From time to time, somebody, somewhere is going to raise a stink about a pair of boobies and an airbrushed ass shot. They may hold a protest outside of a strip club or burn copies of Playboy or launch a boycott of Abercrombie & Fitch.
While the details are different, the outcome is nearly always the same: the anti-porn crusaders stomp off in a huff, the so-called porn purveyor sees an influx of bad-press cash, and the rest of us just wonder what the big deal is.
In my upcoming book The Many Crimes of Wyatt Duvall, Archmotherfucker, I touch on this subject with a silly little gag that runs through the last half of the novel. In one case, a family rights group is upset about a T&A mag published by our titular villain featuring models dressed as slave owners and slaves, while in another the same family rights groups is up in arms because the mag includes pictures of barely legal teen models dry humping on the family sofa. The gag reaches its end when the group protests a porn magazine filled with images of people having sex with porn magazines. I know, fucking meta yo, and fucking stupid. But the point is, there is a point.
And right now, I don’t see a point to the whole Vice magazine suicide fashion spread inspired by dead authors, all of them female.
Now, I’m not one of those kneejerkers who think that suicide is a taboo punchline. I don’t cotton to that shit. Anything and everything can be a joke, if it’s done correctly and serves a point. That said, I personally can’t stand dead-baby jokes and comedians who think they have the wherewithal to craft a rape joke — sorry, but unless you’re a truly gifted comedian, you are going to fail. (I’ll be the first to admit that Sarah Silverman delivers one helluva rape joke in The Aristocrats.)
To me, Vice’s suicide spread appears to be nothing more than a shameless stunt, a hollow attempt at provocation. It may even be sexist.
After all, where are male authors like Ernest Hemingway, David Foster Wallace, or Hunter S. Thompson? Isn’t this just Vice’s way of saying that women are, you know, frail fillies who will run right off a cliff when the going gets tough?
The photospread might have worked if it had been of anonymous women, that way it could have served as a commentary on how the fashion industry inspires unrealistic body image expectations that on occasion help drive young women to anorexia and bulimia, the gag being that fashion kills and that the model lifestyle is a slow suicide.
But that’s not what we have here. This photospread is an abyss of nothingness. Stare into it and you’ll come away with, well, nothing but the thoughts and emotions you brought to it. Vice magazine has nothing to say, and in the world of satire, that’s the biggest crime of all.