Vanity Fair's Hollywood Issue Only Slightly Less White Than Oscar Race


There are three things that are constants in this cold, suffocating life: death, taxes, and the ghostly whiteness of everyone on Vanity Fair‘s annual self-congratulatory Hollywood issue. And in its 15th year, on a just-released cover, we’ve gotten… more of the same. Vanity Fair, old reliable. All-white people in Hollywood, and at least four to six stories on the Kennedys per year.

Breaking from last year’s promising turn, which featured a literally record-breaking six people of color, the new issue features Amy Adams, Channing Tatum, and Reese Witherspoon on the front cover, with a gatefold page showcasing Sienna Miller, Benedict Cumberbatch, sole non-white person David Oyelowo, and a bunch of randos. Seriously, who the fuck are these people? Felicity Jones, yeah, seen you on the red carpet. The rest? Who knows, maybe the aspiring cast of an upcoming epic on the influenza pandemic because goddamn are they all paler than real life (seriously, the lighting and make-up is super weird) and look like they just stepped out of 1918.

Annie Leibovitz shot the covers, as ever, but had some interesting things to say about the experience this time:

Annie Leibovitz has photographed all but three of the Hollywood Issue covers since the first edition debuted, in 1995, and she describes this year’s shoot as “hair-rising” in its intimacy: “Usually you shoot from fairly far away, but we wanted to get really close to the actors. We made an effort to create a feeling of intimacy. I pushed into them, shooting to the left and then the right, coming in as tight as I could.”

One thing that she does not consider is that it was “hair-rising” because the actors are actual ghosts, floating in from the past in order to keep Vanity Fair from releasing a Hollywood issue that is unpredictable, for once. Ayo!

But seriously: Vanity Fair is deeply entrenched with Hollywood and especially the Oscars rigamarole, having hosted the must-attend, A-list post-Oscars party for decades. Any of their editors would no doubt defend the cover with the assertion that it simply showcases the most viable and likely-to-win nominees, as it has year to year. But by doing so, the magazine is propping up an establishment that resolutely does not reflect its viewing public, and also further pushes itself into irrelevance. It has an opportunity to use its considerable power to shape a new future for Hollywood, one that is more diverse, stronger, and more accurately depicting the stories audiences are interested in. But of course, that would mean challenging the world in which it’s so happily entrenched.

No, Vanity Fair does not appear to have any interest in breaking from the establishment. Holler at three stories a year about the love affairs of European royals in the 1960s. But still, as a very powerful print publication run by the venerable Graydon Carter, formerly of Spy, one would hope that it was at least interested in giving its readers pieces that we cannot not presage, year after miserable oops-we-just-found-new-Marilyn-Monroe-diaries year.

Image via Annie Leibovitz/Vanity Fair.

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