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What do you suppose it would take to get Helen Gurley Brown, Gloria Steinem, and Martha Stewart into the same room? The Newseum’s new exhibit, “Reflected Lives, Directed Lives: American Women’s Magazines” might do the trick; in fact, each is featured in it. Unfortunately, “Reflected Lives” isn’t wholly successful. The smallish exhibit, which features women’s magazines from the late 18th century right up to 1999, is both interesting and ambitious. (The May 1930 issue of The Farmer’s Wife is pictured.) But not all of the magazines featured are even present in the flesh; some are represented by what appear to be color photocopies. Which is too bad, because the satisfying tangibility of the framed publications actually on display offers a welcome contrast to the two-dimensionality of the rest of the show. And the exhibit’s text-heavy panels are a curatorial nightmare—difficult to read and graphically uninspired. It’s not that the texts aren’t engaging—categories like “Minds/Bodies” and “Sexuality/Morality” provide some interesting juxtapositions—it’s just that you long to read a few really critical passages here and there. Some statistics about the ever-increasing incidence of eating disorders or the latest in crazy plastic surgery procedures placed next to an image of a typically emaciated runway model would be really satisfying. But the exhibition is just as neutral and P.C. as you might expect, given its funding by media advocacy group the Freedom Forum. Since the Newseum invites you “to adopt the role of a media historian,” check it out for yourself from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday, to Sunday, April 30, at the Newseum, 1101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. Free. (703) 284-3544. (Megan Searing)