The other day Melissa Silverstein published a rant on the newly-released Katniss Barbie doll. It’s a fine rant as far as rants go. Worth a look if you’re a Hunger Games geek like me.
Today, I have my own rant. And it’s about this…
The May issue of Vanity Fair. I received it in the mail yesterday. I was psyched to hear that May would be the TV issue. And then I saw the cover. And the feature spread…
Seriously, Vanity Fair? You’re gonna talk about how awesome the women on primetime are by photographing them in lingerie and half-covered by sheets? This photo shoot sexually objectifies women. It’s insulting and offensive.
I’m in full rant mode now.
1. First of all, the cover. You’ve got The Good Wife‘s Julianna Margulies, Downton Abbey‘s Michelle Dockery, and Homeland‘s Claire Danes – three incredibly strong and compelling female characters on television right now. (I can’t comment about Modern Family‘s Sofia Vergara because I haven’t watched that particular show.) And Vanity Fair drapes them with sheets. Yes, these women are beautiful and sexy. But they have so much more to offer than their appearance and sexuality. They should not be reduced to eye-candy.
2. The same goes for the feature spread inside the magazine. You’ve got bustiers, garters and a bear-skin rug, for goodness’ sake. The actresses lounge about in provocative poses as they toss popcorn and drink alcohol. A spread like this perpetuates the slumber party fantasy that women hang out in their underwear and…whatever else people think goes on when a bunch of girlfriends stay in for an evening. I’m telling ya, the majority of women do not lounge around in lingerie. Sorry to break that myth. We unwind in sweatpants and t-shirts, drink a few glasses of wine, talk about careers and life and relationships.
As long as publications like Vanity Fair support photo shoots like this, women will continue to be misrepresented in media. (True, the actresses made the choice to participate in the shoot, so I can’t blame VF entirely. One of these days, I would love to hear of a story in which celebrities arrive to a photo shoot, note the sexism inherent within the theme/outfits/etc, and walk out. Talk about making a statement.)
Why couldn’t the photographer have had more fun with this stellar collection of actresses? It would be fabulous to stick them all in a paintball arena. Something that generates some friendly competition. If Vanity Fair wanted to stay with the “Evening in America” theme, then choose some activity that many Americans do in the evening. Workout at the gym. Walking an assortment of dogs down a city street. A poker game. Shoot, photograph them in a bar or pub somewhere, playing darts or pool. Where is the creativity?
3. As if this weren’t awful enough, the cover copy includes the words, “Admit it…you love TV more than movies.” Uh, people are admitting it. By the tweetloads. Next to this woefully ignorant and outdated subtitle is a quote by T.S. Eliot: “Television is a medium of entertainment which permits millions of people to listen to the same joke at the same time, and yet remain lonesome.” I want to find the person who wrote this copy and chose this quote. I want to ask this person if they have read a single article or post or tweet in the last year about the evolving landscape of television.
People are watching more tv than ever before. The amount of time spent on Netflix and Hulu for television continues to rise. Sure, there will always be the guilty-pleasure tv show. But we are getting higher and higher quality television with the likes of Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, Downton Abbey, and Revenge. Shows like HBO’s Game of Thrones garner massive cult and pop followings, usually reserved for the film franchise superheroes. With this quality programming, there isn’t the same kind of “shame” in watching television and as in the past. In fact, much of the cultural dialogue has turned away from film and towards tv. It’s “cool” to stay up to date with the latest episodes and to drop tv references into everyday conversations.
Miso, GetGlue, and Zeebox are apps specially designed for viewers to check into programs and chat about what they’re watching. Reuters recently published an article that claimed that 2012 will be the year of “must-tweet tv.” So not only are people admitting their love of tv, but they’re engaging fellow viewers – on a global scale, thanks to social media.
Vanity Fair, do your homework next time. And stop objectifying women. Okay, rant over.