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Remember those things called "magazines"? They were like websites, except they didn't contain viruses, and some really cool ones had comics. Anyway, some magazines got really famous on account of these things called "covers" -- though as it turned out, these were sometimes more interesting than the content the magazines themselves held. For example ...
Last year, it was revealed that border police were separating asylum-seeking families, imprisoning the children in their own specialized, horrific tiny prisons. The media responded with the appropriate level of fire and fury, and President Trump soon signed an executive order halting the practice (in theory, at least). As part of the media storm, Time published this cover, in which Trump brings a young girl to tears.
One slight problem: After a journalist tracked down the identity of the girl (Yanela Sanchez) in the original photo from which she was 'shopped, it was revealed that she wasn't a victim of the family separation policy. In fairness, Time wasn't the only outlet to use this photo to illustrate the very real horror of the policy, which was likely a result of it having been uploaded to Getty Images with a caption suggesting that they might have been separated. But you'd think that Time would maybe invest some, um, time into getting the full story before handing the "FAKE NEWS!" crowd an easy win.
Time soon came out defending the cover, arguing that it never meant to portray a real-life family separated by Mayor McCheese, and was merely an artistic representation of the policy. This explanation would sound a lot better if A) they hadn't already issued a retraction for an article inside the magazine which described Yanela as having been separated from her parents by border police, and B) there weren't dozens of photos that they could've used instead.
Like this one!
Nazis, like most dumb shitty bullies, don't like it when you make fun of them. And it's not just the re(jack)boot Nazis on Twitter! It's a pattern that's held since the OG Nazis, with them bellyaching over movies like The Great Dictator and comics like Captain America -- particularly that first issue, in which Cap decks Hitler with the same gusto that exploded over Richard Spencer's face a few years back.
American Nazis were so pissed about this cover that they soon started bombarding the offices of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby with hate mail, obscene phone calls, and death threats. ("I once got a letter from a Nazi who told me to pick out any lamppost I wanted on Times Square, because when Hitler arrived, they'd hang me from it.") It was only after they started stalking Simon and Kirby that the mayor stepped in to offer the pair around-the-clock police protection, saying, "You boys over there are doing a good job. The city of New York will see that no harm will come to you." It's not as if the boys were completely defenseless, however, as Kirby's response to one unwelcome visitor demonstrates:
"On occasion the Timely office would get phone calls and letters from Nazi sympathizers threatening the creators of Captain America. Once, while Jack was in the Timely office, a call came from someone in the lobby. When Kirby answered, the caller threatened Jack with bodily harm if he showed his face. Kirby told the caller he would be right down, but by the time Jack reached street level, there was no one to be found."
We can't know exactly what Kirby and Simon's reaction to today's current political situation would be, but we're pretty sure that they'd be proud that Captain America is still giving racists stress headaches.
Back in 2014, Kim Kardashian became an inescapable attention black hole with her now-infamous "Break The Internet" photo shoot for Paper -- which included a cover that provided hours of titillation and assillation to dozens of NBA players.
Other than the clearly unsanitary champagne service methods, do you want to know else what is a little gross about this cover? The fact that it's modeled on a racist-as-all-hell photo shoot from the 1970s known as the "Champagne Incident," which starred a "happy savage pleased to serve" called "Carolina."
This isn't by coincidence. The photographer for both shoots was Jean-Paul Goude, a French photographer who made a career out of photographing "black women in poses that fetishized and animalized their bodies." At one point he directly compared the asses of black women to those of "race horses."
We're not being hyperbolic when we say that this was his career, either. In 1982, Goude published an anthology of these works titled *sigh* Jungle Fever, which was notable for its sheer volume of photos featuring black women in subservient, animalistic poses. "Notable" because we didn't think people outside of serial killers and self-loathing white supremacists had collections like that.
Oh, and there's also the fact that Gourd was himself influenced by 18th-century depictions of Saartjie Baartman, also known as the "Hottentot Venus." She was a South African slave who, having been born with a medical condition called steatopygia, possessed what modern historians might refer to as "a lot of junk in the trunk." She was exhibited in a freak show (for white audiences, natch) that traveled the length and breadth of Europe (at the same time being sexually abused for her posterior). This kick-started, or at least codified, society's still-running creepy obsession with black women's butts.
This might be hard to imagine, but there was a time when pregnant celebrities didn't make a big deal of the fact. They didn't throw a photo of the used pregnancy test on Instagram, they didn't sell their child's image rights for millions to TMZ, and they didn't pose naked and cradling their bumps for glossy magazine covers.
And then "More Demi Moore" happened.
In 1991, Moore agreed to pose for the cover of Vanity Fair while seven months pregnant. The result oozed with such raw sexuality that sellers mandated that the magazine come packaged inside a large white envelope, lest customers burst into flames at the sight of a bare tummy.
The thing is, though, this wasn't the cover that Vanity Fair originally wanted. The original idea was for a photo of Demi wearing a dress so tight that it showed off not only her bump, but also what she ate for breakfast. The photographer, the famed Annie Leibovitz, delivered these shots to the editor and offhandedly mentioned that Demi and husband Bruce Willis had asked her to shoot something just for them: a photo of Demi naked and doing the handbra.
Tina Brown, the editor, fell in love with the shot, and after checking with Demi and Bruce, arranged for the photo to go on the cover. Despite numerous boycotts by retailers such as Walmart, the issue sold 1.2 million copies (compared to an average circulation of 800k). The gamble paid off so well that Vanity Fair celebrated the one-year anniversary of the issue by asking Demi to pose naked for them again, the result being "Demi's Birthday Suit." Although we're going to guess that this didn't do for business suits what the first cover did for pregnant women.
It almost seems like an overstatement to say that 9/11 was a massive suck for comedy (and, you know, life in general). That is, until The Onion published its, er, commemorative(?) edition of the paper, which punched at everything from the government response ("U.S. Vows To Defeat Who It Is We're At War With") to the national mood ("Not Knowing What Else To Do, Woman Bakes American-Flag Cake") to pop culture ("American Life Turns Into Bad Jerry Bruckheimer Movie").
It was an impressive issue ... especially considering that it was the first print issue of The Onion ever distributed in NYC.
After having a joyous party in Manhattan on 9/10 to celebrate their first NYC release the next day, the Onion crew found themselves rushing to cancel everything due to the 9/11phant in the room. It wasn't until the following week that the staffers were able to reconvene and figure out how to cover the attacks, because, well, they had a magazine to publish. And it wasn't as if they could publish the issue written pre-9/11 anymore, in which the lead story was likely an extended bit about subway or pizza or, uh ... people walkin' ova' heah?
Eventually, the issue came into being, but then another problem emerged. They weren't just poking fun at one of the worst terrorist attacks in history, but were also doing so in the wreckage-strewn backyard of said attack. How would the public react? What would the media say? Where would everyone be getting another job? Was Sbarro's hiring?
When they arrived in the office the next morning, after the issue had hit newsstands, the team was surprised to learn that no one had issued a fatwa against them. Rather, the office's fax machine was overflowing with messages of support and congratulations. ("The top one just read 'That's funny, that's funny, that's funny.'") Which is a huge change in how people react to seeing The Onion appear in their news feeds today -- not least because that means one thing and one thing only.
Adam Wears is on Twitter and Facebook, and has a newsletter dedicated to depressing history facts. It's not as heartbreakingly sad as it sounds, promise!
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