” a nasty piece of literature that scurries under the surface of all those pretty Instagram feeds.
“The Rat” features photography by Begum Yetis, JH Engstrom, Milton Vestbrant, Theo Elias, Sasha Kurmaz, Bill Sullivan, and Olivier Pin-Fat; drawings by Huntley Muir.
“[I] wanted to explore how a series of life events could push a socially inept person […] down a rabbit hole, and turn them into a toxic, spiteful outsider.” — Joel Seawright, Rotten Magazine
All photos published with permission of the artist(s); courtesy Rotten Magazine.
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