The Things They Fancied

For a zine about "the sick and twisted hobbies of rich people throughout history," little time is spent actually indicting the aristocracy.


In theory it's a zine about "the sick and twisted hobbies of rich people throughout history," but Molly Young's The Things They Fancied doesn't spend all its time indicting the aristocracy. As people climbed up out of poverty, Young shows, they found new ways to entertain themselves. In the 16th century, for example, Europe saw a proliferation of pets, pineapples, and porn.

In her discussion of dentistry, Young notes that public smiling was taboo in France before the late 18th century. But the proliferation of bars and coffeehouses throughout the country led more Frenchmen to socialize in public instead of at home. As people got richer, "substances historically linked to mirth," such as booze, sugar, and tobacco, became more common. "The Enlightenment brought a blossoming of public spaces where people could gather," and smiling caught on as carousing spread.

Not everything spread equally, of course. Young adds that "as soon as it became possible for a slice of society to have good teeth, it became possible for them to humiliate the rest of society for having bad teeth." Though dental care has thankfully become more affordable over time, such class dynamics are still around today.

The zine, physical copies of which can be ordered online, ends up telling a Schumpeterian story in which living standards have improved over time not just for the upper classes but for commoners. Whether we're queens or factory girls, today we all can eat pineapple and enjoy smut if we so choose.