Vanity Fair’s Racism Sings: Don’t Cha Wish You Were White Girl Like Me. Don’t Cha.
“Mirror . . . mirror on the wall who the fairest of them all?” In most fairytales, the mirror would reply, “Snow white is the fairest of them all.” However, in the case of Vanity Fair’s March cover, the names are Abbie Cornish, Kristen Stewart, Carey Mulligan, Amanda Seyfried, Rebecca Hall, Mia Wasikowska, Emma Stone, Evan Rachel Wood, and Anna Kendrick . . . all up incoming young white Hollywood actresses. According to Shine’s writer, Joanna Douglass,
Vanity Fair writer Evgenia Peretz calls out the young cover stars by their best attributes: “downy-soft cheeks,” “button nose,” “patrician looks and celebrated pedigree,” “dewy, wide-eyed loveliness,” “Ivory-soap-girl features.”
Clearly, Evgenia Peretz has over-dosed on the proverbial white supremacist poisoned apple. I know what you’re thinking. Do such apples exist? Yes, they do just ask Pat Robertson what he thinks about Haiti or ask the producer and director of Couples Retreat about taking the black comedian, Faizon Love, off the European posters.
Anyways, back to the topic at hand, the cover of Vanity Fair. In some ways, I shouldn’t be upset because if you look at Vogue, Cosmo, Elle, and every other non-people of color magazine which is the majority of magazines in circulation, women of color, in particular black women are not on them. We would be lucky if we ended up in the advertisement pages in the back of the magazine selling fortunes like Miss Cleo. However, what “burns my butter” about the cover of Vanity Fair and the pictures within the magazine is that the young white starlets are painted if not tightly corseted to be seen a prim, innocent, ethereal, fairy-like, whimsical, virginal, eternal girl, and pre-civil war Miss Scarlet O’Hare. All in all, they represent the ideal of what all women are suppose to be—traditionally feminine, asexual until marriage, and in need of male protection. And to that I say, bah humbug.
And, let me be honest, not only does the imagery drive me crazy, but the fact that Vanity Fair could not find one young black, Latina, or Asian actress to dawn their cover. Really! I know that there are not many blockbuster roles written for young or mature women of color in Hollywood, but I know that they exist. What about Zoe Saldana? Was she not the lead female actress in the best selling movie of all time, Avatar? What about Rutina Wesley from True Blood? What about Megan Good? What about Keke Palmer who has her own show on Nickelodeon, True Jackson? What about Shareeka Epps in Half Nelson? What about Gabby Sidibe who’s nominated for an Oscar? What about Jurnee Smollett who has been acting since she was child? Really, Vanity Fair you could not find one black female actress to include in your March issue featuring “up in coming” young starlets.
I know some of you are saying, “Well, they don’t work consistently like the nine white female actresses listed above.” And my response to that is, “You’re right, but the reason why they do not act consistently in films is that Hollywood won’t produce movies featuring them as the lead actresses.” Of course, they can play supporting roles like Taraji Henson’s Mammy role in The Case of Benjamin Button or Viola Davis’ desperate mother in Doubt, but never will they have the longevity of block buster roles and acclaim that Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton, and Sandra Bullock (i.e. Captain-Save-A-Negro) enjoy.
Whiteness trumps all. And, it makes me so sick. It’s akin to someone clawing on a chalkboard with their finger nails singing in their best Clay Akin’s voice “Ice, Ice, Baby.” Furthermore, it makes me think about one of my former students who like Pecola Breedlove in the Bluest Eye prayed nightly to be white. She wanted her chocolate skin to be the color of ivory, her hair to be the color sun beams, and her eyes the color of blue sky. My student wanted to be white and there was nothing I could do to convince her that she was a beautiful black girl. Nothing.
Which really got me to thinking about how valuable we are and if we could ever be seen to be beautiful (i.e. worthy of lead acting roles) without straightening our hair, without pinching our noses (yes, my grandmother told me to do that when I was younger so that I would not have a large nose when I got older), without being born fair skin (i.e. Halle Berry and Beyonce), and without looking like we never had a plate of Big Momma’s red beans and rice. Are we valuable? I know that we are, but when you “consistently” see images like Vanity Fair’s cover sometimes you wonder or simply believe like my former student that being a white woman is the ideal. My, my, my . . . how insidious if not downright inconspicuous is the system of white supremacy.
And you know what’s also so fucked up messed up is that instead of holding movie studios and the fashion world accountable for their narrow, discriminatory, and at times unhealthy standards of beauty, white soccer moms who watch Oprah—yes, I’m calling them out—are now criticizing Michelle Obama for her comments about both of her daughters weights. Really, white soccer moms who worship Oprah are you seriously trying to pick a fight with Michelle Obama (i.e. all black women) about her talking about wanting her daughters to be healthy? What you need to be doing is worrying about how the images in Vanity Fair are intentionally designed to make our daughters binge and purge.
Now back to the topic at hand. As, I looked through the Vanity Fair’s pictures in the magazine all I could think about was re-mixing the Pussy Cat Doll song, Don’t Cha. Yep, the revised Pussy Cat Doll’s song goes, “I know you like me. I know you want me. Don’t wish you were White Girl like me. Don’t wish you could consistently act in films like me. Don’t Cha . . . Don’t cha.” And to that I say, bah hum bug. Girl please, I prefer to mimic Angela Bassett, Alfre Woodard, Regina King, and all the other black female actresses who should have won Oscars many moons ago.