18 June 2013

Internet Pays Attention To Female Authors When Used In Tasteless Fashion Spread

Vice is a lifestyle news/entertainment brand out of Brooklyn who most people in not-Brooklyn heard of when they took Dennis Rodman to North Korea. That is, they can swear up and down that they are hard-hitting journalists and social content connectors etc. but they are primarily in the business of getting attention on the shock line. (The New Yorker profile "The Vice Guide To The World" is a great place to read more about the brand as a whole.) But so is CNN, the 10 o'clock news and apparently members of the Republican party, to be honest.

Vice successfully shocked the Internet today by publishing a fashion spread themed around female authors who committed suicide (plus Dorothy Parker, who actually died of a heart attack -- fact checking!!) Heavy hitters like Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath were represented in poses reflecting the manner of their deaths, along with fashion credits in case your primary reaction to a woman pointing a gun at her mouth is "Ooh, I wonder who styled her?" I can't link to the spread because Vice has already taken it down and posted one of those boilerplate apologies that makes no one happy, so you will have to go through and look for those images yourself.

As a person who has known and had people close to me know that kind of despair, I thought this was in such bad taste as to be funny. Hilarious, even. I mean, this is like an "America's Next Top Model" reject-level idea. If you put this in your short story, your class would make you take it out. Who knows how many people had to approve this concept and apparently took leave of their senses in order to do so? What is even funnier about it is the theme of the whole issue is "Women in Fiction" and it probably holds a lot of articles that I would be interested in -- I hear there's a great Mary Gaitskill short story, a great Marilynne Robinson interview... how can I bring myself to read them now, I don't know. But clearly not one person, but a lot of people thought "Yeah, that'll be funny and captivating." Well, the latter is up to you to decide. There are a few images that are very well shot.

But I feel the worst for the authors included in the spread whom I have never heard of, who have now had to feed the content machine and will always be the "Oh yeah, she was one of those in that Vice thing." San Mao, Elise Cohen, Iris Chang. As if it's enough for Vice to call them "writers whose lives we very much wish weren’t cut tragically short" and have us all forget any more salient details of their lives. We couldn't even give these authors the last note of dignity in not using their deaths to sell stuff (including the Vice brand in that "stuff.") It'll just be chalked up to one of Vice's "bad-boy" stunts and, inevitably, forgiven. Because this is the culture we live in, and boy, is that the most depressing thing of all.

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