Thursday, April 3, 2008

Race talk in Vogue

A story in today's Observer talks about the recent controversy over the cover of the latest issue of Vogue magazine:

When Vogue announced its April cover starring LeBron James and Gisele Bundchen, the magazine noted with some fanfare that James was the first black man to grace its cover.

But the image is stirring controversy, with some commentators decrying the photo as perpetuating racial stereotypes. James strikes what some see as a gorilla-like pose, baring his teeth, with one hand around Bundchen's tiny waist.

It's an image some have likened to "King Kong" and Fay Wray.

"It conjures up this idea of a dangerous black man," said Tamara Walker, 29, of Philadelphia.

Photographer Annie Leibovitz shot the 6-foot-9-inch NBA star and the 5-foot-11-inch Brazilian model for the cover and an inside spread.

"We think Lebron James and Gisele Bundchen look beautiful together, and we are honored to have them on the cover," Vogue spokesman Patrick O'Connell said.

James told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer he was pleased with the cover, saying he was "just showing a little emotion."
What do you think? Does the image peddle the same old racial stereotypes? Is it not racist -- simply a picture of two beautiful, successful people having fun? Or is it, as some have suggested, "post-racist": Vogue and photographer Annie Leibovitz obviously knowing the image's connotations, but winking at them, using them for some kind of playful, avant-garde statement? Or is Vogue's and Leibovitz's effort just a tired cliché trying to be hip? -- Kevin Siers


Anonymous said...

This is utter nonsense. I didn't think of anything when I saw the cover except I thought that it was a good cover. People fanning the flames of non-existent racism suck!

Anonymous said...

He looks like a gorilla to me. She must have been afraid.

Anonymous said...

Oh Paaallleease!

If the black community would spend one half it's time improving it citizens and helping them better themselves as they do complain about how they are treated, perhaps the others opinions of the black community would improve.

The Observer Editorial Board said...

Do racists ever admit they're being racist? Do they even know? I'm not accusing anyone of anything -- I've created lots of images over the years and every once in a while someone criticizes my work as "racist" too -- most recently some of my cartoons about Nick Mackey and Barack Obama. What's the standard? Can a white person simply declare there's no racism here, and that's the end of the discussion? Or can we acknowledge that different folks have different experiences and and their histories influence how they see the world? And then how do we find common ground? -- Kevin Siers

Anonymous said...

Does it work both ways? Can an African American declare that racism is intended and that is the end of the discussion? Is there room there for other opinions? Who gets to decide? And do we find common ground through a committee that likes to talk about white privilege as the root of all evil?

Anonymous said...

isn't it funny that the entire country is making race an issue and once only said it exists in the south? why is obama playing the poor me race card. obama needs to let a bit of that white out if he thinks he has any chance. he needs to talk about his abandoning father, his abandoning mother left to be raised by his, thank God, conservative white middleclass grandparents. then comparing his grandmother to that crazed white hating black preacher. give me a break. when you see blacks with whites it does bring about questions. like a blue bird and a red bird. but not questions of hate and violence. that is created by the worthless parentless households full of drugs and alcohol and their leaders like vultures so ready to take advantage of it and reap any benefits caused by the stir. in this nation you vote for who you want to vote for whatever reason. this is not supporting racism. this is our right and our responsibility. someone has said obama is the new mandela. folks, this is america not south africa. and looks what happened to those folks, the folks who were feeding the nation, all the white farmers massacred. and now, once again, africa is starving. no nazi socialism for us, in this county, please.