Are Vogue covers generally this controversial? Yes, when K&K make an appearance. Editor Anna Wintour continues her streak of deifying celebs with a cover. But this time, there is more to note than the notoriously controversial couple appearing on the front of the upcoming issue. After all, politics is what almost anything boils down to, even fashion magazine covers are a study in representational politics. Wintour must know. One of her predecessors, Grace Mirabella, made history by featuring the first African American model on the magazine’s cover, Beverly Johnson, in the 1970s.
The inaugural issue of Vogue was published in 1892. Kanye West’s appearance on the 2014 Spring cover may also make history. It is up to students, practitioners, and theorists of cultural studies to debate the whys and wherefores, in short, the relevance and meaning of this, and what his female-partner has to do with it. To add intrigue, another famous pair play a role in this fashion story: James Franco and Seth Rogen. The Rogen-Franco or Franco-Rogen stunting on Kardashian and West is becoming almost bigger than celebrity, itself.
How will USC/UCLA instructor/actor/artist James Franco explain the ins and outs, the political intrigues of this cover to his students? And why is Rogen wearing glasses? (I just don’t understand.) This is the pair’s second Kanye/Kim spoof after “Bound 3”. See this review by Pitchfork. For a fashionista’s perspective on Franco and Rogen, check out Garance Dore.
The micro blog site Twitter buzzed with the leaked cover of the ever controversial couple. This may be the first time the swanky publication has featured a couple on the cover. If it is not, then it is a rare occurrence.
Many websites offer different perceptions and reviews. Check out Leandra Medine’s The Man Repeller and note the snark-laden comments section. Also, Salon jumps to the couple’s defense, touting the cover as innovative. Both websites also mention the parody of the cover.
If you have not seen the cover, and if you surf the Internet, it is hard to believe you could miss this, you may have a strong reaction, or not. Draped in a creamy silk sleeveless gown that “haters” have derided for being ordinary, the female half of the power couple exudes what might pass for contentment whilst Kanye, the father of their baby girl, gently encircles Kim’s waist. A golden backdrop ensures the couple’s claim to royal-status, an American-style beatification. This cover epitomizes the concept of redemption through transformation, in this case, fashion is the medium. To many, Vogue represents class. What is burning up the comments sections of the blogosphere is how the Kardashian-West alliance heightens and exacerbates Kim’s X-rated past and Kanye’s crassness.
One blog commenter, “Eva S,” stated a common sentiment, that there were people more deserving of the honor of a Vogue cover:
I don’t know why she’d deserve a cover over so many other hard working and talented women – she wouldn’t have gotten it either if Kanye hadn’t pressured for it. What is she famous for, other than a sex-tape? What makes her special? Or unique? Style? So many other women have that. The new Marilyn? I don’t think so. She lacks poise and sophistication. That needs way more work than just a reality show. I’d rather see women there who REALLY changed the world. My Vogue subscription has been canceled. (Eva S, on The Man Repeller, Friday, March 21, 2014).
Another Man Repeller commenter, “early_holoscene,” said what was disturbing about the cover was that the woman in question lacked credibility. The commenter stated of Kardashian, “Unfortunately for her, she has documented every moment of her celebrity life, putting her constant fashion faux pas on full display.”
While many comments criticized Kanye’s presumed ambition in scoring the cover, a large number of blog commenters criticized Kim’s Vogue presence because of her past sex scandal. The two comments above demonstrate the public’s difficulty accepting a woman’s transformational journey, especially when change appears to be aided by gratuitous consumption and disregard for humility.
Women risk ridicule when courting the public. This is not a new idea. But taking big risks and creating an alliance with an equally ambitious partner might get an ambitious woman a magazine cover, which may also be seen as a public platform.
Vogue has historically symbolized high-society ideals such as poise, femininity, and beauty. Are these ideals relevant in 2014? If yes, how so?
Let me propose an alternative. The Vogue cover as a clean slate, thus reminding us that people change, or time changes us.