In another episode of “Why the F*&k Do We Care?” we bring you the latest “hot” story burning up the blogosphere: Anna Wintour is reportedly courting GIRLS creator Lena Dunham for an upcoming cover of Vogue, allegedly in the hopes of bringing her plaid-wearing, Brooklyn-living, bingo-winged fans into high fashion fold. Until Balmain leather sweatpants retail for $55 at the local Urban Outfitters, we wish you good luck, Anna.
This non-news news has turned the fashion world asunder, leaving it gasping and cheering in equal measure, with headlines like “Is Lena Dunham Worthy of a Vogue Cover?” and “Lena Dunham Vogue Cover in the Works? Here are 7 Reasons We Hope The Rumors Are True.” Like Natalie Portman’s croisé devant-crazed mother in Black Swan, the passionate involvement here seems, to be honest, slightly bizarre. Though the support claims to be positive, the excitement we’re seeing is anything but.
Between the enthusiastic lines of these online reports, the language is rife with unconsciously passive aggressive negativity, a deep-seeded cultural body dysmorphia:
“The world of fashion is infamously known for their ‘size matters’ attitude when it comes to models, especially on magazine covers — but it looks like Vogue is ready to step away from this stereotype!”
“The question remains as to how Vogue will handle her photo shoot.”
I imagine with a camera…
“Featuring a regular, non-model figure like Lena’s would do wonders for our body image.”
[Writer doubles over in laughter.]
Let’s examine the quote from the anonymous source that started this whole mess to begin with. According to said source, Anna Wintour is “willing to violate a lot of Vogue traditions… including putting [Lena Dunham] on the cover even though she doesn’t really conform to the body type that Vogue has featured for most of its history.” Willing? Violate? We’re not talking about sacrificing our safety and civil liberties to shuttle refugees out of Syria here; we’re talking about putting a – pardon my frankness – “chubby girl” on the cover of a magazine. Fashion may be a great many things, but it will never be the Peace Corps.
From a sales perspective, I understand the need of publications to vet potential cover stars in terms of their marketplace viability. Vogue ain’t working pro bono, after all. The reason rail-thin models and megastars grace its covers is because the average woman buys it, plain and simple. The best selling Vogue cover of all time featured 10 supermodels in their ‘90s prime, none of whom represent the average woman by any means. Alternatively, Adele, talented “chubby girl” who British Vogue so “bravely” risked its reputation on for a 2012 cover, made for rather miserable sales. The issue was reportedly one of the worst sellers of all time. Sadly, one might deduce that fat = flop in the superficial world of fashion. And what about this whole Melissa McCarthy ELLE debacle? Did she put the coat on or was she forced to put the coat on? Honestly, who the fuck cares?! That’s being labeled a controversy? Bill Clinton getting a hummer in the oval office… that was a controversy, this? This is a wardrobe choice.
At the end of the day, covers are, from an insider perspective, strictly a numbers game. If this wasn’t the case, we’d likely be seeing more exciting up-and-comers and risky unknowns gracing our mainstream magazine covers – and for that, we would be better off. Instead, we’re delivered the same Blake Lively slop, month in, month out. Lena Dunham — with her pixie hair, her real breasts, that “untraditional” figure – isn’t your average Vogue cover model, making it a valid conversation… internally. Simply put, this is a discussion for the grownups, one that should be left for Wintour and the accountants, not Huffington Post and Fashionista.
While everyone’s been prattling on about what a positive message a Vogue cover a la Dunham would be sending to women about their poor, sad, normal, non-model bodies, they’ve been completely missing the point. Who cares if Dunham is a size whatever? And why is it so surprising that a 27-year-old multi-award winning writer/producer/actress command the cover of a major magazine? [Bitch earned it, even if her inner thighs touch.] Isn’t this regalement of successful women something that we, as consumers, should expect? Hell, isn’t it something that we should demand?
Unfortunately, the last two days have illuminated a more depressing reality. Not only does Vogue place such superficial limitations on the consideration of its cover stars, we readers do so in equal measure. It’s not enough to raise our female powerhouses on pedestals for their successes carte blanche; we’ve got to passive aggressively tear them down in the process, “praising” them for their utter normalness – their cellulite, their jean size, their dull dietary habits — while only vaguely acknowledging the extraordinary. How terribly GIRLS-ish, indeed.