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Vogue & Hurricane Sandy (Rant)

I don’t know if you guys heard, but last year a pretty enormous superstorm hit a large portion of the USA’s eastern coast. The natural disaster resulted in widespread tragedy, destroyed property, immense power failures, first responder bravery and even unexpected bipartisan rebuilding efforts in the country’s government. One thing none of us could have predicted, however, was Vogue’s eventual response.

Vogue’s February issue features a spread that has by now garnered a lot of publicity, and most of it is decisively negative. The spread “honors” and “celebrates” the heroes of NYC that first responded to the crisis, putting the lives of others before their own and working impossible jobs for long hours saving people by pairing them up with some of fashion’s best-known models in haute-couture in a spread shot by legendary Annie Leibovitz.

Seriously, Vogue? Seriously? Don’t get me wrong, Vogue is still the bible of fashion, but this is so obviously lacking in taste that it’s making me question the professional ability of Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour, and that’s saying quite a bit. 

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There’s just something jarringly incongruous about the very utilitarian uniforms and ordinary clothing worn by the rightful heroes in contrast with the bright pieces of haute couture. The photos also highlight the kind of unrealistic and odd body type of runway models when right beside “normal people”, and they seem like frail little birds who have no place in the ravaged streets of New York.

Annie Leibovitz’s photos are still beautiful, and it’s an absolute shame that Vogue didn’t just run an entire spread on the heroes without the models who purposely pop out at you in brighter colors and from higher, more dominant heights than the heroes themselves. The worst part about the spread is that it was directed in a traditional way with no attempt to integrate the models into the scene harmoniously, which makes the heroes standard props in an otherwise unremarkable fashion piece. I think we can all agree that they were far from props in the disaster itself.

Another huge point anyone should take issue with is the fact that these leggy models are shown draped on the arms of firemen and generously gracing male-dominated rescue scenes with their leggy beauty; it reinforces obsolete (but commercially successful) traditions of “hero” behavior: Hey dude, be manly and save people, and you get rewarded with a hot babe!

The captions accompanying the photos attempt to describe the importance of the people they’re picturing, but any attempt at honoring them falls flat when they’re immediately followed with a list of what each model wore. I wonder if they made the infantrymen thoroughly wash their hands before posing with the models to make sure that no thousand-dollar piece of clothing was dirtied.

What do you think? Commendable attempt or disconnected disaster? Check out the gallery for the rest of the spread!

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