So the April 2008 issue of Vogue has recently hit newsstands, which marks the beginning of a new regular feature here on Cracked where we'll examine each month's issue of Vogue: All up in Vogue's Crack: An Analysis and Discourse. Which, if we read our webstats correctly, is exactly what our audience (pale men, ages 18-35) is looking for.
Haha. That's just a little April Fool's day joke for you there. I felt it necessary to at least make a token gesture to this, the funniest day of the year, but didn't want to go overboard on the April's Fool day stuff. Which is why you were spared an Onion-esque "Obama names Morgan Freeman as running mate" headline or the obvious "Anti-Christ Returns" joke. You're welcome.
Ok, let's get serious about Vogue (yes, I am gonna go through with this). On the cover this month is a picture of a roaring LeBron James, dribbling a basketball in one hand, with Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bndchen grasped in his other. Where a basketball fan might look at this image, nod sagely, and state that it merely depicts LeBron's well known ability to brush aside supermodels when driving the lane, movie aficionados look at this image and see something completely different: a fairly blatant reference to the 1933 film King Kong.
Which seems clever for the fraction of a second it takes you to realize that comparing a black man to an ape is one of those "red flag" topics that you so often hear you should stop bringing up during job interviews. So what happened here? Did the editors at Vogue slip, or are they honestly warning us of the danger black men present to our nation's most valuable resource (in the eyes of the editors of Vogue): white women?
First, in defense of the image: both LeBron and Gisele look stunning in it. More importantly, so does Gisele's dress, particularly the way that it sort of sits on Gisele's body like that, while also looking like it might fall off at a moments notice. Very dynamic. If you had a checklist of things that make a good cover image for your fashion magazine, this one would tick off many of the boxes on it: celebrity - check, Gisele Bndchen - check, Gisele Bndchen's clothes potentially falling off - check, etc. So if the editors of Vogue want to preach ignorance, and claim that it's a perfectly innocent and legitimate cover photo, they've got a good case.
But come on. This was no accident. Cover images are chosen very, very carefully, and the editors of Vogue were completely aware of what this image suggested. So are they secretly racist? Probably not. My guess is no-one at Vogue is more worried about black men taking their women than they are about Chinese men taking their women. Instead, I suspect they chose the image specifically to drum up buzz with something that could be considered vaguely controversial. Here I'm imagining a wishy-washy conversation going on amongst the editors about how a vaguely racist cover will foster a public conversation about race in America today. "We're not being racist! We're deliberately bringing it up so we can deliberately ignore it, and say it doesn't matter! Also, and not to stress this too much, this would probably help us sell a bunch of magazines!"
Here's the thing: for all the advancements made in the last few decades, racism is still kind of a big problem. It's bigger than the Cos, and he used to solve murders every week. Surprisingly, it's even bigger than a blog entry on a comedy web site. So I don't expect Vogue to step up to the plate and solve it in a single 12 page photo shoot. But I do expect them to at least offer something substantial to the conversation. Drumming up a controversy to sell magazines is a time-honored publishing tactic (you'll recall of course, Cracked's own "Why You're Too Stupid To Vote" issue.) But to invoke a very real, very important social problem, then offer no useful words on the subject? It's hackery.
So, to try and derive something positive out of all of this, I encourage all Cracked readers to forgo their regular purchase of Vogue this month, and also to shake a black man's hand, and tell him: "You're ok. I would trust my women around you."