340 meters per second

Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.

&mdash Alfred Adler (1870-1937)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Be it ever so humble.

Good golly miss Molly, I am so glad to be home. To coin a country song, ain't no place worth a damn if my baby ain't by my side. More on that later.

Naturally, I have growled/garbled/gurgled anecdotes to share, but they'll have to wait while I unpack and decipher my handwritten notes from the coast. In the interim, I leave you with a post I started drafting before I left and finished today: my reaction to the much-discussed "naked" issue of Vanity Fair.

Until tomorrow, kittens.

* * *

Did I miss a memo? When did it become cool to wear naked women as accessories in high-profile magazine spreads? By now you've heard about -- and may have seen -- Vanity Fair's much-ballyhooed Naked Cover(TM):

It's like, okay -- the aptly-named "retrosexist" phenomenon (thanks, Steenblogen!) can be blamed for some of this, but who is this Tom Ford jagoff and why is it okay for him to trot out 35-year-old stereotypes to wild applause? This isn't daring, it's the same tired old sexism! This esthetic isn't "fresh," it's older than me! I mean, come on... I've seen more edge at the end of a Q-Tip.

In case you haven't seen the spread, here's a shot-by-shot breakdown (may as well get my 7$ worth out of the mag):

  • Dakota Fanning, elegantly coiffed and coolly challenging. Her bio opens with a value assessment ("$3 million a picture") and ends with the ultimate compliment, an assertion of authenticity: "she's the real thing." Marketed like a soft drink, a twelve-year-old girl is accorded a modicum of respect. She is the only female in this spread to receive such an honour.

  • Peter Sarsgaard may be suspended in "Japanese bondage ropes," but he's impeccably dressed in a Prada suit and $800 shoes.

  • Sienna Miller's naked. In heels. Wearing diamonds and smoking. 'Nuff said.

  • Jake Gyllenhaal's brooding mug is framed in a forgettable black and white portrait that makes him look hunky yet serious. T-shirt and slacks.

  • Heath Ledger mirrors his Brokeback costar in a black and white three-quarters shot. Positively swaddled in jeans and a Gucci coat, he looks chilly and vaguely suspicious.

  • Jason Schwartzman opted for the feral cokehead look: Dior suit accessorized with hideous beard, Hermès shirt, gold Cartier watch and nameless, headless naked woman standing at straight-backed attention beside him.

  • Camilla Belle gets the vulnerable, alone-in-the-woods, looking-over-shoulder-at-camera, "will you save me or rape me?" shot. Her poofy white dress may even be torn.

  • Eric Bana is a glistening porn star: too cheesy to be sexy, and any penetrability implied by his near-nakedness is offset by the heavy gold watch, muscular calves and see-me-not sunglasses.

  • A bored and listless Natalie Portman appears to be naked, but there might be a swimsuit under her folded arms.

  • Viggo Mortensen's supposed to be in the midst of afterglow-drenched canoodling, but he just looks sleepy. Also fully clothed, he's featured alongside a pair of women's feet: with no shoes, socks, stockings or visible hemline and obviously belonging to a woman reclining on the bed, it's safe to say she's naked too -- or close enough.

  • Patricia Clarkson is dressed at least, but her neckline plunges below her sternum and she's doing the whole arms-behind-the-head, holding-hair-aloft, come-hither thing.

  • Angelina Jolie's naked in a bathtub, flaunting her tattoos and asscrack.

  • Harvey and Bob Weinstein are armoured up in Armani and Brooks Bros.

  • Rosamund Pike reclines, exhausted, in an improbable dress. She seems to have been hunted to ground and is now awaiting the killing stroke.

  • Topher Grace wears a posh waiter's jacket while being scissored between an anonymous woman's naked legs.

  • Reese Witherspoon, normally a self-assured and confident type-A with little fear of the word "feminist," is infantilized in a just-below-the-labia babydoll dress, very adult stilettos and a doll. She's actually holding a doll.

  • Philip Seymour Hoffman is painfully contrived, with his half-finished cigarette, two-day stubble and razor-sharp cuffs. Fully clothed, natch.

  • Taye Diggs -- first non-white body! -- is posed à la Playgirl: reclining, arm behind his head, naked on a bearskin rug. I'm sure the juxtaposition of the animal imagery alongside the black body is entirely coincidental and in no way indicates any kind of neocolonial reification of his sexuality. He is raced three times in the brief bio accompanying the image. No wonder he looks uncomfortable.

  • Nick Cave wears a three-piece pinstripe and steely squint.

  • Anne Hathaway is breathless and accessible in a strapless lace disaster: mouth ajar, dark eyes glazed and with a ribbon around her waist, she's a dopey gift for the viewer.

  • Max Minghella looks sharp in Dior and Gucci.

  • Jamie Bell appears to be removing his belt, but he's dressed.

  • Jonathan Rhys Meyers' whole head fills a bronze close-up. Might be shirtless, hard to tell.

  • Michelle Monaghan is draped on the hood of a car, head hanging over the grill. She's either an accessory or an accident victim.

  • Pamela anderson and Mamie Van Doren (oh, Tom -- you're so clever) are... well, it's a so-ironic-it-isn't boob shot. Let's move along.

  • Joy Bryant is naked, full frontal with discrete shadowing.

  • Michelle Yeoh shows a lot of leg in a beautiful black dress. This shot actually doesn't bother me: she looks strong and poised.

  • And the next page features an immense breast. With a two-foot-wide aureola, this gargantuan prop is supposed to be funny, I think: the subject of the shot is Garth Fisher, M.D., well-heeled facecarver to the stars. Never heard of him.

  • Jennifer Aniston is naked, curled up in a fetal position and softly out of focus. That's either a harsh indictment of her life post-Brad, or just one more sexist image. Hmmm... wait, give me a minute...

  • Q'orianka Kilcher (great name!) is demurely posed in a Lanvin dress which plunges to just above the navel. Her bio makes sure you know she's exotic as hell.

  • Terence Howard is sweetly dapper in a three-piece Gucci and big honkin' watch.

  • Zooey Deschanel, subtitled "The Living Doll," creeps the hell out of me. Gaudy stockings, mussed-up makeup and bouffant hair accentuate her childlike mien and her "dress" looks more like a role of crisp new painter's dropcloth wrapped a couple times around her torso. What I find really revolting is the setting: the filthy back of an old van, with a spare tire, quilted blanket and streaky windows completing her own trashy look, the scene resembles nothing more than a still from an episode of Law & Order: SVU. Right before the editor cuts to commercial break, we see the innocent girl from the perspective of her abductor: teary and trapped in the back of an anonymous, decrepit white van. Fucking ew.

  • Laying back crosswise on a bed, shirt unbuttoned, lips pouty and stare dreamy, Joaquin Phoenix looks hot.

  • And the grand finale... George Clooney "directing" a small crowd of almost-naked women. Seventeen soaking-wet women in their underwear pantomime the actions of a film crew while he pretends to direct, looking for all the world like the captain of the good ship Benny Hill. Naturally, he's bone-dry and fully clothed.

Final count:

Women (as featured "subjects"): 19

Men: 20

Anonymous naked women: 22 (includes random body parts and decapitated torsos)

Men shown vulnerable: 0

Women shown vulnerable: 14 (give or take; admittedly, this assessment is subjective)

Instances of kiddie porn: 2 (and I'm not counting Fanning)

Moments when I considered that Tom Ford and Vanity Fair might possibly believe women are actual persons, both ontologically and legally, with the capacity for independent thought, self-determination and subjecthood: 0.


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