Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Judging a Book By Its Cover

Something that should have been celebrated has been turned into another outcry of racial overtones. Lebron James is the first black man to ever be on the cover of Vogue Magazine, but the historical relevance is not the story. The photo chosen for the cover has been called "barbaric" and has likened King James to images of King Kong. To critics, Lebron looks like the black beast who wants the beautiful white woman (Gisele). To others, it looks like an enthusiastic basketball player, and a model, both striking poses that show their love for what they do.

In my opinion, the issue is not in the cover. While I do see the problem people are having with it, I can also understand why it isn't a big deal. The real issue here is the obvious lack of a minority presence at Vogue magazine. Any person of color, whether they like or dislike the cover, can look at it and immediately see the room for controversy. Looking through the magazine, there are other pictures from the spread that could have easily been chosen for the cover. All it would've taken was for an editor to see the picture and say this isn't the best photo for the cover. Instead there was not a minority with enough editorial say so, who could object to this tactless picture making the front of the magazine.

This cover brings to mind a few controversial decisions for magazine covers. GolfWeek Magazine recently put a noose on its cover (which led to an editor being fired), after the racially charged incident with Tiger Woods and anchorwoman, Kelly Tilghman. Sports Illustrated put Charles Barkley on their cover breaking free from shackles. Rolling Stone had Dennis Rodman depicting a devil on their magazine. All of these are decisions that I don't believe would have been made with a minority holding some weight in the editorial department. In a search for creativity, magazines have taken the image of the black athlete and made him out to be a monstrous, beastly figure.

While the issue with the Vogue magazine cover is current, the underlying theme has been apparent for years. People behind the scenes of some of the most influential magazines in the world, are not taking into account the consequences that come with their "creativity." Racism is a hypersensitive issue, and some things genuinely mean no harm, but certain ideas are best left alone. The problems start way before these magazines go to print. No editor in their right mind would put a white man with a whip and a noose on the cover of Sports Illustrated, so why put a black man shackled and bound with chains on that same magazine. What some call innovative, others call risque and insensitive. Putting a black man on the cover of Vogue Magazine was a first, but putting one in the editorial room might just be groundbreaking.



  1. I am not so sure that the other covers are as significant as the Vogue cover. I completely agree with your point. However, Charles Barkley's quote next to him speaks wonders for a man breaking out of chains. Moreover, a man breaking out of chains is simply a powerful statement to make in general. Dennis Rodman... well... what can I say?

    However, Lebron James image is really over the top for multiple reasons. The fact that the two even look like they are in an uncomfortable position, makes me wonder if that was the best image at all! Not to mention that Lebron's persona is so far from a barbaric figure. He is not a boisterous "ish" talker. He is "one of the nice guys." I think that Vogue thought of their demographic and said to themselves, "Ladies reading Vogue will like this image because it reminds them of a damsel in distress, indirectly." Let's be real, that picture in no way is catered toward a male audience.

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