Vogue Italia Trivializes Domestic Violence With Glam Fashion Shoot


Italian Vogue, the fashion glossy known for courting controversy (sometimes with shocking insensitivity) is at it again — this time, the magazine is raising awareness for violence against women by having models pose as high-fashion horror movie victims, screaming helplessly as they’re threatened with various weapons. Great!

In the introduction the editorial, Vogue Italia argues that the “assumed incompatibility” between fashion and politics amounts to a “psychological embargo” and makes us all “partners in crime” in ignoring pressing issues. Ok, fine. The question of whether politics has any place in fashion is interesting — but, for the most part, it’s not something that Vogue Italia has ever addressed well. And this spread is particularly egregious, especially because it looks practically identical to several other editorials that have glamorized the female body as a site of violence without having any kind of political message attached.

Obviously, this is a criticism Vogue Italia anticipates:

It doesn’t matter if we run the risk of causing a general uproar with the media or arousing criticism; or if we are accused of exploiting pressing issues just to push our way in newsstands. What is important for us is that at least one of the dozens of women suffering violence every day can feel our nearness. And that those who follow us may feel stimulated to take action, condemn, and support women in trouble. And that they all see that all of us at “Vogue Italia” are on their side: by utterly and radically condemning all types of violence. This awareness urges us to make some noise. In our own way.

But how does recreating scenes from the Shining in a Prada dress do anything to condemn domestic violence or stand with survivors (who number way more than “dozens,” by the way)? The spread is called “Cinematic” — domestic violence as filtered through the lens of cinema as filtered through the lens of fashion editorial. How could the result of that not be trivialized? Here’s the accompanying video:

Shots of a terrified model styled as Shelley Duvall in The Shining; with American Horror Story-style cut to another model’s spread legs. A Japanese voice-over (presumably an homage to Japanese horror cinema). Women screaming, being dragged around. A shot of bloody garbage bags. And then, in some kind of fucked-up pseudo-affirmation of female power, the models become the monsters and kill their attackers, stylishly, before returning to sexualized passivity. “Only when confronted with death can you understand yourself,” the voice over coos as model Issa Lish seductively embraces her assailant’s corpse and closes her eyes.

What part of this is meant to raise awareness about domestic violence? Unlike some of Vogue Italia‘s other stunts, the “Cinematic” spread doesn’t even seem to have anything to do with the political cause it’s exploiting for controversy. It just looks like a homage to horror movies that’s happens to be squarely planted in fashion’s tradition of using violence against women to seem “edgy.”

In an interview with the Independent, Sozzani said that her message was that “the horror of life is bigger than the one that you can see in the movies. This is really a horror show, what we are looking at and what we see every day in every newspaper around the world is how fragile the woman still is today, and how she can be attacked, can be abused, can be killed.” If the horror of life is so much greater than the horror we see in movies, then why reduce it to that? And why would you ever want to present the horror of abuse as anything other than completely horrific — what justification is there recirculating the (already widespread) editorial trope of women looking beautiful and passive as they’re stalked and threatened and hurt?

If Sozzani and co. really wanted to send a message and stand with survivors, they could have released a statement declaring that the publication will never again feature editorials that glamorize violence. Why bother pretending that you’re attacking the status quo when you’re just blatantly reinforcing it?

Images via Vogue Italia.

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