Baby, It’s a Wild World: Navigating Popular Culture as a Feminist.

Recently, a friend questioned why I listen to Stone Cold Steve Austin’s podcast when he’s a known intimate partner abuser. He makes a fair point, as I have shunned Sean Penn and Michael Fassbender movies and R. Kelly and Chris Brown’s music (not that I really had an interest in them to begin with) because of their woman-hating ways. But by the same token, I listen to 2Pac, John Lennon and Prince despite knowing their histories of similar assaults.

I replied that you can’t watch, listen to or read anything these days where the creator and/or their characters haven’t committed a crime or moral transgression. There’s Woody Allen, Game of Thrones, Michael Jackson and, to varying degrees, Bryan Singer, Fassbender and Halle Berry of the current X-Men film.

A lot of the pop cultural morsels I’ve mentioned above I first consumed before I knew about their creators’ wicked ways. I got into professional wrestling and all its problems, rap and hip hop and their misogynist lyrics, and the Beatles and MJ as a teen whose feminist ideals were in their infant stages, but by no means as staunchly militant as they are today. It’s easy to make the conscious effort not to consume products made by artists whose questionable morals you’re already aware of, not so much when you’ve already got a passion for them. (I’ve had conversations with people in recent weeks who did not know about Singer’s rape allegations nor Fassbender’s violent streak; their inner torment about liking something made by someone reprehensible [or at least someone who’s committed reprehensible acts] was evident in their pained, conflicted responses.) When I pointed this out to my abovementioned podcast friend, he asked whether that meant I thought I was exempt from examining the issues with famous men being rewarded for their transgressions just because I happen to like the stuff they produce.

“Absolutely not,” I replied. But by the same token, if we were to avoid problematic pop culture, we’d never leave the house!

I think the most important thing is not to make excuses about the problematic pop culture we choose to consume. I can’t say if I’ll continue to listen to Austin’s podcast but if I do I’ll be sure not to be hypocritical about it. No excuses here.

Related: Why Are Famous Men Forgiven for Their Wrongdoings, While Women Are Vilified for Much Less?

Elsewhere: [The Smoking Gun] Stone Cole Steve Austin Roughs Up Girlfriend.

[Lipstick Alley] Flashback: Sean Penn Beat Madonna for 9 Hours in 1987; Charged with Felony Domestic Assault.

[TMZ] Girlfriend Fears Inglorious Basterds Star.

[Village Voice] Read the “Stomach-Churning” Sexual Assault Allegations Against R. Kelly in Full.

[MTV] Chris Brown Police Report Provides Details of Altercation.

[Lipstick Alley] Why Isn’t Tupac Remembered as a Rapist?

[Listverse] Top 10 Unpleasant Facts About John Lennon.

[Daily Mail] Sinead O’Connor Talks About Punch Up With Prince.

[Vanity Fair] Mia’s Story.

[Jezebel] Game of Thrones, Sex & HBO: Where Did TV’s Sexual Pioneer Go Wrong?

[Wikipedia] 1993 Child Sexual Abuse Accusations Against Michael Jackson.

[Slate] What We Know So Far About the Hollywood Sex Ring Allegations.

[People] Collision Course.

[TheVine] Can a Feminist Love Professional Wrestling?

[TheVine] Wonder Why They Call U Bitch.

[Social Justice League] How to Be a Fan of Problematic Things.

Magazines: Vogue Schmogue—Why US Vogue Ain’t Everything it’s Cracked Up to Be.

 

Lately I’ve been thinking about the conglomerate that is US Vogue.

If The Devil Wears Prada is anything to go by, hundreds of thousands of dollars are wasted on ample, professionally decorated office space, shoots that will never make it into the magazine, catering and gifts to pander to the fickle fashion industry.

Sure, Vogue is the foremost fashion magazine the world turns to to see what’s hot and what’s not, so they can afford to be a bit hoity-toity, right?

Well have you looked at a copy of US Vogue lately? The last one I bought was earlier this year, when I got a bit caught up in the hype of Sex & the City 2, with the movie’s star, Sarah Jessica Parker, on the cover. What a waste of money: if I’ve ever felt buyers remorse over a magazine, it was then.

The only other copies I own of the US edition is Blake Lively’s first outing on the cover, and the Michelle Obama edition, for obvious historical/social/cultural reasons, and both were fairly lacklustre.

So why does the title command such attention and reverence in the fashion industry, when other mags like rivals Harper’s Bazaar and Elle, and quirkier titles like NYLON, clearly possess higher qualities of writing and, oftentimes, fashion. Blasphemous, I know, but someone had to say it.

Personally, I think it might be time to employ a new editor. Anna Wintour has been at the helm for twenty years, and perhaps she’s overstayed her welcome. Sure, there have been some great fashion shoots by the likes of Peter Lindbergh and Annie Leibovitz, but if that’s all the mag has to offer (most of which you can access online), what’s the point of buying it?

A recent interview with Vogue creative director, the flame haired right-hand woman to Wintour, Grace Coddington, in Australian Vogue, made me wonder if she isn’t better suited to the editorship. She has an impeccable eye for composition and a quirky touch, something which the über-polished and stony Wintour does not.

But perhaps we should be looking to a younger, fresher take on the magazine, hence, a younger, fresher editor. Coddington is pushing 70 and god knows how old the elusive Wintour is. (A Wikipedia search reveals she turns 61 on November 3, one day after my birthday, but I liked the way the previous sentence sounds!) The staleness of the brand is evidenced by the same old cover girls, Lively, Sienna Miller (who fronted last year’s September issue) and Keira Knightly, actresses whom nobody really cares all that much about. The magazine’s effort to inject some much needed diversity saw the boring Halle Berry take the September issue’s cover, the first black woman to front it since Naomi Campbell in 1989! (Somewhat of a token gesture, perhaps?) Carey Mulligan is on the October cover, and while she’s definitely a step away from the usual Vogue-ette, she’s still a bit of a yawnfest.

Magazine retailer mag nation also laments the September issue, in that it is really the only popular edition of the title all year, and in order to make sure they have enough stock come August, they become overstocked with issues consumers don’t want because of three-monthly ordering increments.

While there’s no doubt US Vogue will always hold a spot on the newsstand, it seems as though today’s Vogue is a mere shadow of what the brand once was. A nice token, but if you’re looking for style and substance in your magazine, try Marie Claire.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Vogue Might Just Be Culturally Relevant Again.

[mag nation] Why is The September Issue a Big Deal?