Looking at the cover of Vanity Fair’s March edition — you know, the Oscar-season paean that features “up-and-coming” neophytes better described as “young” and “underfed” white chicks — I found myself channeling Madeline Kahn from that same Mel Brooks film:
I’m tired of how, age and weight aside, these arbiters of taste have once again managed to step on every race in America other than the one they’re clearly catering to by featuring 12 white women on their cover.
VF’s attitude was particularly insulting this year, as the wave of hope and change should be firmly set in motion. Did the couture mafia at Conde Nast miss the recent revolution that made equality stylish? Was the leading lady of the most popular films in history left off this cover because she is blue?
I understand that the Vanity Fairies are not running a summer camp to raise the self-confidence of American women — because with confidence, why on earth would we need 312 pages of “buy this or you’ll never be accepted”? But along with all that authority on style and taste, don’t periodicals have any sense of responsibility to avoid removing entire races of people from the pretty pile?
Now please don’t think that I missed the great deal of thought that went into the Vanity Fair cover displaying a dozen white girls. Even with my untrained eye, I did notice that redheads are perfectly book-ending the can-can line. Surely that took more than one art director to imagine. And with serious study I also found that along with the beige and the gray fabrics gracing every size 2 and 4 on that grassy knoll, there is also one stripe of blue. What an amazing feat for the world’s top stylists. And lest we forget: the isosceles placement of brunettes. Yet, all this ingenuity did not camouflage who was missing from this cover.
Frankly, the juncture I love in an actress’ career is rarely her second or third starring role in a studio movie. What makes a leading lady into a star is the role she is allowed to play differently. Like Vera Farmiga’s work in “The Departed” — which may have led to her success in “Up in the Air.” Or Zoe Saldana’s in “Avatar” this season. If she isn’t up and coming, then who is?
Perhaps Freida Pinto, America Ferrera, Alexis Bledel or Ziyi Zhang is. And, of course, Gabourey Sidibe, who doesn’t fit either of the requisite size or color molds to be on this cover — but is, perhaps, the greatest “can-do” story of this century for actresses. Do women really have to just swallow the fact that it’s harder to put a plus-sized black woman on the cover of Vanity Fair than it is to put a black man in the White House?
Here is the real cause for my distress with this Vanity Fair “issue”: I have two daughters, neither of whom is as white as I am. My girls are only 1 year old and a generation away from choosing a profession, yet I already fear the day they consider doing what mommy does. (Nepotism is one of the few perks an actress has to offer her offspring.)
I shudder at the impossibility for my half-Korean women in film — talented, thin, young, beautiful or not — based on Vanity Fair’s cover statement. All the education and experience I could provide my daughters will never make them as lily white as Mary Magdalene. And if auburn hair is the only variation allowed at the next supper of Hollywood’s up-and-coming apostles, then my girls, and a majority of those in America, are still out of luck.
(Diane Farr is known for her roles in “Californication,” “Numb3rs” and “Rescue Me,” and as the author of “The Girl Code.”)
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