Vanity Fair Competes with Playboy

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Tom Ford and Keira Knightly

on the cover of Vanity Fair

I’ll admit that Vanity Fair is not exactly a high defender of morality in our culture, even on a good day. The ads they accept in their pages have been problematic for quite some time. But for the most part, their cover art, even though edgy, has stayed on the right side of discretion.

But this month, they leapt over the line, with a cover photograph of Tom Ford — fully clothed — biting Keira Knightly’s ear. Knightly is completely naked. Reclining in front of them is Scarlett Johanssen, also completely nude.

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CNBC Video Clip Here

So much for progress toward female empowerment. That’s the argument I made on CNBC Wednesday night when they asked me to discuss the cover with an editor from Forbes and Todd Myers, Lead Consultant for Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve.

I’ve included the clip up above if you’d like to see it. But WARNING! Almost the entire segment is the three of us talking over b-roll of the Vanity Fair cover. They just replay lingering shots of the nudity over and over and over again.

There are two issues that particularly trouble me about the cover. The first is the juxtaposition of Ford, the man, being fully clothed . . . while the women are nude. Feminists ought to be outraged. I am. What’s the message being sent there? There are several — pick one. None of them are ones you want sent to your daughter.

And that brings me to my second concern. What does this cover say to young women about success in Hollywood? Anywhere? Both Knightley and Johanssen are well-respected young actresses. Keira Knightly, in particular, is one that my own girls have admired.

I wish these two had had the moral courage to take a stand for virtue.

Or, if that couldn’t clear that high bar, at least make a stand for talent over crass commodification.

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Rachel McAdams

Let me be sure, then, to send praises along to one who did: Rachel McAdams, another young Hollywood actress (“Wedding Crashers”). Defamer reports that she was supposed to be on the cover with Keira and Scarlett, but when she found out the plan for the shoot involved nudity, she left. . . and fired her publicist. Good going, Rachel.

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5 Responses

  1. Pat Patterson says:

    Maybe Tom Ford looked terrible without his clothes?

  2. Joan says:

    A difference worth considering (manet vs VF cover): Manet’s figures were painted; his subjects were unknowns, if indeed models were used at all; his purpose of the painting was the creation of art. The VF cover photo was an actual photograph; the photograph portrayed well-known subjects; the purpose of the photo was to sell magazines.

  3. Jane says:

    I just don’t get it. I agree, I think women should be outraged but it seems when it comes to Hollywood, no one says a word! I am always pleasantly surprised when a young and beautiful actress DECLINES to appear in the nude. So many have done it to “futher their career”. Amazing.

  4. Foster says:

    So you’d rather Tom Ford have been naked too?

  5. Michelle says:

    I am a huge fan of Scarlett Johanssen. I think she exhibits a tremendous amount of class, maturity, and talent for such a young age; and being her peer, I can look up to that. I personally think that a lot of times with the women’s movement, there is a tremendous amount of hypocrisy. Part of the women’s movement is about liberation and a woman’s right to chose. Feminists say that such activities as appearing nude or stripping, or even appearing in pornography, etc. are fighting censorship and are issues regarding a woman’s control of her own body-a sort of sexual liberation. But when women are inclined to do these things, they’re labeled as a “Slut” or it’s considered in poor taste…I whole-heartedly disagree with this backlash that these young celebrities are experiencing. After all, it was ultimately their choice; and isn’t that part of the woman’s liberation?

    I disagree with the argument that these women are commodifying themselves to appear powerful. As with virtually all celebrities, they are participating in the obligatory PR moves that are not so much needed, but expected and demanded for high-level performers.

    And so what if the male is not nude, I don’t believe that this is something that is perpetuating patriarchy. I think the blame for this inequality should be place where it is needed: the family, religion, education, child-rearing practices, the state, job discrimination, unequal pay, and even other magazines that tell women to be perfect and submissive, and teach them to pleasure men and be what’s expected of them. Additionally I think that this is an example of the double standards that pervades society. It probably would not be such an issue if it were men posing nude, and the woman was clothed.

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