Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Burn Hollywood Burn: Racism (or Racialism) in Vanity Fair?

From the offset, lemme just state that I don’t recall ever opening up a copy of Vanity Fair magazine in my entire life. Not in waiting rooms, not ever. Some have noted that Vanity Fair has a whites-only track record. The argument is quite extensive with plenty of evidence to support the claim. Still, I always enjoy playing devil’s advocate (hopefully this post won’t make it seem as if I’m playing white devil’s advocate).

It boils down to this: Why are we pointing the finger at Vanity Fair if the problem, so to speak, comes from the acting industry? Though it has made significant strides in the past decade, Hollywood admittedly lacks a representation of ethnic and racial diversity. But why should Vanity Fair be to blame if Tinseltown’s fresh faces are, simply, white? Can you think of any actresses who have made some headway in the past year who weren’t white? I can think of three: Freida Pinto, Zoe Saldana and Gabourey Sidibe. Honestly, that’s all I’ve got.

Freida Pinto would’ve been a good fit a year ago, when Slumdog Millionaire won the Oscar for best film. I don’t think she’s a particularly great actress, but whatever. Since then, she’s been doing commercials for L’Oreal. That’s it. No dice. Zoe Saldana starred in two hit films this year: Star Trek and Avatar. She’d also be a great fit. Problem is, she was already included in a similar photoshoot two years ago for the magazine’s “Fresh Faces” feature. No dice.

I still haven’t seen Precious, but from what I’ve heard and read about the film, Gabourey Sidibe did a stellar job. But let’s ask ourselves one question: would it make any sense to have the collective of skinny and white Fresh Faces ‘10 girls sitting around Gabourey Sidibe? Sensitivity put aside, the mental image itself is a bit comical – and that has nothing to do with race! Besides, if they went ahead with that shoot, wouldn’t they receive just as many accusations of racism? The stark contrast between Sidibe and the skinny white girls would earn the magazine even more condemnation than it’s receiving right now! My point is that the solution to the “problem” isn’t pressuring Vanity Fair into incorporating token ethnicities into their spreads: it’s about diversifying Hollywood.