Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Jimmy Fallon, Vanity Fair and Women as Props

Well, Jimmy Fallon, singer of corny songs has made it.  He's on the cover of Vanity Fair.  As is his style he was very humble and even a little self depreciating about it.
Okay - this is one of those - is this happening - moments. As a kid from upstate NY - Vanity Fair is... a major investment. Yes. You know it, all of the big stars are on it - classy, cool and untouchable. I WOULD'NT even dream to be mentioned in it let alone the cover. To spend my money to buy a magazine was a giant deal. (Rolling Stone, Tigerbeat, MAD) But Vanity Fair? That is a down payment. Just BUYING A COPY meant that you know what's up and you are doing well. I remember making that investment and reading and reading and keeping the magazine - like an old book. It was like the actors got a story (not necessarily the one they wanted) but a real story - plus Dominick Dunne murder mysteries - it kindof was a book.I still have some of my favorite magazines (SPIN, Details and Grand Royal (beastie boys fans know what I'm talking about)). To meet David Kamp and know he's writing about me is weird. To have ANNIE LEIBOVITZ take a picture of you is a story alone! These supermodels Alessandra Ambrosio and Doutzen Kroes were in the east river at 7am in December FREEZING in a bathing suit (it's the 50th ann of SI Swimsuit Issue) I was freezing in my suit as well but these guys were troopers. I asked them if they ever looked BAD in anything. They are so pretty. They said of course!! It was then that I realized I could've been a supermodel. Anyway- here I am. On the cover of Vanity Fair and I'm psyched, amazed, shocked and happy. Just so you know. J (source)
I must admit that I am not a huge fan of Fallon; however, I won't miss him on SNL if he appears with Justin Timberlake because together, they crack me the hell up.  I love that Fallon cannot keep a straight face no matter what the sketch is about.  Also, who doesn't love their history of rap sessions, even though they amount to appropriation?  It is sweet to see a celebrity so honestly thrilled and even humbled by their experiences but I take huge umbrage with this photo.  Why did Fallon need two women hanging off of his arm?  They are not related to him, his history, or even where his career is headed and yet there Fallon is with not one but two supermodels on his arm.

This image suggests that women are a prize for men who garner fame and wealth.  Women are not people in their own right who have ambitions, desires or needs, but arm candy that men earn.  I won't ignore the fact that Alessandra Ambrosio and Doutzen Kroes, both chose to pose for this photo but the participation of women in problematic events, does not render the event not sexist or even pro women. To survive, all women to some degree must make compromises with patriarchy and even participate in the oppression of women. 

Why couldn't Fallon have been on the cover by himself or with his wife? The answer is simple - that image would not have promoted that men equal power, particularly when they are White, straight, cisgender, class privileged and seemingly able bodied.  You pick the privilege and Fallon has it.  This photo is meant to be a celebration of Fallon and that is specifically why women were reduced to arm candy and titillation.

Some would say that it's a case of sex sells, and Vanity Fair, like any form of media needs to make money.  The problem with the defense of sex sells is that the flesh being sold is normally that of women - even in instances when the target market is women.  This photo is not surprising but it is disappointing.  It's the perfect example of why we cannot say that the struggle for gender equality is over.  I know that today, far too many people will look at this image and see it as benign, rather than be disgusted with the blatant sexism on display.  With the dearth of women in writers rooms, it will be a long time before we see women prominently holding stage on Late Night, Chelsea Lately (heaven help us all for that) not withstanding. Not only do women receive less opportunities, particularly in late night, they are a prize to be won.  For Fallon, all of his hard work has paid off but I cannot help but wonder how many have never been given the opportunity, simply because they happen to be women?