Mindy Kaling's Elle mag controversy a lot of hot air?

Liz Braun, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:05 PM ET

Elle magazine just got lucky for February. The controversy over their Mindy Kaling cover is going to sell a lot of magazines.

Kaling's picture is one of four different Elle covers for February, a special publishing gesture that celebrates four of television's high-profile female personalities. The other three are Allison Williams (Girls), Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) and Zooey Deschanel (New Girl), all of whom are featured in full-length, colour shots on their individual magazine covers.

(Nobody has said anything so far about the airbrushing involved for those three. Guess that's another story.)

Kaling's photo, meanwhile, is a close-up of her face and neck, and it's shot in black and white. Naysayers claim that Kaling's photo is cropped to keep her unfashionably regular-sized body out of sight, and shot in black and white to "whitewash her race." The cover has been described as an example of institutionalized inequality by Jezebel, a feminist blog, and Elle has been accused (by The Gloss) of stripping Kaling of her colour and her body to dilute her image and make it more acceptable to readers.

Mindy Kaling on the cover of Elle magazine

Writes Julia Sonenshein, “The fact that Kaling is a woman of color and a woman whose size defies the conventions for actresses are two traits that should never be stripped from her when slender, white women are allowed to keep their whiteness and bodies.”

Hmm … interesting. But how to explain the visual impact of the cover, which is the opposite of anything to do with diminishing or hiding? Kaling's black and white close-up leaps off the newsstand, immediately distinguishing her cover from all the other women's magazines that feature interchangeable skinny white girls in busy busy busy colour photos.

The eye goes immediately to Kaling; her cover makes her look way cooler than Williams, Poehler or Deschanel, which of course, she is. So is this an unconscious statement about race and size, or a very conscious statement of preference from an art director?

Both Elle and Vogue have been accused in the past of fiddling with the photos of any cover subjects who don't fit the model bill — hiding Melissa McCarthy in a big coat, for example, or using a close-up of Adele's face rather than show her body.

So here's the thing: Why do we care? And why are feminists writing about any of this? Women's magazines are lies from cover to cover, from the bogus diet tips to the idiotic romance advice — just page after page of ads and articles designed to make you feel inadequate, fat, unloved and uncool, and compel you to buy stuff you don't need.

Somewhere between makeup and lighting at the front end and airbrushing at the end, every woman in every magazine is transformed into a goddess. To make readers feel better about themselves? To encourage female solidarity? We think not.

Why dignify any of it by reading it or reacting to it? Like processed cheese slices or family stickers on car windows, women's magazines are just another appalling invention for the easily duped. Let's ignore them completely henceforward, and advise our daughters to do the same.

And quickly — because Lena Dunham is probably going to be on the cover of Vogue soon.

Then you'll hear some bitching.

Twitter: @LizBraunSun

Liz.Braun@sunmedia.ca

 


Videos

Photos