Why Did The Vanity Fair Hollywood Issue Mangle All These Gorgeous Actresses?

By Katey Rich 2012-01-31 12:45:18discussion comments
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Vanity Fair's annual Hollywood issue typically features a lineup of who the magazine considers to be the "hot young things," often beautifully young actresses dolled up, though occasionally they expand the roster to include men, "legends," or whoever else they feel like including. As Nathaniel Rogers has pointed out in his ongoing and great analysis of the covers, though, the "hot young actresses" is VF's favorite motif, and it's back in this year's issue, which features a whole flock of beautiful women, and three Oscar nominees right on the cover. Here's the expanded cover image below; click on it for a slightly wider version:



You can see larger versions of each image in the gallery below, but it's not hard to immediately tell that VF has repeated its constant problem of shoving the white actresses on the first cover and relegating the women of color-- in this case Pariah's Adepero Oduye and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol's Paula Patton-- to the fold-out sections. Seriously, will they ever learn? And though they've repeated their practice of selecting a combination of bona fide successes-- Oscar nominees Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence and Rooney Mara, in particular-- and up-and-comers-- Patton, Brit Marling, Felicity Jones-- there are some puzzlers in there. In particular, how did Lily Collins' role in Abduction merit a spot in this lineup? Yes, she's starring in this spring's Mirror, Mirror, but we don't even know if she can act yet? Does that really merit including her over, say, Octavia Spencer, who is an actual Oscar nominee this year?

My biggest issue with the cover, though, is that they've taken distinctive looking and utterly individual actresses and shoved them all into this mold of "Old Hollywood glamour," which makes most of them look uncomfortable and utterly unrecognizable. True, they couldn't do much with Rooney Mara's black Lisbeth Salander bob, but that pink dress looks horrendous on her; Jennifer Lawrence's natural, curvaceous beauty comes through as she stands tall on the cover, but her face is plasticized beyond recognition. After breaking out playing a young lesbian confident in dressing differently than everyone else, does Adepero Oduye really look natural hunched over like some waifish supermodel? And seriously, why on earth did they give Paula Patton Princess Leia braids? Or Brit Marling an updo that de-emphasizes her signature, huge hair? Of all the people in this lineup only Felicity Jones, Elizabeth Olsen and Jessica Chastain look remotely like themselves; everyone else seems to have been flown in from Central Casting, taking away the unique qualities that make them special to begin with.

It's ridiculous to get upset about a magazine cover, especially one as traditionally over-produced and disposable as the Vanity Fair Hollywood issue, but it's spectacular to see all this talent in one place, and frustrating to see them all so mangled. Most if not all of these women will be showing up decked out at the Oscars at the end of February, and I promise they'll all look more comfortable, natural and fantastic than they do here. And none of them will be wearing that bubblegum pink monstrosity they forced on poor Rooney Mara.
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